Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Withers Seem Flattened or Irregular

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you notice significant swelling or pain at the site.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • For an assessment of how this will affect your horse's management and performance.

The withers consist of bone spines that project off the top of thoracic vertebrae. There are many different conformations of the withers, and some horses naturally have very flat withers. This fast fact refers to an obvious irregularity or excessive flattening of the withers that goes beyond usual conformational differences.

If a horse rears over backwards and lands on the withers, these can be fractured and appear flat or irregular. Horses that sustain this injury are in discomfort for weeks to months as the area heals. After that, there is usually permanent flattening or irregularity of the contour of the withers. In most cases, once the withers heal, there is no longer pain in the area, and most horses can perform normally at any discipline.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Assess the withers, feeling for heat, swelling, drainage or a pain response. There may be saddle fit considerations so check your saddle fit carefully. Look for white hair that could suggest focal pressure under the saddle. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

Keep in mind that this horse may have reared over backwards once, so they may be predisposed to rear again. Keep this in mind when considering a horse for purchase that has damaged withers.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet evaluates the area by feeling it, and assessing for general form, swelling, heat, drainage and other characteristics. Vets routinely gather more information about this area using x-ray and ultrasound. They may want to assess saddle fit as well.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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