Injuries to the posterior section of the spine are often caused by unbalanced stress on the pelvis. However, the prognosis is usually good if the horse is given time to recover, says Kim Dyson.
The sacroiliac is the joint between the sacrum (the end part of the horse’s spine) and the ilium bones of the pelvis. It is hidden beneath the large gluteal muscles on the top of the horse’s rump.
This area has two pairs of ligaments that can cause pain if damaged. The deep ventral ligaments stabilise the sacroiliac joint, and the dorsal sacroiliac ligaments run over the top of the sacrum, forming the anchor between the ilium and the sacral spine.
This remarkable structure holds the spine tightly to the pelvis. Most injuries in this region occur because of uneven stress applied to the pelvis.
A sacroiliac injury should be suspected when a horse exhibits the following signs and behaviour:
Once a diagnosis has been made, prognosis largely depends on the extent of the problem. Because sacroiliac area injuries usually involve one or more ligaments, recovery will always be fairly prolonged, ranging from six to eight weeks for problems caught early, or up to many months for more serious injuries.
First, get the inflammation under control. Your vet may recommend a course of systemic anti-inflammatories (phenylbutazone or flunixin) or local injections (corticosteroid). Because they can slow healing and result in ligament weakness, corticosteroid injections should not be administered repeatedly, however.
Once the initial inflammation is under control, the horse should be kept moving. Some vets administer periodic injections to help with low-grade pain or inflammation during rehabilitation, as these may help the horse work through the programme to achieve the best possible flexibility.
Ultimately, time is the main requirement for successful treatment.
Although severe injuries can certainly limit a horse’s future career, especially in demanding sports, many horses that fail to return to their original work do so simply because they are not given enough time to recover.
You can minimise trauma to this area by doing the following:
Kim Dyson breeds Arabians and Lusitanos, and has 22 years’ experience in holistic equine and human bodywork.
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