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-   -   TOE DRAGGING, a dig in spine? NO RIDING EVER? (

m00nisek 04-28-2013 03:28 PM


I need your help. My horse used to be a forward going but easy to manage horse. Unfortunately, he started loosing weight at the beginnings of spring. He also was kind of “lazy” and “tired”, stiff, not flexible while turning but he did everything what he was asked for. While lungeing him the other day I noticed that he was toe dragging his hind legs. I knew it was unlike him. I decided to call a good vet.

January – blacksmith says that his hooves are OK
March – he said that my horse saves his right hind leg, nothing to worry at that point, but I have to check it

Now, VET : He watched him trot and told me that he has a spine injury (a vertebrae movement possible). He looked at this back and showed me a dip in his spine (picture below). He gave him some injection and told me to lunge him every day and to keep him away from other horses.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be impossible to keep him in the stable or in a single padock (he could hurt himself, jumping, running like crazy, all covered with sweat) so I decided to let him meet other horses as always 24/7.

The vet told me that all horses are in poor condition at the beginnings of spring and that my horse will never be much thicker because he is just like that. I must say I am disappointed with the diagnosis and I can’t stand the pain that I will never ride on him again.

This horse is my fulfilled dream, dream that for many was stupid, unnecessary or wrong. Friends try to cheer me up by saying that I can have another horse but I do not want another horse. I love my buckskin because of the bond we have, he is a part of my life, my friend. But sometimes I feel depressed and overwhelmed… I can’t believe that a 4,5-year-old horse could not be used under saddle. I want him to be healthy, fit and my partner while trail riding.
Tomorrow, my horse expects an equine massage (girl who does it is also interested in chiropractics).


Please, look at him tell me what you think:


I found out that all horses has got this “dig” in their spines but mine is thin that’s why it’s visible or am I just living in hope?
(Sorry for mistakes but English is my second language)

WhiskeyCowGirl 04-28-2013 04:56 PM

I could be completely off base, but it looks just like lack of strength more than anything. He is very, very underweight. You need more weight on him, and to build his topline muscle.. his spine just hasn't got any meat on it. I think (and I'm not an expert) once you start feeding him up, work on his fitness, you'll be fine.

Trinity3205 04-28-2013 05:08 PM

Show us his hooves from several angles. I think I see long broken back toes on those back feet. Very big issue for horses backs and hips and common for the farrier to say oh its fine! No it isnt. Time for a second opinion on that. It would account for his toe dragging and way of going. He isnt tracking up well either.

franknbeans 04-28-2013 05:20 PM

I would ask another vet, or, if you have GOOD chiropractors where you are, that would be another option. He needs weight. Badly, as well as condition as has been said.

trailhorserider 04-28-2013 06:46 PM

I'm not a vet, but the dip in the spine right in front of the hips/pelvis seems pretty normal in thin horses. I think every horse has it, but it only shows up when they loose a lot of weight. Actually, your guy looks like he might have a mild "roach back," if anything.

I wish I could help more but I don't have any expertise in this area. Just looking at your videos, he certainly doesn't look like a crippled horse with no hope of riding. I would get his condition back up to a healthy weight, make sure his hooves are trimmed correctly, and go from there. Maybe a second opinion from another vet is in order. But I certainly don't see a reason to write him off just yet. I would take care of the problems you can fix (weight, feet) and maybe get a second opinion.

What kind of sticks out to me more than his back is his neck. He has the neck of a horse who carries himself in a "hollow" frame. Maybe that is a sign of back pain? Or it could just be from all the weight he has lost.

Best of luck with your pretty boy. I hope he is doing better soon. :-)

apachiedragon 04-28-2013 06:55 PM

The fact that your vet told you all horses were in poor condition in spring and that your horse was never going to be fatter because "he is just like that" really really concerns me. It is absolutely not true, and for your vet to discount it that way makes me question if your vet should be trusted. I have seen many underweight and under-muscled horses drag their toes, and that, combined with hooves not trimmed properly (which will remain to be seen until some pictures of them are posted) can definitely cause what you are seeing.

trailhorserider 04-28-2013 06:57 PM

I tried to find a few photos of thin horses to show you what I mean. I think that dip is just a part of their anatomy that doesn't show until they get thin.


spirit88 04-28-2013 07:32 PM

Your horse is in need of weight that's why he has that dip right in front of hips.
Toe dragging can be from poor trimming. Long run forward heels will sure not help.

My gelding drags his toes it from poor farrier work long run forward heels slows break over. Iam currently dealing with toe dragging. From what I can see of hoofs they look long.

rookie 04-28-2013 07:38 PM

I have a horse that has a wonky back end. He failed at the track at age 3 because he moves funny in the hind end. Once his "funny movement" was noticed he was tested for herpes virus and EPM, both tests came back negative. The next step for us was to either see how he went or get an MRI of him. To rule out low level wobblers. He is not valuable enough for an MRI honestly, so we decided to see how he did with exercise. I lunged him, got him fit (he was under condition) he improved. He will never be a great show horse, he benefits from regular work (which he does not get). He does not trip, he is just toe draggy. He may have to have shoes put on in back in the future to get him to lift his hind feet up.

I would get a vets second opinion. The other thing that we would start out all our testing with was to circle him. Circle your horse so that he has to pivot on his hind feet. My "normal" horse will cross his feet over one another easily. This "special" horse will not cross them over smoothly. We would also tail test him. When we grab the "normal" horses tail he pulls back and does not give in or get off balance. the "special" one does move his hind end and does not give a lot of resistance to moving. I rode him last summer and he was okay, he has training issues that are not related to his wonkyness. He will be harder to find a home for because I will disclose all that we know about him to any potential buyer.

Depending on where you are located. I would get a full lameness evaluation, and have him tested for EPM. I don't think is lack of condition is unrelated I think it weird that a vet would say he won't get into better condition unless they had done some tests to rule out metabolic issues. If you want to know for sure about your horses spine get an MRI. I am not a vet or a veterinary professional so take my advice with a grain of salt.

Edit to add: for what its worth with my boy they talked about and MRI of the head and neck not the back.

m00nisek 05-01-2013 03:49 PM

Hello again,

I can’t tell if I can see any improvement. . . but his mood is much better, he is happy and excited. I took some photos of his hooves and made some new videos.

On Monday, ha had a massage and the lady told me that his back seems to be quite ok to her and that all horses have such a dig in the spine but his is visible because he is very thin. She told me the same what you have said: to buy some horse feed and beetroot in a form of pellets to make him gain some weight, and adviced to lunge him and add some extra cavaletti work. Also, my saddle turned out not to fit properly and she adviced to call a professional saddle fitter after he is ok.
I don’t know who shall I trust? A vet or this woman? She made me believe again!
I don’t know what to think … I would like to ride on him some day :(

Shall I also change a farrier? He is going to be next week. Maybe horseshoes on all four legs will help? Tell me all what you think…


Thank you for your answers.

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