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Fun Foal Playing with Ball

JANUARY 2006 • VOLUME 5 • HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine

A Prevalence in Sacroiliac Pain

Is your horse bucking, refusing to work or stiff? Here’s something you should consider…

Not many people consider the horse’s pelvic bones and how exactly the spine connects to the hind legs.. But! As a rider this area of the horse is very important, especially to those who require their horses to work from behind.

The hind end of the horse is typically thought of as the engine. It is arguably the source of all the horse’s momentum, power and gives the horse the ability to jump, run and passage. Really where would a horse be without hind legs!

Upon further consideration however, one might ask how the horse’s hind legs actually connect to the rest of the body? The answer of course is simple. The hind legs, particularly the femur, articulate with the pelvis and then the pelvis forms a cradle, so to speak, for the spine. Essentially a lot of the driving force of the horse’s hind legs is sent through to the pelvis and then through the spine to be manifested as overall ‘impulsion’. As such, there is one particular area we would like to focus on, as an area for potential injury, which is the sacroiliac joint. This is the joint between the wings of the sacrum (vertebral column) and the ilium (pelvic bone).

Horse Pelvis

Fig. 1. Diagram of the pelvis, sacrum, and sacroiliac ligaments (cranial view). (1) Tuber coxae, (2) ilial crest, (3) tuber sacrale, (4) ventral surface of the iliac wing, (5) sacroiliac articulation, (6) sacral wing, (7) sacrum, (8) dorsal sacroiliac ligament, (9) interosseous sacroiliac ligament, (10) ventral sacroiliac ligament.

(Reprinted from Haussler KK. Diagnosis and management of sacroiliac joint injuries. In: Ross MW, Dyson SJ, eds. Diagnosis and management of lameness in the horse. W. B. Saunders, St. Louis, MO, 2003;501–508.)

Interestingly, sacroiliac joint disease can be a cause of lameness and substandard performance (Dyson and Murray, 2004). However, due to difficulties in diagnosis this problem is typically only considered after other more common causes of lameness have been ruled out (Dyson, 2004).

Of a study that looked at 72 horses for sacroiliac joint region pain, there were significant differences in the prevalence of pain depending on the activity, size and breed of horse relative to the ‘normal’ clinic population (Dyson and Murray, 2004). In general the animals with sacroiliac pain were larger, taller, warmblood (51% of animals) and participating in either show jumping or dressage (Dyson and Murray, 2004). However, thoroughbreds also had a high (26%) representation in the study population as well.

So really, who cares? Well it might be helpful to know that these animals tended to present themselves in the clinic with a rider complaint of:


lack of hindlimb power

deterioration in quality of movement

change in behaviour

reluctance to work

refusal to jump

failure to work on the bit

difficulty in lateral movements

difficulty changing legs at a canter


tendancy to kick out to one side (Dyson and Murray, 2004).

If any of this sounds familiar it may be a reason to keep a closer eye on your horse.


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Horses ?for LIFE Online Magazine January 2006 Issue#5

January 2006 • Volume 5

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