About the dropped thorax

Published on 11 March 2023 at 16:45

 Something that is not very commonly known but widespread nonetheless is that horse can suffer from a dropped thorax, or dropped chest, withers and back. This is often seen as conformation of the horse, but it is not, it is in fact a problem that needs to be rehabbed. 

Obviously, I see it a lot with sport horses but alas, I also see it a lot with recreational horses. Where I don’t see it is where horses are classically trained, such as for example in the Spanish Riding School of Vienna or Le Cadre Noir. This is also why the horses of these kind of institutes have no problem producing high school work up to their late twenties or early thirties.

👉 The other day a friend posted a photo of a stallion of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna in courbette, with rider. Someone replied that this was clearly abuse and the poor horse was obviously miserable. He did not know anything about the Spanish Riding School (I asked him if he did) and he did not care to find out more, because he was sure, the horses were abused there, based on that one photo. He therefore did not know, nor was interested to learn that the stallions are carefully selected for these kind of jumps, only if they have a natural inclination themselves to produce them. That the stallions only start their very careful education at 4,5 years and that their basic training takes until they are 12 years of age. The best horses (and most of the horses) in the school Quadrille are 16+ and often 20+. This is only possible if the work is healthy for the horse and the horse enjoys his work. The riders train for two years on the lunge, train to ride without stirrups and mount the horse without stirrups, without disturbing the horse’s back, not with riding, not with mounting, not during school jumps.

🤔 When I investigated the Facebook page of the person who saw the courbette photo as abuse, I saw a man who clearly loved his horse. He cuddled his horse a lot, rode bitless and bareback… however, the horse, like many, had a completely dropped chest, withers and back. This is obviously a very serious condition for a horse to be in and needs to be remedied, for many other severe health issues such as kissing spines and tendon problems can come from this, but also symptoms like head shaking and behavioural problems (that are actually symptoms of health problems).

You also need to understand basic equine biomechanics and how horses need to move in order to maintain their natural and correct body posture and musculature.
There is not enough kindness in the world to make up for lack of the proper knowledge to keep your horse sound and healthy.

Horses with a dropped thorax have:
- A pointy chest
- A typical point on the belly
- A hollow before the withers
- A hollow back lacking proper muscles
❌ NOTE: Adjusting a saddle to a back like this only makes things worse! I will do a topic on this some other time. However, do not have a saddle made for your horse’s back if he has a dropped thorax.

Prevention and remedy are one and the same here: The Gymnasium exercises, both in hand, on the lunge and when your ride, also under saddle.
These are exercises such as:
- Shoulder in
- Haunches in
- Circle and corner work
- Transitions
- Stretching forward down and out
- Backing up
- Canter work
- Ground poles
- Combining all these exercises to help the horse produce a more collected way of going.

👉👉👉 You shall find all of these exercises and how to do them step by step in a way horses understand and find fun, in my book: 


Examples of dropped thoraxes can be found with the facebook post:  Drop the page a follow, whilst you are there, will you?


And please share this information as much as possible, thanks!


For the love of Horses,



© All rights reserved Josepha Guillaume - Dressage in Hand

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