Editor’s Note: This article is part of TheHorse.com’s ongoing coverage of topics presented at the British Equine Veterinary Association’s 51st annual Congress, held Sept. 12-15 in Birmingham, U.K.


When your horse’s performance is not quite up to par–his stride is short, he lacks his usual impulsion, and he’s reluctant to bend–you might instinctively call up your veterinarian and inquire about a lameness exam. However, a neck condition might actually be the root cause.

"Neck conditions have a wide variety of clinical signs which may overlap in individual cases and make differential diagnosis difficult," said Graham Munroe, BVSc(Hons), PhD, CertEO, DESM, Dipl. ECVS, FRCVS, of Flanders Veterinary Services, in Scotland. He discussed how to best pinpoint different equine neck problems at the British Equine Veterinary Association’s 51st annual Congress, held Sept. 12-15, in Birmingham, UK.

The many clinical signs of neck conditions are not black and white and can include neurologic signs, neck pain, and forelimb lameness. Munroe stated that horse owners often initially present their horses for reasons such as poor performance, fore- or hind limb lameness, weakness, toe dragging, abnormal head carriage, lack of neck bend, or having the neck stuck in a fixed low position.

Adding to the diagnostic challenge, Munroe explained that neck conditions can be complicated by other concurrent orthopedic problems (e.g., low-grade hind limb lameness, back or pelvic problems) or neuromuscular disease, confused with rider issues (e.g., lack of riding ability, excessive expectations), or due