?Back injury from flipping over backwards in the cart?

Just had a vet look at my Standardbred and he said that what I had been thinking was a sacroiliac issue, is a back injury and might have been caused by flipping backwards in the cart. He also said that my horse would be capable of very limited work under saddle. I don’t care about that. Just want him to have a happy life. I bought him with the back issue from a Standardbred re-homing centre. Their back guy thought that the horse would be able to go trail riding. He has spent nearly two years doing nothing. He spent time living with my retired pony for about eighteen (and looked after by someone else) and I got my hands on him a few months ago. Have been working on his manners and with Spring approaching thought that I would get his back issue looked into. Now that I realise that it isn’t a sacroiliac issue, i don’t know what to think.

Your feedback will be keenly appreciated.

What type of feedback are you looking for? Are you hoping to get him (re)started in harness? I imagine flipping over could cause a back injury.

I witnessed one horse flip over in the shafts (he didn’t think he could go forward and he finally just did a backflip). He knocked himself out, nearly severed his tongue completely off, and his owner decided not to ever drive him again. I don’t think he was as properly broke as she assumed he was. He did manage to have a good life as a saddle horse despite his incident.

I did originally want to drive him but he has so many stereotypic behaviours that I figured that being driven would be too much of an unhappy thing for him to do. I am hoping that someone here would be familiar with the types of injuries that can happen with this type of incident. I felt so gutted when the vet gave his assessment. The vet didn’t want to explore the injury further. I am glad that the horse you saw was able to have a ridden career. My next move is to put more effort in to finding out more of his history.

Did the vet give any idea on HOW the back was injured? Radiographs, muscular scar tissue? Broken spinous processes, arthritis between the vertebrae?

No. Not a thing. My horse’s back doesn’t look normal. The vet did a visual inspection and probed the horse with his hands to see if the horse gave a pain reaction but that was all. The suggestion that he might have flipped backwards was based on what the vet could see and the fact that the horse shows signs of having been mishandled in the past. He doesn’t like his ears being touched and although the vet didn’t mention it, I noticed that my horse found it very stressful to be handled by a man. I feel so frustrated because I think if my horse wasn’t a Standardbred, more effort would have gone into finding out what’s wrong.

You have made a bunch of diagnostic suggestions that the vet didn’t mention and that I didn’t know about. Thank you.

do you have a picture? sacroiliac injury is such a vague thing, it’s like saying a horse has a leg injury. some leg injuries are QOL reducing while others are no big deal… some sacroiliac injuries are similar. does he have a ridge-like croup, a hunter’s bump, or some scarring over SI? what made him comment on that area in particular? just that the back isn’t normal?

if he’s been happy and healthy this far, i wouldn’t let what your vet said keep you up at night. it’s almost impossible to diagnose the depth and severity of a back injury from eyeballing the horse alone. if you are really concerned i would call a different vet out to do imaging of the back - however, it’s very hard – my vet was able to do it without me going to a major hospital but the amount of tissue in that area can make diagnostics difficult without an MRI.

one thing he may have that is not uncommon (but not common either) in standardbreds is kissing spine… but again, if he is happy and healthy now, i wouldn’t go borrowing trouble.

this is worth a read if you haven’t seen it already:

I will post photos tomorrow.

Sadly this is the only local vet who would visit my horse because of my horse’s location. There is an specialist equine veterinary clinic but I would have to take the horse to them and I have no way of doing that. (He has to be trucked. Was told that he lost his mind in a float (horse trailer)). The vet didn’t think it was a sacroiliac issue because the bump isn’t evenly spread across his spine and wasn’t willing to explore the matter further.

A horse can flip over backwards any time there is resistance to going forward. Whether it is standing tied, being ridden, driving, or possibly loading into a trailer. I wouldn’t necessarily negate driving him because the vet assumes it’s a Standardbred so must have hurt himself in the cart.

I’m sorry your location prohibits you seeking a good second opinion. Are there equine chiropractors or body workers who might be able to offer some insight as well? Not the same as a licensed veterinarian (some chiros are), but they might be able to offer something more helpful than “horse is busted, carry on.”

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Thank you so much for this. “horse is busted, carry on” was also my assessment of what the vet said. I had the distinct impression that my horse’s veterinary needs might have been taken more seriously if he hadn’t been a Standardbred. While assessing my horse, some of my horse’s stressed behaviour was discussed and the vet said the word ‘stereotypic’ so many times that after I while I thought to myself “he wants me to ask what that means”. To make him stop, I eventually confessed that I knew what the word meant and then was asked to explain it to prove that I did know.

So definitely need to have someone else see him.

You have helped me immensely. Thank you.

You’re welcome. I hope you’re able to get some better answers.

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Didn’t get a chance to take photos. Had a family matter to deal with. Will try on Monday, weather permitting. Sorry about that.