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Horse Neck/Back Injury - Opinions

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  • Horse Neck/Back Injury - Opinions

    I have an '07 WB mare who I started undersaddle earlier this year. She was going great until May. I went to hop on her and it was instant ears pinned, head bobbing and rearing, while still at the mounting block. I had ridden her the day before with no problems at all. Her only "rebellion" throughout training had been bucking at the trot to canter transition, which she grew out of.

    Early June 2011:

    Had a full chrio with no change in attitude. A week later, I had the vet out to take x-rays. Five vertebrae at the withers appears to be broken, the tops are clearly separated with jagged break lines. Vet sent the x-rays to a University radiologist. Radiologist says it might be a variation of ossification, but wouldn't effect her undersaddle.

    From May to June she also developed a divot on her neck at the base of her mane. Vet said this might be something to ultrasound for possible injury.

    Vet and I decided to give her time off any work at all and be see what nature could heal.

    October 2011:

    After 5 months off with stall board and 12 hour pasture turn out, I had the vet out to get new x-rays. Withers are the same as before. Vet mentions the radiologist's original opinion but says it wouldn't explain the tenderness at the withers.

    Vet sent new x-rays to the radiologist again with a full write up on her temperament when the withers are pinched. Says he wants to try Robaxin and Previcox injections to see if I can work her undersaddle.

    Divot in the neck is still there.

    Photos pre-divot:

    Divot photos:

    At this point, I'm pretty exhausted on the financial side with no real injury to pinpoint. I'm contemplating talking to the vet about her being a potential broodmare.

    If anyone has dealt with an injury like this or has any idea what route to take, I'd appreciate any opinions! I'd be happy to answer any questions as well!

    Thanks to those who managed to read all the above! I tried to make it cliff's notes version

  • #2
    Not this injury, but bony changes between C6 and C7 due to an unknown cause--probably some sort of injury sustained at the track.

    I think the big long whopping thread is still out there...yep, right here

    End outcome: injected the C6/C7 space with steroids with great results for 6 months, then Blush relapsed. Repeat injections produced results for about 2 weeks. She's been retired ever since and is a happy horse. She is not even behind, but it appears to be neuro based rather than pain based.

    Neck stuff is HARD--hard to diagnose and hard to treat. If you would like to pursue further diagnostics, I'd recommend a bone scan and/or an ultrasound of the area. Perhaps even a myelogram. And I'd find a vet who has LOTS of experience in neck issues and injuries.

    Ah, also: my horse benefited when treated with gabapentin, as her neck issues had caused a neurological wind up state (nervous system essentially sensitized by pain, which caused it to interpret non pain signals as pain signals.) If your horse is at all unusually crabby or sensitive, gabapentin may be useful for you as well. It is not expensive through Walgreens, and I believe we talked about it in the long thread I linked above.


    • #3
      I have never seen a horse okay for riding with serious neck issues, as close as I have ever seen is a horse with constant injections and drugs okay for light riding. If she is in pain from this then IMO you are putting yourself in serious danger every single time you get on her back.

      A radiologist can't tell you if the horse can have an undersaddle career or not, only the horse can. After the horrible things I have seen with neurological and neck/back injuries I won't get on a horse with either. Too much risk to my own safety.
      On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


      • Original Poster

        Simkie - Thanks for the insight! (reading through the thread now) I'm really skeptical about injections to help b/c IMO, that's masking a problem, not fixing it. She's happy as a clam at this point being a pasture puff but I'll def. keep gabapentin in mind in case she changes.

        Perfect Pony - Thank you! I bought her as a GP jumper prospect and have had her since she was a weanling. My heart wants to keep her but logically, she will probably never be comfortable to be jumped at the height I want and maybe not even be comfortable undersaddle. I don't believe in injecting a horse just for riding. Pain is pain, I'd rather not mask it. Currently, she's loving life being brushed and pampered. She lunges and moves without any pain, so that's comforting.

        She's got great bloodlines and movement and a jump to die for, which is why I was thinking the broodmare option.


        • #5
          There are a couple things about injections that are useful in cases such as these: managing inflammation and reducing pain. Inflammation can be a rather negative process and can lead to arthritis and scar tissue. Reducing your chances of these things--especially in the neck--is valuable. Pain can also be a negative process, slowing healing and making the horse miserable. Controlling pain in a horse is also necessary (although if an animal needs repeated injections to stay comfortable, one should probably review whether the critter has a good enough quality of life to continue.)

          If your horse is in pain, I would look into injections--she might just need one round to break the cycle of inflammation and settle down the area. If your horse is fine being a pasture ornament, then she probably doesn't need anything. I don't think, based on my experiences, that it would change things long term regarding her ability to be ridden. It is a relatively low cost thing to try, though, with relatively low risk of side effects, if you'd like to give it a go once and see where it gets you. Faced with the same situation, I might take a flyer on it, even with my history.

          I have heard of some cases where the horse regains soundness when turned out for years and can return to under saddle work. The thought is that the vertebrae have fused on their own with time, and this fusion stablizes the neck and eliminates any pain or neurological deficit.


          • Original Poster

            *Update = Radiologist just called. He said the x-rays look the same and suggested, if I don't' think it's behavioral (which I don't), I should get a nuclear and/or soft tissue bone scan of the area.

            Simkie - There was inflammation and heat the first week of the injury. Since then, no heat or swelling at all. Just a rather odd injury all around. With it being in the back/neck area, I'm just so cautious. I think I'm going to try the injections this week as a last ditch effort so I can sleep at night knowing I tried everything I could and move on from there. I like the optimism of having her heal over time with turnout, but the only way I could financially justify that would be to free-lease her as a broodie.


            • #7
              If the vet clears her as a broodmare, I'd give that a go, she's young & pregancy is a high anabolic state, & I believe chance of repair would be greatest under those conditions.
              If you lease her, hopefully she pays her own way & you'll have money for further workups before deciding to try under saddle again.

              I'm sceptical though that she'd return to be a high level jumper - maybe keep a foal from her for that instead.


              • #8
                Originally posted by jward72182 View Post
                Simkie - There was inflammation and heat the first week of the injury. Since then, no heat or swelling at all.
                You will often not see any outward signs of inflammation Just because there is no heat or swelling does not mean that there is not an inflammatory process occurring in the neck. I can tell you a particularly interesting story about a cat of mine that only showed inflammation at the cellular level, with no outward indication at all, other than that her skin would spontaneously tear.

                I think giving injections a try once is probably worth a go, although I would discuss a long-acting steroid versus a short-acting NSAID with your vet. I'd also caution you to expect no response or a response that is not durable, and be pleasantly surprised if you get something more than that.