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Horse stories: Shafai & Spondylosis

Shafaï was an purebred Arabian gelding, born in 1995. As an eight-year-old stallion, he came into the life of his last owner Eveline. Throughout his life, he did not have the easiest character. In general, it was difficult for him to be social. Once he found a horse as a partner who was equal to him, his behaviour changed. In his life he was used for many disciplines. Shafaï was retired for the last six years of his life. 


Shafaï suffered a few injuries during his lifetime. However, these injuries were not the reason he was retired. In 2012, he was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his right fore fetlock. Several years after the initial diagnosis, it was also concluded that he had osteoarthritis in his neck around the cervical vertebrae C3/C4/C5 and C4/C5/C6. This made it difficult for him to turn his head and look behind him. In the summer of 2018, he also began to experience discomfort in his left fore knee. In the spring of 2019, Eveline noticed that he was no longer running with the herd and it was becoming more difficult for him to make turns. Finally, a dissection was scheduled for September.   


When Shafaï was still alive, several vets had already identified a number of ‘defects’ in his body. During the assessment prior to his dissection, it turned out that Shafaï had many physical issues. Shafaï showed vague complaints. He was uncomfortable in his body, had saddle problems and his character was not always stable. It was therefore difficult for the experts to come to a proper diagnosis and the tests showed nothing. His spondylosis was not discovered until the very last moment of the dissection. Spondylosis means that new bone is formed between two vertebrae, which is often a reaction to osteoarthritis. This can be very painful for the horse. This shed new light on many of his complaints. 


Hopefully this case has inspired you and given you new insights so that Shafaï’s story will not be forgotten. The more horses we can study and compare, the more we can learn! Would you like access to Shafaï’s full story? You can find it in Equinestudies’ online course ‘The Horse Inside Out’. Here you can see images of his life, an assessment of his physical condition and unique footage that was taken during his dissection. Click here to go to the website. 

horse stories