Roach Back in Horses
Most people are familiar with swayback in horses, where the line of the back dips downwards in the middle like a hammock. The reverse condition where the spine is very straight or bows upwards in a hump is commonly referred to as "roach back". The underlying cause of roach back is a deformity of the spine.
Also known as: kyphosis/acquired kyphosis, ridge back, saddle back.
Roach back is normally not apparent in the foal but can often be detected by six months of age. As they age the horse with this condition may show a limited range of movement due to their spine being less flexible. Some consider they also tend to be weaker in the hind legs than properly conformed horses.
Simple Congenital Kyphosis
In cases where roach back develops early and is the primary problem the prognosis is pretty good. In a great many cases the horses with mild to moderate congenital roach back will be able to be ridden and will exhibit no major health problems.
Photo credit: Ivan McClellan / Foter.com / CC BY
However roach back is a very general conformation trait and is not always congenital. It can be caused by trauma to the spine. It it may be secondary to other conditionssuch as scoliosis or calcinosis. These more complex causes of kyphosis can have health consequences such as pain in the hind limbs and/or hind limb weakness.
In some cases where acquired kyphosis appears at the same tome as lameness, it may be resolved when the lameness if successfully treated.
Therefore it is important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the full nature of a roach backed horse's condition and manage the animal appropriately.
Some champion horses have been described as roach backed. Including:
- Roughside (Winner, Chester Cup 1900)
Uncomplicated roach back is not debilitating but may require management and careful saddle design. Severe or complex cases may make an animal unsuitable for riding.