Think of your fondest memory of a time spent with a horse. Chances are you were going for a ride, enjoying the scenery and the companionship that exists between horse and human. It is no wonder that with the time we endeavor to spend on our horses’ backs, we spend thousands of dollars each year to pamper them–gel pads, foam pads, air pads, saddles with wide trees, narrow trees, and adjustable trees. We use hot and cold therapies, acupuncture, electrostimulation, massage, magnets, and chiropractic techniques to help our horses’ backs. Yet only a few specialists understand the complexities of the equine spine.

Jean-Marie Denoix, DVM, PhD, of the Centre d’Imagerie et de Recherche sur les Affections Locomotrices Equines (CIRALE) is one of the world’s few specialists in equine locomotion. He has been studying the equine back for more than 15 years, collecting countless images and anatomical specimens, and discovering unique ways to help practitioners and horse owners visualize what is going on beneath the skin of our horses.

Denoix took some time out of his schedule of clinical cases and teaching at CIRALE, lecturing around the world, and writing scientific articles and books to relate some of his vast knowledge of the equine spine to readers of The Horse. He wants us all to understand how the equine spine is made, how it moves, and what can go wrong.

Examination Techniques

First, how can we visualize and understand what’s going on under that hair, skin, and muscle? Denoix has diagnostic steps to examine a horse with performance problems that he believes might stem from the spine.