Episode 49: Shoulder Girdle Injuries In Sport Horses: Part 2 Cause and Effect

Episode 49: Shoulder Girdle Injuries In Sport Horses: Part 2 Cause and Effect

Dr. DeClue discusses the Cause and the Effect of Shoulder Girdle Injuries in Sport Horse creating Kissing Spine, Back and Pelvic Pain, Chronic Undiagnosed Front Limb Lameness, Suspensory Strains/Injury and Sleep Deprivation and Collapsing Horses.

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Sara Tardanico
Sara Tardanico
2 years ago

I chose to euthanize my 18 year old OTTB in August 2021. He had become dangerous to lunge, and would not go forward under saddle, as well as hypersensitive when grooming. The list of his symptoms could go on, but I think you covered it quite well. The vets I use simply didn’t get that he was a horse that was uncomfortable in his own body. When he was a young horse before I owned him, he was ridden by a bigger, heavier man who trained him as a jumper. Too much, too young. I do know he suffered a fall on the backside of a 4 foot jump and I gather fell on his shoulder. In 2015 I suspected KS, none of the vets ever suggested it. But I asked one to come and do back X-rays to rule it in or out. It showed up. I joined a group that taught me about rehab, using dressage gymnastics to help rebalance and encourage symmetry to correct bad kinematics and to learn to understand the root causes of the problem. It did help him, we made advances, but 5 years later he regressed seriously. I took him to a clinic for updated X-rays. Along with the KS, the cervical spine showed a congenital malformation of C-6/C-7. Although the radiologist called it out, I later learned that it is a condition called Equine Complex Vertebral Malformation (ECVM). It’s a devastating finding which I also had confirmed by others who are studying the condition. It cannot be corrected and my horse was telling me, in no uncertain terms, that he was through.

Most the vets I meet confuse ECVM with Wobblers, which it is not. It isn’t acquired, it is congenital. Many affected horses don’t show problems until they are older, possibly due to training that the horse simply can’t handle. But any injury, bad training, bad equipment will also cause asymmetry. Stifles, hocks, high/low heels, etc., can be helped and corrected with learning and teaching the horse correct kinematics. There needs to be better education among vets in identifying bad kinematics and what the root cause may be. My vets are good at certain aspects, but they are not looking above the stifles! I felt very frustrated and alone with my horse’s diagnosis, because they’d never heard of it. There also are some findings that pain often does not correlate with what’s shown on Xrays. When I mention KS to them, they shrug it off, as if it’s a non-issue. Even if the horse is functioning with it, something is causing it, and I personally don’t think it’s ever going totally asymptomatic.

i really enjoy your podcast. It’s a breath of fresh air for this frustrated, often confused horse owner.

1 year ago

Dear Dr DeClue,
thank you for these incredibly interesting and useful podcasts. I am a horse owner in the UK trying to learn what I can to help get to the bottom of my horse’s issues, and how they might be interlinked, or which way around the cause and effect actually is. Frankly at this stage my purpose is not even to be able to ride again necessarily, I just want him to be comfortable. It is shocking the amount of damage we can do to our “best friends”. It makes me think we shouldn’t even be riding these beautiful animals. As each issue is discovered with my horse, it is approached discretely, eg kissing spine, advice was to operate; after more research I asked for a neuro exam first and we discovered arthritis in neck compressing the spinal cord (no KS surgery as he is now said to be a wobbler). I’m sure he has pelvic issues somehow, I started to think he had serious postural issues but didn’t really understand what or how. thanks to your podcasts, I now think shoulder girdle issues may be a big part. thank you for being this voice and helping horse owners learn to be able to advocate for their horses as best they can, and pass on this info to our vets to try and get the right help. My other horse is a shiverer so I am looking forward to listening to more of your podcasts on this. I wish you were in the UK!