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


Withers Seem Flattened or Irregular


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.

  • 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.

your role


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. Regardless of cause, 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.

your vet's role

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.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • To your knowledge, does the horse rear?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Are you considering the horse for purchase, or currently own the horse?
  • Does the area seem painful when pressure is applied to it?
  • Can you see drainage or a wound?
  • Are you noticing any resistance to the bit?
  • Do you notice any swelling or other abnormality in the area?
  • Do you notice evidence of physical injury, such as hair loss or swelling?
  • Have you noticed the horse seeming uncomfortable under saddle?
  • How long have you owned or leased the horse?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP