Discussion in 'Horse Management' started by Gaia, Nov 4, 2008.

  1. Gaia

    Gaia Gold Member

    What can anyone tell me about this condition?? How does it affect horses, apart6 from the wasting of the muscle? Can you ride them or are they no good as ridden horses? Any info would be great. :)
  2. jodie

    jodie Well-known Member

    Ok it is the result of trauma that does damage to the suprascapular and associated nerves (pectoal, subscapular) and thats why you get atrophy of the muscles in that area. I think we were told the most common causes are hwne horses gallop into a solid object or in teh animal stumbles forward with the leg stretched back. There is usually instability in the shoulder joint due to muscle denervation so it can caus ethe joint to subluxate laterally during weight bearing. You often see horses swing their leg out to avoid toe dragging when they move.

    Depending on how long ago it occured (and if it is blunt trauma suggesting the nerve is still intact) it may recover. You can try anti-inflammatories, stall rest and ice-packs. It can take anywhere from days to week sto recover if it is going to.

    As for ridden ability I guess it would depend on how stable the shoulder is and how the horse moves. Hope that is of some help!
  3. Sharaway

    Sharaway Guest

    A bried search of what I found, to be honest I have heard of it but I have never seen it.

    A "sweeny" is an unsoundness located in the shoulder area. It is a degeneration of the muscles on either side of the scapula caused by nerve damage. The bone will appear very sharp and pronounced as the muscles on either side atrophy. When the horse walks, he will swing the leg on the affected shoulder out to the side. You may also hear a popping sound. This action is referred to as lateral slippage and may be apparent long before the muscles show the signs of atrophy.


    You may hear a couple of opinions regarding the true definition of a "sweeny" but the term actually applies to any group of atrophied muscles regardless of the location. Most people want to confine its usage to mean the shoulder muscles which is the most common sweeny location. Atrophy or degeneration of the muscle(s) results from either disuse or loss of its nerve supply. In the case of the "shoulder sweeny," the nerve (supra scapula) crossing the spine of the shoulder blade has been damaged. It is usually easy to see, but in the early stages after the injury it may be difficult to see if no lameness is present. There is no known treatment but nerve regeneration may occur. Nerve regeneration usually takes a long time (6+ months). For cosmetic value, you can inject irritants into the area to fill it with scar tissue if the muscle is not a large one. This is a favorite trick of many horse traders.

    “Wishy” a 4 year old Irish Draft cross mare with Sweeny of the right shoulder. There had been a thunderstorm on news years eve and the thoroughbreds sharing her paddock had panicked and she crashed through a fence injuring the suprascapula nerve causing neurogenic muscle atrophy. Antiinflammatory drugs and rest were recommended.

    Treatment included energy work to ground “Wishy” into her body, manipulation of the structures making up the shoulder joint, and homoeopathic remedies of Silica and Calcium fluoride to dissolve scar tissue and Hypericum to heal the damaged nerve. After 2 months she is 80% improved where that had not been any change in more then 12 months. She went lame when put into work and improved with injury remedy.

    Suprascapular Nerve Damage

    From my observations in the field, this is the most common. Square up the horse while someone holds the mane out of the way so that the withers and the shoulders can be viewed from behind. You may have to stand on a bucket or something to get this view. If the shoulder on the side of the club foot falls away from the withers more steeply or is smaller, nerve damage is probably your culprit.

    There are two muscles that run along the outside of the scapula (supraspinatus and infraspinatus). Their primary job is actually that of a ligament; to hold the scapula against the body. The reason they are muscle, rather than ligament is for increased flexibility. These muscles are innervated by a motor nerve (suprascapular). If this nerve is damaged the muscles cannot contract as well.

    The nerve is usually damaged during a one time event. The foreleg is extended and under power, and suddenly looses traction and slips backward. When this happens, the lack of nerve stimuli allows the muscle to contract and become a more tendonous type of material. Fortunately, the shrinkage of the muscles and their replacement by connective tissue forms “functional” ligaments (Dr. James R. Rooney) which continue to do the job of holding the scapula in place, but with a limited range of motion.

    In severe cases, this is commonly called "sweeny", but I see it very commonly to very slight degrees. The hoof adapts to the reduced extension of the foreleg by becoming more upright. Most people only notice the horse’s resistance to turn in that direction, pick up that lead or perhaps that their saddle is always shifting to that side.

    From a medical standpoint, the nerve damage is irreversible, but I have seen massage therapy and daily stretching significantly help the situation. Anything that increases mobility of the limb (massage, stretching, exercise) will in turn “normalize” the hoof. I have heard one veterinarian and one massage therapist who use electric therapy to stimulate muscles claim they can cause nerves to “jump” into the muscles, reversing the problem. I have yet to see it with my own eyes, though, so if anyone out there has documentation of this, I would love to see it.
  4. Freestyle

    Freestyle Well-known Member

    Sweeny is basically caused by the horse experiencing some type of trauma to the shoulder (eg kick). It can be recognised by loss of muscle,and also impared movement. Horses with this condition often find sideways movement difficult and also forward and back movement can be severly reduced.

    Basically, it occurs because damage has occurred to the suprascapular nerve (goes over the neck of a horse to the scapula). Horses tend to heal better than humans when it comes to nerve complaints and the recommended rehabilitation is to turn the horse out for a period of time in a hilly paddock. Also massage and other alternative treatments have been successful. However, some horses never fully recover from the condition and will always exhibit signs of lameness.

    Some horses do recover fully and make lovely riding horses. I guess it depends upon your willingness to give your horse plenty of time to heal and also luck.

    Goodluck :)*
  5. Gaia

    Gaia Gold Member

    Thanks guys :) Its not my horse but one that was offered to me to start under saddle and move on, but I think I am going to end up with a lame horse that I can't do anything with by the sounds of it. She has had the condition for a couple of years, so probably past the point of no return? Is a real pity as she is an awesome natured horse and a stunner as well. :(
  6. Sharaway

    Sharaway Guest

    Well if its a nice mare atleast they might be able to put her on foal and sell on as a broodmare?
  7. Freestyle

    Freestyle Well-known Member

    Hmm, I know a nice mare that you can start under saddle **)
  8. Gaia

    Gaia Gold Member

    Lol Bec! I think yours would give me a run for my money :)

    Yep Sharaway, they have had a couple of foals out of her (she is 8) but being a SB, it limits the broodmare status to the harness industry and I don't think her bloodlines are the best for that.:(
  9. jodie

    jodie Well-known Member

    Yea unfortunately I would recommend you give her a miss. You might be able to build up some more strength with work but I doubt she would hold up well as a ridden horse and I think you would find it hard to move her on again.
  10. Denny

    Denny Well-known Member

    Gaia - I've had a horse develop Sweeny :(

    My husbands beautiful buckskin quarter horse ran into a tree in a thunderstorm. At first we thought he had fractured his scapula as he couldn't weight bare and his shoulder looked displaced.

    We eventually got him on the float and took him to Belmont (was a long weekend!!) and we think the float ride helped the dislocation resettle its self as he was a tad sounder when he walked off the float....

    He was paddock sound - but unrideable - a true waste of a super horse. All the muscle over his right shoulder completely wasted away - it was ugly - just skin over bone. Other than that he was in super condition!!

    He lived out the last years of his life at a friends retirement agistment in Waroona.

    I'd be reluctent to take on a horse that had Sweeny.
  11. Gaia

    Gaia Gold Member

    Thanks Denny :) I had pretty much said no when i went and looked at her but wanted to hear others opinions and storys. Everyone has just reinforced my decsision. :)
  12. Faxie

    Faxie Well-known Member

    I HAD a horse that had this injury! It was Shabi's brother. We assume he must have fell in the paddock as he showed up DEAD LAME. very long story short, vet said PTS never seen a horse recover from this... well of course i ignored his advice! he had usual cortisone etc... but then i tried alternatives like laser, acupuncture, massage for a fair bit of improvement over about 4 months. Then decided better buy another horse! Put that horse out to spell indefinately he was unsound but happy. Complete muscle wastage over shoulder area, it looked appalling. Wouldn't have continued the treatment if he was unhappy of course. Anyway after 1 year the agistment rang to say "i just saw your horse jump a HUGE ditch to get to fresh grass, he's better come pick him up!!". And the muscles had completely repaired and the shoulder looked completley normal. Vet was amazed and had the gall to say "see i told you he would recover!!!!!!"

    So i did and due to circumstances at the time, i decided to sell him on. Told the new owner full story of course and as far as i know she still has him to this day, no problems that i know of anyway. She only wanted him for quiet trailrides and pottering about on. I wouldn't have sold him to a home where more athleticism was required. He would be at least 20 now i think and was the sweetest horse on earth!
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2008
  13. Gaia

    Gaia Gold Member

    Ahhhhh Faxie!!! It was you!!!! I couldn't for the life of me remeber who had the horse that recovered from Sweeny. Now I can stop driving myself nuts trying to remember! Cheryl had him, right?
  14. Faxie

    Faxie Well-known Member

    Bugger! the pix not where i thought they where (typical!!) will need to look in a few more places so will try and post in next coupla days :)
  15. Ziggy the Piggy

    Ziggy the Piggy Active Member

    Thanks for the info shared Gaia...I had never heard of 'Sweeny', but in reading your thread I learnt heaps.

    Good luck in your search for the right horse.**)
  16. Faxie

    Faxie Well-known Member

    Found the pic of my old horse, scanned cause it was in 1997! you can see the muscle wastage esp in the shot of him feeding, it actually makes me a bit sick looking at it now! But interesting huh! Bear in mind this horse recovered as bad as it looked and all the muscle came back.

    Just adding in again - total time til recovery - 18 months.

    Last edited: Nov 8, 2008
  17. holistichorse

    holistichorse Well-known Member

    Hi gaia, I have come across a number of horses with Sweeney and depending on what caused it, and how bad it is usually depends on how well they recover from it. Nerve conditions often take a VERY long time to recover, external factors causing the atrophy take a lot less depending on how you handle them!! Sometimes if it is just a result from trauma it can heal within a year. There are some horses that never regenerate adequate nerve supply to the area, but often they do, it just may take a year or so :( Unfortunately, as is often the case, people give the horse a few months to recover and if it doesn't they think it never will. Nerves take a lot longer to heal then muscles or tendons and you have to give them this time!! :D

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