Often times when horses have sore withers it is commonly mistaken for an attitude problem.
Symptoms of pain in the withers include attitude and behavioral issues, shortened strides in the front end, agitation during grooming and saddling, resistance to forward movement under saddle, and twitching when the withers have been touched.
Pain in this area can be caused by a variety of conditions including conformation, saddle fit, improper blanket fit, mounting from the ground, and restrictions in the spine.
Conformation issues such as having too low or too high of withers can make it difficult to find a proper fit for your saddle or blankets. Often times with ill-fitting equipment, the horse will develop a white patch of hair or even sores due to rubbing. Over time this causes damage to the area making the horse ultra-sensitive to even light touch.
Mounting from the ground adds excess stress that will cause rotational restrictions to form in the withers. This will cause the area to become painful, overly sensitive, and you may notice muscle spasms. Improperly moving joints in the lower beck, thoracic spine, and shoulders can also cause the withers to become restricted due to overcompensation for the lack of movement in the other areas.
If you suspect your horse is having an issue with pain in his withers, the best thing you can do is get your horse adjusted! Chiropractic adjustments help to relieve restricted areas and return normal motion to the joints. It will also help relieve the areas that have been overcompensating. Over time, adjustments will make those highly sensitive areas less sensitive and reduce twitching when being touched. Saddle fit should also be examined to ensure your horse is comfortable under saddle.
Dr. Doug and Jeanette love teaching people about health and wellness. If we haven't covered a topic that you're interested in, feel free to leave a comment and we'd be happy to give you our thoughts!