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Neck Pain in Horses: Causes and Symptoms

Neck pain in horses is a common issue that affects their overall well-being and performance. Thus, it is important for you to be aware of the symptoms and causes so they can be addressed promptly. Today, our Meadow Vista vets will discuss some common causes and symptoms of neck pain in horses, and some treatment options that can help.

Causes of Neck Pain in Horses

Horses often end up with neck pain because of muscle strain or injury, poor saddle fit, or because of dental issues causing discomfort while eating or carrying the bit. Neck pain can also be caused by underlying medical conditions like arthritis or cervical vertebral malformation. It is important to consult with a veterinarian to accurately diagnose and treat the specific cause of your horse's neck pain.

Symptoms of Neck Pain in Horses

The most common symptom of neck pain in horses is stiffness or reluctance to move. There can also be swelling and/or tenderness in the neck, and changes in posture or head carriage.

Stiffness or Reluctance to Move

Because the neck is a crucial part of a horse’s musculoskeletal system, any discomfort or injury in this area can result in limited range of motion and difficulty performing regular movements.

Swelling and/or Tenderness in the Neck

Swelling or tenderness in the neck can indicate neck pain due to issues such as muscle strain, arthritis, or even cervical spine problems. These symptoms may also be accompanied by reluctance to bend or turn the neck and changes in behavior or performance. 

Changes in Posture or Head Carriage

Changes in posture or head carriage can indicate neck pain in horses by manifesting as stiffness, resistance to bending, or difficulty flexing the neck. Additionally, horses with neck pain may exhibit behaviors such as head tossing, reluctance to lift their head, or leaning on one rein while riding.

Diagnosing Neck Pain in Horses

Diagnosing neck pain in horses normally involves a physical examination by a veterinarian, and can include diagnostic imaging such as X-rays or ultrasounds. 

If the veterinarian finds it to be essential blood tests may also be conducted to rule out other possible causes of the pain, such as infections or inflammatory conditions.

Treatment for Neck Pain in Horses

Treatment for neck pain in horses largely depends on what the cause is. Most often, treatment is either rest, medications, physical therapy, or chiropractic adjustments.


Sometimes, all a horse might need is rest to recover from their neck pain. Rest is beneficial for horses with neck pain because it allows the muscles and tissues in the affected area to heal and recover. Additionally, limiting movement can prevent further strain or injury to the neck, promoting a faster recovery process.


Medications can help reduce inflammation and manage pain in horses with neck pain, allowing them to move more comfortably and participate in rehabilitation exercises. They can also aid in addressing any underlying causes of the pain, such as arthritis or muscle strain, to promote healing and improve overall mobility. 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help improve range of motion, reduce muscle tension, and increase strength in the affected area. It can also promote healing and prevent future injuries by addressing underlying issues that may be causing the pain. 

Chiropractic Treatment

Chiropractic neck adjustments for horses involve manual manipulation of the vertebrae in the neck to improve alignment and range of motion. This can help alleviate tension, stiffness, and discomfort in the neck area, promoting overall wellness and mobility for the horse.

Preventing Neck Pain in Horses

To help prevent neck pain in horses, ensure proper saddle fit and placement to avoid unnecessary pressure on the neck muscles. Additionally, incorporate regular stretching exercises and massage therapy to help maintain flexibility and reduce tension in the neck area.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding horses. For an accurate diagnosis of your horse's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect that your horse is suffering from neck pain? Our Meadow Vista vets can help find the issue and devise a treatment plan.

New Patients Welcome

Meadow Vista Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients including dogs, cats and large animals. Get in touch today to book your first appointment.

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