What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


White Hair Appearing on Back or Body


White hair appearing on the back is usually a sign of traumatic injury or pressure on the skin. Trauma from severe or chronic pressure damages the pigment producing cells in the skin, resulting in the growth of white hair.

Trauma is most commonly caused by focal pressure due to improper saddle fit. White hair often appears after a saddle sore heals but a previous saddle sore is not necessary for white hair to appear. Beyond saddle-induced trauma, there is a variety of other conditions that can cause the appearance of white hair on the back. Any traumatic injury can result in white hair appearance. Skin infections and a variety of poorly understood and rare skin conditions can also result in damage to the pigment producing cells and the appearance of white hair.

The question is always the location of the white hair. If it is in the area in contact with the saddle, and the horse is ridden, it is likely that there is a saddle fit problem or that there has been saddle-induced trauma.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you have other questions or concerns about the horse.
    • If you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Inspect the area closely. Is there hair loss there as well? Is this condition accompanied by swelling, pain or other abnormalities? Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

your vet's role

Your vet's approach depends on the pattern or distribution of white hair. If the distribution is under the saddle, then saddle fit may be one of the first things a vet will want to rule out. Once saddle fit is ruled out, the pattern of white hair may still provide information as to the cause.

A careful assessment of the underlying skin and general physical examination may be helpful. In rare cases, diagnostics like skin biopsy may be required to arrive at a diagnosis.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Have you noticed sores or wounds associated with the saddle?
  • Is the white hair in a location where it could be associated with pressure from saddle or tack?
  • Can you send a photo?
  • Describe specifically what you see.
  • Is the horse performing to your expectation under saddle?
  • Have you noticed the horse seeming uncomfortable under saddle?
  • Have you noticed any behavioral changes under saddle?
  • Have you examined the horse's back and girth and checked saddle fit?
  • Has the saddle or pad changed?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP