Neck trauma - C7/T1

Hi! New to the forum. Searching for experiences with neck trauma in horses.

Had an OTTB come to me last August with some neuro issues. Tested positive for EPM, treated due to the neuro signs which improved (grade 1, mild).

Fast forward 6 months later, horse displaying weakness in forelimbs under saddle. Tripping at the walk. Vet is also chiro: took rads of neck that showed spinal compression at C7/T1 from what looked like an old injury.

Has anyone ever experienced this before? Vet coming back next week to discuss options, but was not sure that injections would help the issue.

Yes, I’ve seen more than one horse develop neuro problems secondary to progressing arthritis coupled with congenital abnormalities, as well as after previous neck fracture. Once the neuro signs really started, it did not get better. In these cases, injections were not effective. One should have been retired much earlier than he was, but thankfully, no one got hurt.


Hi! Thanks for the response.

That was my fear - and I didn’t there was a surgical option, outside of basket surgery which I’m not sure applies to this case.

I had a young horse that started tripping a lot, and actually fell under saddle. My vet tested for EPM/Lyme and took neck X-rays at the same after the second fall and noticed irregularities at C6-C7, which prompted us to send the X-rays to a specialist, who recommended getting a myelogram done. The specialist found severe spinal cord compression at C6, C7 and T1. The horse passed a neuro test with flying colors in a PPE less than a year before, and graded 1.5-2 right at the time of the myelogram, nearly a year later. As far as I know, she had no history of trauma. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to retire her and buy a new horse, and the risk that someone would try to restart her after she was out of my control because she looked fine 99% of the time was too great, and I had her put down.

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Thanks for the reply. I should clarify that I am not certain it’s compressing his spinal cord, will find out more on Monday, I just assumed as much given the stumbling.

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Did you take the horse in to get the xrays? Most portable machines can’t get great images that far down the neck. Did the vet do the obliques to check for the C6/C7 malformation?


We didn’t know it was spinal cord for sure until the myelogram. I was considering doing injections depending on we found, but the severity of the compression made that not an option. When I spoke with the specialist after the myelogram, he mentioned she could be a candidate for surgery, but with the recovery time and the surgery most likely limiting her to first level for the rest of her life, if that, it wasn’t feasible. Especially since I bought her to go up the levels and get my medals. Two other horses at my barn have had neck injections and are in full work - one schooling PSG and one schooling third.

Typically foreleg weakness and stumbling in front are related to an issue in the neck, and an inability to lift through the thoracic sling and withers.

Yea! So we for sure have neck issues. I wonder about the ability to strengthen the thoracic sling. He’s a trail horse, so nothing too demanding but hoping I don’t have to stop riding him all together.

There are exercises you can do on the ground to strengthen the thoracic sling. There were some published in one of the more recent issues of USDF Connection.

Barring a diagnosis, right now, I would absolutely not ride a horse that shows forelimb weakness under saddle. It took a rotational fall at the canter, which we thankfully both walked away from with no injuries, for us to realize something was seriously wrong. My horse showed no issues or pain besides the tripping, which was infrequent. She was flexible enough to touch her tail with her nose, and palpated with no pain indicators. The specialist noted that he was surprised at how compressed her spinal cord was on the myelogram given how she performed on the neuro tests. But he still recommended never riding her again based on the fact that she was now dangerous under saddle.


Oh yes - we stopped all riding and groundwork once we noticed something was up. Thanks for the tip on the exercises - I’ll look them up and chat with my vet about any groundwork we can do once he’s been assessed.

Good luck. I hope it turns out to be something fixable for you.

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Hi! No it was a field X-ray. She said it did not look like C6/7 malformation but a compression injury that was trying to fuse itself.

I think it would be worth sending the X-rays to a specialist. They can tell you if the X-rays need to be repeated in a hospital and give you a better idea of prognosis/treatment.