Wobbler Syndrome in Horses

While out on your regular ride, you notice that your horse seems a little clumsier than usual, tripping over sticks and stumbling.? You put it down to him being lazy, but notice it?s becoming a common pattern.? Should you be concerned?

Many horses with spinal problems will exhibit signs of clumsiness as they are being ridden.? In particular, Wobbler syndrome occurs when the spinal vertebrae have been compressed.? This causes nerve damage resulting in the horse being unable to know where their limbs are positioned.?? This syndrome can be seen in all horses, regardless of age, breed, or gender, but seems to most often crop up in male horses of fast growing breeds, such as Thoroughbreds or Quarter Horses.? It can affect the front legs or the back.

If you suspect that your horse might be suffering from this syndrome, it is important to call your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.? Wobbler is sometimes confused with the neurological disease, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), which causes muscle wasting, facial paralysis, and behavioral changes.? In order to properly diagnose, your veterinarian will locate the affected area on your horse?s neck or back, and then take radiographs.? These will help your veterinarian to pinpoint exactly what is going on in your horse?s spine to cause the symptoms.? Sometimes radiographs are not enough to clearly diagnose the disease, in which case a myelogram may be necessary.? This is a procedure where colored dye is injected into the horse?s spine to show on the radiographs where exactly the compression of the spine has occurred.? Because the horse must be under anesthesia for this procedure, it is not always a convenient or even possible option.

Wobbler Syndrome can be treated without surgery.? Most notably, benefits have been seen in supplementing an affected horse?s diet with vitamin E.? For horses that are still growing, a change in diet and turnout in a small paddock can help their bodies to realign.? Surgery is an option, however, in which case the surgeon will actually remove pieces of the horse?s vertebrae to eliminate the compression.


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9 Responses

  1. Cal says:

    My 2 year old Egyptian Arabian filly has wobblers. Will i be able to ride her? will she ever grow out of it?

  2. LE says:

    Should I avoid riding a horse that a VET thinks has slight wobbles but unsure if that or just due to club foot making this horse trips slightly once a while.

  3. Jan Arndt says:

    I have a 3 year old appy qtr horse that has a problem with her back ankles, hoofs, frog, pasterns etc. I
    do not know just where the problem is. The symptom is her back ankles pop, bob and down, pop ( with no sound) It is almost like she is walking along and then all of a sudden she acts like she has just stepped on something, had a sharp pain but keep on going. Sometimes she really resists going down hill even on grass. I can watch her in the pasture just leasurely walking and do the same thing. I have had my ferrier out 2 times, the first I told him about the problem and the second I showed him what she was doing. I have been limiting my riding for feal it will be worse not to mention when I am riding her when she does this I think she is stumbling. If I can I will take a video of her problem. I know this is long winded, but I am trying to give as much information as possible

  4. Louise says:

    I have a 14y.o mare when I went to catch her in the field she was swaying around as if she was drunk! I managed to walk her down the field her hind end was going side ways & she had no co ordination going through the gap to her stable? I got the vet out but they couldnt say what it is? They just gave me painkillers shes improved slightly but wen you first bring her out the stable she a bit wobbly on her hind end then the faster she walks the better she is but walks with her back feet very close together almost crossing each other could this be wobblers syndrome?

  5. Amy says:

    I have an 11 yr old arab gelding whom I’ve had for 2 yrs.
    I have only been riding him for the past year, because he was kind of a rescue case when I got him.
    So the first year was spent just giving him lots of TLC & a nice routine with lots of ground work. I noticed he always had quite extravegant paces with his front legs. He used to be clumsy whilst being led through gates when leaving the field. He is better with gates now & has more spacial awareness with them.
    But he has come in from the field on the odd occasion with both hocks skimmed of skin with grass stains on them & over reach wounds on his front heels! (As if he has skidded & landed on his hocks?)
    He does trip occasionally whilst being ridden.
    One time I started to pick up his front right hoof to pick it out & he began to lean on me loads, I couldn’t take his weight so i decided to put his hoof back down but instead of staying stood up he, ‘in slow motion’ laid down on the ground & then wouln’t get up straight away? He wasn’t frantick & didn’t struggle to get up, he just seemed like he was having a nice laid back, restful moment.
    Now when ever I pick up his feet he has to take a moment to poise his back legs. He positions them about a foot & half apart, like he is making sure he is balanced enough, then he lets me pick up his front feet. So I think he is aware of some sort of balance issue!
    I have noticed his occasional delay in getting up after a roll in the field. And another time he triped up & fell over when we were schooling, I came off and was ok but he just laid there again for a bit & needed a bit of encouragement to get up again. He was fine afterwards? But it is all a bit worrying!
    Strangely though on a good note, the more light exercise & schooling he has the less these incidents seem to happen. He does feel alot more balanced & co-ordinated with me on board now & his extravegant gait isn’t so exagerated these days.
    I decided to contact the person who broke him in & did a lot of endurance riding with him when he was a youngster.
    They said he used to fall over on his knees all the time & he was clumsy & dangerous. I since found out that the rider was fairly heavy & that my horse wasn’t really schooled properly on the flat. Was just broken in & then did endurance riding (passed the vettings each time & got to open level).

    I have had his back checked & was told he was fine apart from a bit of stiff soreness which was apparently due to him coming back into work & should clear when he is fit & his muscles are supple?

    Sadly i’m confused! It sounds like he was worse when he was a youngster & I’m feeling positive that he seems better & more co-ordinated lately. I’m going to get him checked by a vet but in the mean time any information or advice is greatly appreciated!

  6. jackie says:

    Hi Louise
    My horse was the same as yours, vet gave painkillers and anti inflamitary was ok but still bit odd walking although my horses did lie down and was unable to get up by herself…vet had no idea what was wrong and took bloods they came back as normal my horse is 30yr old and a week later she was in paddock and went to roll she fell down with a bump rolled about and then tried to get up but was unable to so i flicked her several times with lead rope and she did eventually get up this happend today so i shall keep an eye on heri think she is arthritic? vet has no idea what it was….her initial problem was same as yours back legs not following the front and swaying to walk sideways almost like she had a broken back, or broken joint. I will keep an eye on her for now but i feel the time has come for the inevitable my girl has never had a days illness in her life and and has been my best friend so time for me to repay her, i onlynhope it does not come to that…please let me know what was wrong with your horse and if you found a solution

  7. Laura says:

    Hey ya’ll. I have noticed that we all have some similarities in what our horses are doing. The difference with mine is that he is only 7 months old. He has always been an ornery and very exuberant fellow, but what a great personality and we really love him. The problem is that if there is trouble to be found, he is going to find it. We have dealt with full grown horses for a long time, but this is our first experience with our own baby. We went over everything babyproofing, just like you would for a child. Well lately we noticed that he had been having a little clumsy stumble quite regularly to his walk. Then the other day he got himself stuck really good. It was quite the affair to get him unstuck. His walk has got progressively worse. He walks like a drunk who had 5 gallons of moonshine. The vet said possibly that he damaged something while struggling to get up. Then when we remembered that he was stumbling a little before he got “stuck”, she said it might be wobblers syndrome, and struggling could have exacerbated the problem and brought it out early. I don’t know what to do from here. We are not going to have the money for mylegrams and things like that, But I dont want to give up on him. She said he is probably NOT in any pain, however I have nerve problems in my back and they are EXTREMELY painful. I don’t care if we ever ride him, I just love him. His mama is ridden, we have her too. She has always been “clumsy”. Now I wonder if this is just a very mild form of Wobblers. Can anybody give me any advice. I am very heartsick.

  8. Warburton says:

    My 10 yr old horse has wobblers which affects his back legs however he is ridden and competes at showjumping which he is better at then walking normally because he is clumsy the vet did say most horses are used as happy hackers but do what he likes and keeps him happy and he will let you know when something is wrong, when it comes to feed he is on thirds which is a bulk feed with no energy mollichop and mix with garlic and joint suppliment

  9. Isabel says:

    My sister’s horse, Tali, has just been diagnosed with slight wobblers.
    Tali is 6 and a 15.2 Irish sports horse x thoroughbred and loves exercise.
    We took her to the vet when she was constantly dragging her back feet and always seemed ‘off’ jumping.
    The vet said she was fine, but she was very excited and ‘perfect’.
    In the end we sent her to the RVC in england (royal vetruinary collage) she had sintigraphy and god knows what.
    They gave us 4 options-
    -rest her for 2 months with extra vitamin d in a small paddock
    -have ?12,000 surgery and wait for her to recover for a year (szhe might not make it through the surgery though)
    -put her down
    -breed her and retire her

    It is a horrible disease, we don’t have ?12,000 and yeah.
    This is my experience. . . i hope your horses don’t have wobblers

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