Holistic Horse Health: Does your horse have a rib out?

For no obvious reason your normally gentle riding horse starts bucking. This could be caused by him having a rib out. What does it mean to have a rib out? Normally all the ribs move together during inspiration and expiration but having a rib out means that rib is moving the opposite of the other ribs. Since the short muscles laying between the ribs have a very rich nerve supply, every time a rib moves opposite of the other ribs it creates sharp pain.

The sharp pain of having a rib out occurs each time your horse takes a breath and it can get even worse if he moves his ribcage in a certain direction that increases the strain on the muscles between the ribs. The constant pain can cause your normally happy horse to get very grumpy and the intense pain caused by certain movement can cause him to buck.

A horse can get a rib out from something as simple as rolling over a rock in the pasture. Other causes include kicks or over tightening of the girth. A horse with a rib out can be hard to diagnose without a chiropractic or osteopathic exam but there are some symptoms that you can watch for.

Symptoms of a rib out:

Unusual grumpiness

Flinching or resistance when the girth is tightened

Resistance to bending through the ribcage

Sudden fits of bucking

The short term effects of a rib out can interfere with performance but the long term effects can be even worse. When the pain from a rib out causes your horse to breath less deeply his system will not get enough oxygen for proper organ function. He will also have a build up of carbon dioxide which will cause his system to stay more acid than normal. More acid means more arthritis and general body stiffness. The kidneys and pancreas have to work harder to produce chemicals to buffer the extra acid.

There is no medical treatment for a rib out. Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs give slight improvement but the pain will persist until the rib is able to once again move in sync with the other ribs. The most direct treatment is to have the rib adjusted by a chiropractor or osteopath. Some body work techniques, such as Bowen or Equine Touch, can help by addressing the muscles between the ribs.

If you suspect your horse could have a rib out don’t try to ride him. At the very least he will be miserable and he could even buck and hurt you without meaning to. Get him checked as quickly as possible. Madalyn

For more information check out: www.holistichorsekeeping.com

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