Alyssa contacted me a couple of weeks ago about sharing Spike’s story, and I was more than happy to do so! I found their story informative and heart-warming, and I hope you do too!
About 4 years ago, I moved to a 120 acre property near Glenreagh, NSW (about 40 minutes from Coffs Harbour and Grafton), and I was rediscovering my passion for horses and horse riding. I had two horses and had rescued a third. As a result, I was talking to a friend about rescuing horses. A few weeks later I received a text from that friend asking me if I would be interested in taking on a Warmblood gelding named Spike. He was 7 years old and had a swayback which he was born with. I declined. I was already busy managing the 3 horses I currently had. But then I saw a photo of Spike and his ad listed on a Facebook horses for sale page, and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I was mesmerized!
I immediately contacted my friend via text to see if he was still available. Lucky for me, he was still for sale and I offered to purchase him. He was listed for $600 and I bought him for $300. He was delivered to my house later that week. I still remember the first time I saw him – I had never seen a horse with such a severe swayback. I can honestly say I was shocked, but he was exactly like any normal horse. He loved going for a hoon around his paddock, he loved his food and he LOVED his paddock mate Shadow. He settled in well.
One day I decided I would like to know more about Spike’s past and about his condition, just in case there was anything I needed to do for him. I did lots of research into swaybacks, specifically those horses that are born with it, and discovered it was called Lordosis, a genetic condition caused by a deformation of the thoracic vertebrae at the wither. I looked at a lot of research but found that the most recent was from a study by Dr. Patrick Gallagher. He had completed a study on Saddlebreds with Lordosis and made quite a few big discoveries.
The research found that the spinal deviation caused by Lordosis does not have a disabling effect and doesn’t have any particular influence on horses’ health or soundness. Dr. Gallagher found that horses affected by the condition functioned as though they were normally conformed and identified that performance horses are not significantly impaired by the condition. Any effects on gait are minor and that the biggest concern for Lordotic horses is saddle fit.
Other than Spike’s slightly different appearance, he is exactly like a “normal” horse. I’ve seen him canter around the paddock and chuck in a few good bucks. He doesn’t suffer from any pain associated with the condition.
Spike was green broken when he came to me so his education under saddle was limited. Because of this, we started with groundwork. Today we do enjoy a ride from time to time and Spike loves nothing more than getting out. Saddle fit is an issue for him, as his sway is quite severe, so all of the riding we do is in a Zilco bareback pad.
Recently, there has been some research done by ASHA (in the United States) that has discovered that Lordosis is passed on recessively. This means that both parents need to carry the gene in order for the foal to have a chance of developing Lordosis. Spike was that one foal who happened to acquire the condition. In my research into Spike’s breeding, I spoke to the owner of his dam who mentioned that none of the foals before Spike or after Spike from his dam or the stallion who sired him, had acquired the condition. She mentioned that his brothers and sisters were all beautifully conformed horses and that they were show jumpers (some trained to grand prix level) and that is what Spike would have done too if he had not had Lordosis.
I like to think I am pretty lucky because if Spike didn’t have Lordosis then I would have never been his owner. Who knows where he would be or what he would be doing? He is such a smart, willing and kind horse and is always such a pleasure to work with and be around. His Lordosis has had no ill effect on his life. He just looks a little different.
To learn more about Equine Lordosis and to continue following Spike’s story, visit Alyssa’s website: A Horse Named Spike.