• Developmental orthopedic disease;
  • Equine;
  • Neurologic disease;
  • Spinal ataxia


Cervical vertebral malformation (CVM) is seen in young, rapidly growing horses, and is commonly associated with a poor prognosis for racing.


To examine the records of a population of Thoroughbreds with a presumptive diagnosis of CVM and to determine which radiographic findings and neurologic exam findings have an effect on these horses achieving athletic function when managed conservatively.


One hundred and three thoroughbreds presumptively diagnosed with CVM and treated conservatively between 2002 and 2010.


Racing records were reviewed in this retrospective study to determine which horses raced after treatment. Horses were separated into groups based on whether or not they raced. Medical records were reviewed, and results of neurologic examination, radiographic and laboratory findings, treatments, and outcome were assessed and compared between groups.


Sixteen horses were excluded because of insufficient information. Of the remaining horses, thirty-three were euthanized after diagnosis, while the remaining seventy were discharged for treatment. Twenty-one of 70 horses treated medically (30%) went on to race. Horses that went on to race had a significantly lower neurologic grade (= .0002), with a median of 1.0 in the thoracic limbs and 2.0 in the pelvic limbs. Euthanized horses and nonstarters were more likely to have kyphosis (= .041) or cranial stenosis (= .041) on standing lateral cervical radiographs.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance

Some horses can race after the diagnosis of CVM. Neurologic examination and radiographic findings can be helpful in predicting racing prognosis.