Sciatic nerve pain in horse

Hi Has anybody had a horse that was diagnosed with sciatic nerve pain? If so, how was it diagnosed and what were the symptoms?

Following. That’s an interesting question.

Well, my gelding wasn’t technically diagnosed with sciatic nerve pain…but he was diagnosed with SI issues, where the ultrasound showed an S1 nerve root inflammation…which would be pretty close to sciatic nerve issues.

He got resistant about moving forward in contact…would stop and kick out. You could walk on the buckle fine, but as soon as you tried to put him in a frame he got very resistant. Head tossing, cow kicking, stopping, running backwards. The more you pressed to go forward the more agitated he would get.

We ended up having to diagnose with a rectal ultrasound to see the underside of the SI joint. That was when the nerve inflammation was finally found and we finally got a conclusive diagnosis. Took quite a long time to get to that point though. Lots of vets gave up on diagnosing him…but I kept pushing for answers.


Critter-Thank you Just read your reply after getting off phone from scheduling a pelvic ultrasound which will take place in 2 weeks. And yes, I too am the impetus pushing looking at the pelvis.
Was your gelding able to be successfully treated and able therefore to have a job?

So, we tried medication and management for several months (gabapentin was the main drug and SI injections)…that did help and he was able to work for a few months, but that was only masking the issue and after a few months, that stopped helping. We tried to keep him going because in humans, core strength is really important for SI stability. He was turning 7 at that point. The vets basically said there wasn’t much else that could be done. So I opted to do Dr. Green…and I just turned him out for 14 months with no work…just him being a horse. I actually nearly put him down that first two months…the vet’s prognosis was for him to be a trail/light ride at best. And when I weaned him off all the drugs, you could tell he didn’t really want to move at all. He wouldn’t run outside, hardly ever rolled, and just looked miserable. I had decided to given him the third month and make a decision…but then he started moving a bit better, and looking less painful. I did a full 14 months, because I wanted to be sure I would not question if I gave him long enough off. I also put him on a magnesium supplement at that point. Then I VERY slowly brought him back to work…we walked more than a month…I probably did a slower rehab than a soft tissue program!! And I figured I would stop when he told me enough.

Long story short…he made a full recovery…he has worked the last several years at PSG/I1 level. He cannot make the leap to GP (we played with piaffe/passage and he clearly says that’s too much for him). But he is quite happy to do PSG/I1 level stuff. He’s now 17 and other then him finding creative ways to hurt himself and get a few months off each year, he’s sound and happy in his work. No behavioral issues at all. I am sure if someone really tried to drill him to bump up to GP, he would get sore again. So we don’t do that and I just appreciate every day I can ride him and do a lot…which is way more than any vet said he would be able to do!


Critter- Wow! THANK YOU so much for sharing your story. Congratulations on your success with your horse. Interestingly my horse is currently on gabapentin in an attempt to quiet possible wind up syndrome. Horse had made improvements, but once again I find myself with an unhappy equine. Behavior, physical assessment points to left side of hindquarters. Horse has never been traditionally ”lame”. We too have had lots of diagnostics performed over last 2 years. Has been very difficult to figure out the source of his issues. Have had to use more than one veterinarian. Anyways, I feel the health of his pelvis needs looking into. And I do know that horses react to nerve pain differently than other types of pain from injuries. They develop protective behavior . Again, your story confirms to me that I need to proceed with my plan. Sorry you had to go through this. Happy Trails!


Big Name Vet saw my horse last October. We were having trouble with a left to right swap right before the jumps. We were being VERY picky about soundness, and really picking horse apart. This is not your normal ambulatory vet doing a lameness eval…

Vet diagnosed him with sciatica. Makes perfect sense to me. Gave him a dex epidural (yep, right there in the cross ties on the farm). I had a brand new horse for about two weeks. Vet had gone to Florida. I was going in to winter here. I did what I could, tried to push through what I felt, but horse got worse and ended up having vet reevaluate horse when he got home from Florida.

More diagnostics, we found an old stifle and hip injury. Neither presented painfully. But when treated all the other painful areas disappeared. Horse was loading back and fetlock, back which presented like sciatica, to prevent using hip and stifle. My horse too had a left sided… lameness… not even really lameness… just a not quite right. Again, you had to be VERY critical to pick it up.

So while I think sciatica is a real issue, I think it’s often related to another injury. Much like humans


Yes, my gelding never had any lameness…it was all behavioral. Even with the findings on ultrasound he was sound. Now, he does tend to carry his haunches a bit to one side. So he struggles a bit with clean changes behind when you go from right to left lead. He can do it, but it takes a lot more set up and you have to really get him to jump through to be clean. The other side no issue, smooth changes.

Like you, it was a 2 year diagnostic process. I was lucky in that my guy is super honest. The behavior was quite naughty when he hurt…but he when he doesn’t hurt, he is very good. So it makes it very simple to know for sure whether he is comfortable or not. It also was a way for me to tell if I was asking too much…since he is so honest, I could use the behavior as an indicator without worrying if he was just being defensive. I was also super careful not to do certain movement combos that might put too much pressure on his SI and built up to FEI work very slowly…so he had his confidence back that it would be okay. Also a very specific warmup that I didn’t deviate from. But, all 100% worth the time and effort…he is the best and easiest horse to ride! But that few years was pretty rough going. Good luck!

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Scrbear11- Thank you for relaying your story. I agree that sciatic pain is likely a symptom. Going to make every effort to get answers