The most prevalent symptoms seen in horses with back problems are:

  1. Resists being saddled. (Girthy, Cinchy)
  2. Backs up, rears or lays down when saddled or mounted.
  3. Refuses to go onto the track. (Race horses)
  4. Runs off.
  5. Breaks slow. (Race horses & Roping horses)
  6. Not collecting / gathering behind.
  7. Races the fence. (Hunter/Jumpers)
  8. Refuses or resists changing leads.
  9. Changes leads in front, but not behind.
  10. Difficulty turning either to the right, or to the left.
  11. Difficulty going up and/or down hills.
  12. Lugs in or out. (Race horses)
  13. Runs down behind. (Race horses)
  14. Cross firing. (Hits in front or behind)
  15. Forging.
  16. Drags toes on one or both rear hooves.
  17. Resists being shod behind.
  18. Chronic tying up. (Race horses)
  19. Short stepping with one or both rear legs.
  20. Chronic front leg problems. (i.e. Check ligaments, Chronic shins, chips, fractures and arthritic changes (i.e. ringbone). See <Treatment of Osteoarthritis> The horse is throwing its weight forward to relieve the pain in the sacral area. This increases concussion to the front legs.)
  21. Hunters Bump. (The muscles over the rump have atrophied.)
  22. Stocks up at night in one or both rear legs.
  23. Stands with front feet lower than rear feet. (Front feet in a hole, or rear feet on a pile of straw)
  24. Some horses stand with their tail in the water bucket.(The horse leans back into the bucket which relieves the pinch on the cauda equina(spinal cord.))
  25. Not squaring off behind while urinating.
  26. Kicks more than normal, usually the wall of the stall.
  27. Wry tail or tail slightly or severely off to one side. (Seen in all breeds, especially Arabians.)
  28. Sore back.
  29. Dropped hip.
  30. Wobblers (Some are fixable)
  31. Head Shy (Most cases are caused by a neck subluxation.)
  32. Head and neck carried high. (Lowering the head causes the dislocated sacrum to pinch the spinal cord harder.)
  33. Not performing to form when no other problems are evident.
  34. Dull, rough hair coat (The oil glands are not functioning due to adrenalin - see 37 - Colic.)
  35. Non Sweaters (The sweat glands are not functioning due to adrenalin - see 37 - Colic.)
  36. Non Shedders (The hair follicles are not functioning due to adrenalin - see 37 - Colic)
  37. Colic (A horse in pain continually secretes adrenalin. This causes a continual reduction in blood flow, and neural impulse to the skin, mucous membranes, digestive system, and the reproductive system. The food then begins to ferment, and putrefy, instead of being digested properly. With the build up of gas, and low motility of the intestines, the horse is prone to colic.)
  38. Ulcers (chronic) (See 37 - Colic. Adrenalin effect on digestive system)
  39. Weak immune system. (See 37 - Colic. Adrenalin also suppresses the immune system)
  40. EPM.(The protozoa is an opportunist, affecting horses with a weak immune system)
  41. Reproductive problems.
  42. a. The stallion has difficulty mounting due to pain in the sacral area.
    b. The mare has difficulty bearing the weight of the stallion due to pain in the sacral area.
    (See 37, Colic, for c. through k.)
    c. Low sperm count in the stallion.
    d. Cycling problems in the mare.
    e. Lack of tone in the uterus.
    f. Uterine infections
    g. Unable to get the mare in foal.
    h. Resorption/slipping of the embryo.
    i. Abortion.
    j. Paralysed Penis, seen in young horses. They look as if they have been tranquilized
    k. Retained placenta. Oxytocin is not getting to the uterus.
    l. Over long gestation period. Some mares take 12 to 13+ months to produce a foal.
  43. Foals Can dislocated their sacrums coming through the birth canal if they are large or have a difficult birthing. Running and turning on wet grass, where both rear legs slip out to the side will dislocate the sacrum. Another foal running into them can also dislocate the sacrum. A dislocated sacrum can produce most of the symptoms seen in adult horses, plus the following:
    a. Ulcers. (See 38)
    b. Back at the Knees. The foal is pulling itself forward causing the knees to bend slightly backwards. The knees straighten after realignment .
    c. Born with straight legs that are changing into crooked legs. The foal is pulling itself forward instead of driving with the rear end. The legs will straighten after realignment in a foal.
    d. Club Foot. The foal is pulling itself forward with one front hoof. This stretches the digital extensor tendon, causing the fetlock to buckle forward which causes contraction of the digital flexor tendon, thus creating the club foot. The club foot will remodel back to normal after realignment of the foal's sacrum, and lowering of the heel. The foal stops pulling itself forward, allowing the digital extensor tendon to contract back to normal, and the digital flexor tendon is stretched back to normal.
    e. Pigeon chested. Same cause as b. & c.
    f. Windswept. These foals straighten out after realignment.
  44. Cribbing Most young horses stop cribbing after I realign them. About 50% of the older horses will also stop. The remaining continue to crib as a vice. They like the endorphins.

    NOTE: symptoms number 10 and 25 are seen in almost every horse with a subluxated sacrum.

    For those of you who want to know more about what physically happens to a horse with subluxations, see:<Equine Theory>

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James Scanlan

Page updated Jan 25,2002 .