Next Issue

October 2013

  • Can Supplements Help Your Insulin-Resistant Horse?
  • Back Pain! A two-part series on this difficult-to-diagnose ailment.
  • Urgent Care: When is Swelling in your Horse's Legs a Veterinary Emergency?
  • Bits: Which bit do you choose for which horse and why.
  • Arena Drags
  • Ask Horse Journal, Fix-A-Problem, Handy Veterinary Hints, Safety Thought, Did You Know? and much more

Books & DVDs

from HorseBooksEtc

Related Topics

from the Forums

Free Newsletters

Sign Up for our Free Newsletters

Lordosis, “Swayback” in Older Horses

Swaybacks aren't pretty, but they don't necessarily cause the horse to be in pain. Photo by Sue Tomkin.

Swayback-technically called "lordosis"-is the deeply sagging top line that develops in some older horses. Swayback, lordosis, is caused by weakness and laxity/stretching of the supporting ligaments along the horse's spine, often with weakness and loss of bulk/tone in the top line musculature.

Risk Factors
To a large extent, lordosis is an aging change caused by the forces of gravity on the spine over the years. The weight of the horse's chest and abdominal contents constantly pulls the back down. It's common in aged broodmares, who have had the added weight of a pregnancy stressing the back. Letting the horse get too fat obviously contributes to strain on the back. Similarly, carrying a heavy rider for many years might increase risk, but this has not been specifically studied.

Conformation also plays a role. Horses with overly long backs are more prone to back problems in general, including swayback. Horses with high-set necks and a high head carriage may be at higher risk because this way of moving tends to hollow the back.

Finally, age-related weakness in ligamentous tissues, together with loss of muscular tone and bulk related to aging, lack of exercise and some diseases (e.g. Cushing's disease) can eventually lead to a poor ability to fight gravity.

Predictions, Prevention
There's really no way to accurately predict which horses will become swaybacked, but the more risk factors, including multiple pregnancies, age, long back, the greater the likelihood. Complete prevention may not be possible, but horses that remain active into their older years and are kept at a normal weight (not fat) are less likely to develop lordosis.

Advertisement

If you can't always ride your older horse, at least consider trying to keep to a schedule of light regular groundwork, including exercises for the back. If you see lordosis developing at the same time as a big belly, and loss of muscle size and tone elsewhere on the body, ask your veterinarian if testing for Cushing's disease might be in order. The muscular changes of Cushing's are easier to control and reverse in the earlier stages of the disease.

Posted in Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Get 12 issues of Dressage Today for only $19.95!
Name:
Address Line 1:
Address Line 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email:
Subscribe!
Untitled Document

Subscribe to Horse&Rider

Subscribe to Horse&Rider

Subscribe today
& Get a Free Gift!

Subscribe 
Give a Gift
Customer Service
Digital Subscriptions