Cause And Effect Of Hunter’s Bump In The Horse

by Lisa Carter on August 23, 2012

What Is Hunter's Bump In The Horse?

Hunter's bump in the horse.  www.heavenlygaitsequinemassage.comHunter's bump in the horse is a term used to describe a condition in which the tuber sacrale of the pelvis, located at the highest point of the horse's rump, are abnormally prominent.  Most people think of this condition as being a breed-specific conformation issue.  It is often found in the "hunter/jumper" breeds like Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods.  Some people even think this is actually a good thing and was an indication that a horse would be a good jumper because it is so prevalent in that discipline!  Most often, however, it is either a function of how the horse is used; i.e. its job and how it uses it's body, or due to an old injury.  There are varying opinions of the cause, all of which are probably valid.  When it comes to horses they tend to find multiple roads to the same imbalance.  

Why Does My Horse Have Hunter's Bump?

The three most popular theories as to the cause of hunter's bump are 1) sacroiliac subluxation, 2)  damage to one or more of the stabilizing ligaments of the pelvis, and 3) injury to one or more of the muscles acting on the pelvis.  

As you can see from the illustrations below, there are many muscles that affect the action of both the hip and pelvis.  Injury and/or strain to any one of these can have a significant effect on a horse's performance and range of motion to the hindquarters.  When injury or strain occurs, the adjacent muscles take up the slack for the injured one.  Depending on the nature of the injury, such as when ligaments are involved, the muscles will sometimes take over as stabilizers to limit the motion of a particular joint in an effort to avoid further damage to the injury site.  Over time, and especially if a condition becomes chronic, the compensating soft tissue becomes overworked itself and prone to injury.  The muscles remain in a constant state of contraction and fatigue easily.  

Hindquarter muscles of the horse.    

As the horse's body continues to compensate for the injury, certain muscles can become atrophied when they are no longer used as much and others become overdeveloped by comparison.  The new compensated way of moving becomes an ingrained pattern in the horse's muscle memory and the body is less and less likely to return to a state of balance on its own even after the original injury has healed.  Now add into that mix the creation of scar tissue, which is not very elastic and greatly reduces the available range of motion to the surrounding soft tissue.  

With hunter's bump, constant strain on the sacroiliac joint and ligaments due to awkward landings over jumps, falls, overwork or bad footing can cause damage to the ligaments and soft tissue of the pelvis.  Atrophy begins to occur in the muscles overlying the tuber sacrale, and along with the upward movement of the sacroiliac joint, causes the characteristic "bump" along the top of the horse's rump.  

Is Hunter's Bump Painful?

Most horses with hunter's bump will also have associated lumbar back pain.  If the original injury has gone untreated for a long period of time, other conditions can begin to crop up due to the strain of compensation over time.  You might see stifle and/or hock issues begin to crop up as secondary conditions to the original injury.  These secondary conditions will usually persist and/or worsen even with treatment if the original culprit is not recognized and addressed first.  

Look for Part 2 of this article next week, which will cover alternative therapies, specific exercises and stretches that you can use to help address hunter's bump in your horse.  

Resources:  Plate 34, Horse Anatomy – A Coloring Atlas By Robert A. Kainer and Thomas O. McCracken, Alpine Publications 1994.


Lisa Carter, Certified Equine Massage Therapist, with her Arabian mare Siofhice.  www.heavenlygaitsequinemassage.com.

Lisa Carter is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist (CEMT), with multiple certifications from several different equine bodywork schools.  She incorporates her knowledge and experience with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, equine bodywork and as a veterinary technician to provide her clients with the resources they need to make informed decisions for their horses.  She encourages and facilitates network building between equine health care professionals, working together to find the best combination of therapies to meet the needs of the "whole horse".  

Are you ready to get better results with your horse?  Put your equine health care team to work so you and your horse can be doing what you were meant to.  Click here to get started!

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Gidget August 25, 2012 at 10:25 am

Hsve you put out the second part of this? I have a mare that we have been working on for about 5 months. She has this a little and it’s due to years of incorrect training and then she had a bad injury. She is showing improvement but anything we can do to make this better for her would be great. Have you heard of a horse breaking vertebrae near the pole? What kind of treatments would you recommend for that.?

Lisa Carter Lisa Carter August 25, 2012 at 11:19 am

The second part of this article will be posted next Thursday (Aug. 30) and will detail the kinds of things you can do to help. I did have a mare many years ago that my chiropractor indicated she had probably fractured her neck vertebrae (C2/3) near the poll. She developed something similar to “wobblers”. He said the only thing that would have caused this would be a very severe “setting back” on the halter or a blow/fall. He indicated to me that the best thing we could do for her was heat and massage locally to the area to help with pain relief. I believe that acupuncture would also be beneficial for helping to restore energy flow to the area.

Anastasiya Day August 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Brilliant article. I always learn a lot and a lot of people will benefit from reading it. Great work.

MarVeena August 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I can't wait to hear more about this. We have 14 TB's on our ranch. I see this in a few my horses. This really worries me!
Thank you for sharing this info!!!

Tonya March 6, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Hello, I have recently been told that my horse has a hunters bump and it could be the reason he is taking off on me in canter. I have been told to get the chiropractor to come and check him out and there is a possibilty that it may not be able to be fixed and  I might need to think about another future for my horse… I have been jumping him and he seems to do fine, he canters after the jump, but it seems to be a more relaxed canter unlike the ones when I am doing flat work, he can be hard to pull back sometimes though. He never takes off in trot, although I have experienced him 'Pig-rooting' a few times but other people have said that it  is due to my leg aid and another person told me he does it because he feels good. What is your opinion on all of this?
 
Regards, Tonya.

Lisa Carter Lisa Carter March 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Hi Tonya,

Without evaluating your horse in person, it’s hard to say. I would definitely recommend having a good bodyworker or chiropractor take a look at him. It is not normal for a horse to have a hunter’s bump, so if he does have one there is an imbalance going on and odds are it will affect his performance and possibly cause discomfort. In many cases this can be corrected through proper treatment and a good therapeutic exercise program. Some cases can be very severe and they may never regain 100% performance, but most cases can still be improved upon. Each case is different. It sounds like some of the behaviors your horse is displaying may be due to discomfort. If when you firmly palpate the muscles around the lumbar area your horse “gives” to that by dipping his back then this is an indication of a problem coming from the back end. Hope this helps!

Blessings,

Lisa

rebecca August 8, 2013 at 2:18 am

Hi Lisa, 

my horse has recently developed a hunters bump and he is in pain. The signs are  he is pacing at the walk (like a camel) and will somtimes drag his toes. He also has great difficulty in flying changes, the back end changes always afterwards – this didn't used to happen. A vet did look at him but diagnosed that there was not enough synovial fluid in the knee joint which didn't really make sense to me I think he just wanted make money by injecting some hocus pocus into the joint. I have brought him home where he is out in the field – which is very hilly. Would it be better to keep him in a box? He has always had uneven hips which according to my Chiropractor is normal and there is nothing which can be done. I ride dressage and before bringing him home did alot of cavelletti work as it seemed to loosen him up. Not that he is home he has lost weight (it has been very hot here) and the bump is more apparent. 

Lisa Carter Lisa Carter August 8, 2013 at 5:36 am

Hi Rebecca,

I'm so sorry to hear your horse is having this problem.  The recent development of the hunters bump and change in movement are indicative of a developing problem for your horse that will most likely not correct itself on its own and will most likely get progressively worse.  #1 a crooked pelvis is NOT normal!  I would definitely get a second opinion on that from a different chiropractor.  #2 often when it comes to musculoskeletal imbalances, veterinarians find these things hard to diagnose because they are often driven by soft tissue problems that are not easily "seen".  The pelvis is not easily xrayed, so an external visual exam is often all that is used.  Sometimes these things will show up with thermography, but that's not a tool that every vet will have handy.  It's usually obvious that there's something going on, but its hard to pinpoint so any anomaly they find – like the lack of synovial fluid – is all they have to go on. 

The symptoms you are describing can be driven from several things.  One of my own horses as a matter of fact had many of these same symptoms and we were able to make very positive changes for him.  His was caused by a crooked sacrum, probably due to a hard blow to the hip after a fall out in the pasture.  Technically speaking, a sacroiliac subluxation.  Often associated with this is a lot of damage to ligaments in the pelvic girdle, which in turn does not allow the hindquarters to be used properly.  Muscle wasting starts to develop and the stifle apparatus becomes affected due to the uneven loading on the various muscles/ligaments that work the stifle – hence the dragging toes. A good chiropractor/acupuncturist in conjunction with bodywork should be able to help.  Torn ligaments and scar tissue are much harder issues to overcome, but improvements can be made in most cases. 

The other thing that can happen is a torn or stretched ligament and I've also had one client whose horse ended up having bone spurs that were aggravating the stifle joint, causing a lot of pain and the pelvis to become uneven because of the limited movement on the one side. 

I'm not sure where you are located, but if you'll contact me via email at clientcare@heavenlygaitsequinemassage.com, I'll see if there's someone I can put you into contact with to do a thorough evaluation of your horse. 

Abbie September 18, 2013 at 3:07 am

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=349146185220421&set=pcb.349146765220363&type=1&theater

 

Do you think this horses has hunter's bump or just a roach back? 5yr old 15.3hh gelding horse been ridden 3 times.

Lisa Carter Lisa Carter September 18, 2013 at 4:03 am

Abbie, It tells me the link is unavailable.  The privacy settings may be such that I cannot view it.

Lisa

Tamara October 25, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Love hearing from you … so much I have learned and now know what to watch out for. Thank You for helping so many of us. 

Lisa Carter Lisa Carter October 26, 2013 at 12:47 am

Thank you Tamara!  I so happy that you are finding this information helpful. 

Blessings,

Lisa

Lea Gillham February 24, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Hi I just wanted to add in something here. My friend was telling me about "hunters bump" as I was not familiar with the term. After seeing and reading this info. I have used essential oils of valor, pain away directly on the spine and if there is additional swelling or soreness I would use relieve it. As I see you are using essential oils (young living). Thank you for your help to others with their divine equine friends. I am a physic and work with Archangel Ariel. I work on horses and help them with their needs. Good job. Thanks for being there to help others and having this site. God Bless you. Love & light, Lea Gillham

 

Lisa Carter Lisa Carter February 26, 2014 at 5:04 am

Thanks so much Lea for sharing your experiences and tips so that others who may be experiencing this issue with their horses might find some relief!  There are so many varied ways to use the essential oils, they are just so versatile and beneficial to us and our animals.  The possibilities are endless 🙂 

Blessings,

Lisa

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