Horse With Hole in Neck

Horse With Hole in Neck (Everything You Need To Know!)

Have you ever come across a horse with a peculiar hole in its neck?

Well, I have and it left me both perplexed and curious? 

I saw this condition on one of my neighbor’s horses and I was so intrigued that I knew I had to learn more about it. 

From my research, I discovered that this condition is commonly referred to as fistulous withers or poll evil.

Fistulous withers typically occurs when an infection or injury invades the sensitive tissues of a horse’s neck, leading to the formation of a hole. 

The term “fistulous” refers to the presence of an abnormal channel or passageway that extends from within the neck, whereas “withers” refers to the region just behind a horse’s shoulder blades where this condition often manifests.

Note: This article is written based on my personal research. I highly recommend consulting with professionals who specialize in equine well-being if you notice this condition in your horse

Key Takeaways

  • A horse with a hole in the neck may have a condition known as a “neck fistula”
  • This condition can result from a congenital defect, an infection, or trauma that causes the formation of a fluid-filled cavity in the neck.
  • It’s essential to have a veterinarian evaluate the horse’s condition to determine the cause and severity of the hole in the neck.
  • Treatment options may include draining the cyst, surgical removal, or managing infection, depending on the diagnosis.
  • Keeping the wound clean and monitoring the horse’s overall health is crucial for recovery.
  • Prompt veterinary care and proper treatment are essential to ensure the horse’s well-being and minimize complications.
  • Owners should follow the veterinarian’s guidance for wound care, medications, and any necessary follow-up appointments.
  • Prevention measures, such as avoiding injuries and providing proper care, can reduce the risk of neck fistulas in horses.

How An Infection or Injury Can Lead to a Hole Forming in a Horse’s Neck

Horse With Hole in Neck

Understanding how an infection or injury can result in such a remarkable anomaly requires delving into equine anatomy. 

A horse’s neck is composed of an intricate network of muscles, tendons, and blood vessels crucial for movement and communication.

When an infection takes hold within these tissues, it can cause inflammation and subsequent damage. 

Likewise, traumatic incidents such as falls or poorly fitting tack can also inflict damage upon these structures.

As this damage spreads deeper into the tissue layers, it may eventually erode through the skin resulting in a visible hole on the surface of the neck. 

This process can be painful for horses and requires prompt attention from veterinary professionals who specialize in equine health.

Fistulous withers is not just another tale out of folklore but rather a real condition that affects horses’ necks when infections or injuries penetrate deeply into their delicate tissues. 

Understanding how this condition arises provides valuable insight into equine anatomy while shedding light on the astounding resilience and vulnerability of these remarkable creatures.

Causes and Symptoms of Fistulous Withers

Fistulous withers, the condition characterized by a hole in a horse’s neck, can be caused by various factors. 

One common cause is a bacterial infection that infiltrates the deep layers of the horse’s neck. 

These infections can occur when wounds are not properly cleaned or treated, allowing bacteria to enter and thrive.

Additionally, trauma resulting from ill-fitting tack can also lead to fistulous withers. 

When saddles or bridles exert excessive pressure on specific areas of the neck over time, it can cause tissue damage and potentially create an entry point for infection to develop.


Detecting fistulous withers early is crucial for successful treatment. 

Initially, you may notice swelling around the affected area on the horse’s neck. 

The horse may display signs of discomfort and pain when touched or while moving its head.

As the condition progresses, a thick discharge may emerge from the swelling site due to accumulating pus or other fluids within the cavity. 

If left untreated for an extended period or if improperly managed, these symptoms can worsen until an open wound forms on the surface of the neck, creating what appears as a hole.

Treatment Options for Fistulous Withers

When it comes to treating fistulous withers in horses, veterinarians often employ a combination of conventional approaches to alleviate the condition. 

The first line of defense usually involves prescribing antibiotics to combat any infection present in the affected area.

These medications help destroy harmful bacteria and prevent their spread, allowing the horse’s body to heal more effectively. 

In some cases, drainage procedures may also be necessary.

This involves making a small incision near the hole in the neck to allow any accumulated fluid or pus to drain out. 

By removing this buildup, pressure is alleviated and further infection is prevented.

Additionally, meticulous wound care plays a crucial role in promoting healing. 

Regular cleaning with antiseptic solutions and dressing changes ensure that the wound remains clean and protected from external contaminants.

Alternative Therapies: Exploring Herbal Remedies and Acupuncture

While conventional treatments are widely accepted and effective for managing fistulous withers, some horse owners may seek alternative therapies as complementary options or when conventional methods fail to yield desired results. 

Herbal remedies have long been used throughout history for various ailments, including equine health issues.

Certain herbs like calendula or echinacea possess antimicrobial properties that can support wound healing and reduce inflammation. 

However, it is essential to consult with a knowledgeable equine veterinarian or herbalist before administering any herbal remedies to ensure safety and appropriate dosage for your horse’s specific needs.

Another alternative therapy gaining recognition within veterinary circles is acupuncture. 

This ancient Chinese practice involves inserting fine needles into specific points on the body, stimulating nerve endings that release endorphins and promote natural healing responses.

Acupuncture has shown promising results in managing pain associated with various conditions in horses including musculoskeletal issues like arthritis or back pain; hence, it may be considered as a supplementary treatment for horses with fistulous withers. 

However, it is crucial to engage a certified veterinary acupuncturist who understands equine anatomy and can devise an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your horse’s needs.

These alternative therapies should always be used in conjunction with, and not as a replacement for, conventional veterinary care. 

A collaborative approach between the horse owner and veterinarian ensures that the best possible treatment options are explored to promote the well-being and recovery of horses affected by fistulous withers.

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The Importance of Preventive Measures

When it comes to keeping our equine companions healthy and happy, prevention is key. 

One of the fundamental aspects of preventive care for horses is maintaining proper hygiene practices.

By ensuring a clean and sanitary environment for our four-legged friends, we can significantly reduce the risk of them developing conditions like fistulous withers. Regularly cleaning stables, paddocks, and equipment not only prevents bacteria from accumulating but also helps us identify any potential hazards or sources of infection.

Additionally, regular grooming sessions play a crucial role in promoting skin health, as it allows us to spot any sores or wounds before they worsen. 

By taking these simple yet impactful steps towards cleanliness, we can protect our horses from unnecessary suffering.

Tips for Horse Owners To Prevent Injuries Related to Tack and Equipment

As responsible horse owners, it is vital that we pay close attention to the gear we use on our equine partners.

Ill-fitting tack or poorly maintained equipment can increase the likelihood of injuries such as fistulous withers. 

To prevent such unfortunate incidents, there are a few key tips to keep in mind.

Firstly, ensure that all equipment fits properly and is adjusted correctly according to your horse’s size and shape. 

Regularly inspect your bridle, saddle, girths, and other gear for signs of wear and tear or damage that could potentially cause discomfort or injury.

It’s also important to clean and condition leather items regularly to maintain their integrity. 

Consulting with an experienced equine professional or saddle fitter can provide valuable insights into choosing appropriate tack that suits both your horse’s anatomy and your riding style.

Horse With Hole in Neck: Conclusion

Exploring the intricacies of horse anatomy reveals a captivating world filled with marvels at every turn. 

From unravelling the mysteries of their teeth to appreciating the power of their hearts, and marveling at the adaptability of their hooves, horses are truly fascinating creatures.

Understanding horse anatomy not only deepens our appreciation for these majestic animals but also allows us to provide them with the care they deserve. 

So let us continue to marvel at their extraordinary anatomy and embark on a journey to nurture and safeguard these magnificent beings who grace our lives with their presence.

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What causes a dip in a horse’s neck?

A dip or hollow in a horse’s neck can result from a combination of factors, including genetics, age, fitness level, and musculature. Some horses naturally have a more pronounced dip in their neck, while others can develop it due to weight loss, lack of muscle tone, or aging. Proper exercise and nutrition can help improve neck musculature and reduce the appearance of a dip.

What is the occiput of a horse?

The occiput of a horse refers to the bony prominence at the base of the skull, often called the “poll.” It is a crucial anatomical feature where the neck connects to the head. The occiput plays a role in the horse’s balance, posture, and overall movement.

How strong is a horse’s neck?

A horse’s neck is incredibly strong and well-muscled. The neck muscles, particularly the nuchal ligament and associated muscles, are designed to support the horse’s head, which can weigh between 10-20% of the horse’s total body weight. The neck’s strength and flexibility are essential for various activities, including carrying a rider and maintaining balance.

What is the horse muscle on the neck?

The horse’s neck muscles include the nuchal ligament, splenius, trapezius, and brachiocephalicus muscles, among others. These muscles support the head, control movement, and play a vital role in the horse’s overall posture and balance. Proper training and conditioning can help develop and strengthen these neck muscles, improving a horse’s performance and well-being.


I have a Masters degree in Communication and over 5 years working in PR. I have a wife and four children and love spending time with them on our farm. I grew up on a farm with cows, sheep, pigs, goats, you name it! My first childhood pet was a pig named Daisy. In my spare time, I love holding bbq parties for my friends and family

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