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Equine sacroiliac problems

Please note, I am writing this article from my own experience. I am not a vet, and although most of this information has come from discussions with vets, if you think your horse has a sacroiliac injury it is important to consult with your own veterinarian.

What is the Sacroiliac?

The sacroiliac (SI) is a joint where the horses back and pelvis meet. It is made up of the ilium which is part of the horses pelvis and the sacrum which is part of the spinal column. There are two SI joints, one on either side of the spine. They are supported by a series of ligaments and the muscles surrounding the joint.

The SI is designed to be a stable joint, whereas most other joints on the horse are designed to be mobile, like the hock for example.

Signs of a SI injury or weakness 

It is quite hard to diagnose a SI injury as the signs can be very vague and mistaken for other problems.

Common signs are:

  • Lack of performance
  • Disuniting or 'bunny hopping' at the canter
  • Trouble with lateral work
  • Shortened hind leg stride
  • Asymmetrical muscling in the hindquarters
  • A 'hunters bump'
  • Difficulty holding/flexing the leg for a prolonged period of time (ie for the farrier)

How did my horse get an SI injury?

It is often difficult to determine how your horse got a SI injury. It can be caused by trauma - maybe a fall on the Cross Country course or even just a slip in the paddock! Remember, we don't know what they get up to when we are not around!

SI issues can also develop as a secondary injury. Perhaps your horse has arthritis in its hocks - because the hocks are sore your horse starts moving slightly differently to compensate, which then causes them to become sore in the SI area.

They can even develop due to wear and tear. Your horses workload and age can play a factor here.

The problem can be in the joint itself (such as a fracture or arthritis), or in the ligaments that support the joint (a strain or tear).

What can I do to fix it?

Ok guys, number one tip here - SEE A VET! 
I know vets are expensive and we have other things we would like to spend our money on, but self diagnosing and self treating may do more damage than good. It is so important to see your vet to determine the problem, how severe it is and develop a treatment plan. For some it might be necessary to give your horse stall rest and time off, but for others, depending on the severity of the issue, it could be more beneficial to keep your horse in work and strengthen the muscles and ligaments in the area. 

If you have a horse that is pre disposed to weakness in the SI area (due to an old injury etc) you may find that they don't do so well when they are out of work. This is because after time off, your horses muscles and ligaments aren't as strong and the SI joint isn't supported as well as it was before your horse went on holiday! As I mentioned earlier, the SI is a stable joint, not a mobile joint. If your horse has been on a break you will have to work on strengthening the area again before asking too much of them.

There are a few general things you can do to help strengthen and support the SI area. These were recommended to me by my vet.

  • Long and low work
  • Less circles, more straight lines
  • Trotting Poles
  • Gentle hill work
  • Apply Voltaren gel to the area
  • Backing horse a few steps before your ride, to engage the area
  • Strengthening exercises (shown in video below) repeated five times

Hopefully that helps you a little. If you have any questions for me then feel free to message me on my instagram page 


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