A recently published French study suggests a horse’s neck posture might indicate correlating back pain.

In their two-part study, the researchers aimed to first validate the use of static electromyography (sEMG) as an alternative to manual evaluation of vertebral disorders, and then to establish a relationship between neck postures and back disorders.

"The use of sEMG measures is fairly new (to veterinary practice) and concerns mostly the study of muscles and back functioning during movement," explained lead researcher Clémence Lesimple, PhD, of the University of Rennes.

The team employed two groups of nine horses in the study: Group 1 consisted of pastured horses used for occasional leisure riding while Group 2 included stalled riding school horses, exercised 4-12 hours per week.

For the first part of the study, both groups of horses underwent chiropractic and sEMG evaluation in order for researchers to compare findings from both methods.

Second, researchers evaluated horses’ neck postures. The team placed five self-adhesive markers in specific anatomical locations along the right side of each horse, beginning at withers and ending at the lower point of the facial crest (between eye and nostril).

Horses were then photographed both at rest and during different phases of the walk. Researchers subsequently used the photographs to measure angles between markers.

Key findings included:

  • sEMG and chiropractic results were "highly correlated" and indicated that 50% and 55%, respectively, of all horses were "severely affected" by back problems (multiple verte