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Back Pain in Horses; Causes, Preventions and Cures

Back pain in horses is a common condition that threatens performance horses the most often. All horses are susceptible to back pain on some level. Long-backed horses are prone to muscle ligament strain, while short-backed horses are more susceptible to vertebrae problems.

Horse back pain can have a drastic effect on the happiness, health and overall fitness of your horse. Here at Prime Stables, we have seen numerous back injuries and problems in horses and the effects it can have. That’s why we decided to write this article, telling you everything you need to know about back pain in horses, the causes, preventions and cures! Read on the find out more!

Common Signs of Back Pain in Horses

It is common for owners to blame back pain on various areas of the horse’s life instead of owning it is simply due to problems of schooling or riding. The most common sign of back pain in horses is the reduction of willingness and ability to jump. Horses with back pain may also have difficulty in straddling to urinate or may be reluctant to lie down. It is also common for your horse to be resistant to touch if he is suffering from back pain. As a result, he may shy away from grooming.

It is common to notice signs of back pain in your horse when exercising him. Signs at exercise should include limb lameness, loss of enthusiasm or willingness, suppleness of the back when being ridden and the inability to stride at a fast pace. Head-shaking and increased distress are also strong signs of back pain symptoms. With a range of different causes affecting horses from the neck to the tail, back pain can be a challenge to diagnose and treat. So, we have tried to note some of the common causes, signs and treatments.

Common Causes of Back Pain in Horses

Back pain in horses usually originates from either a neurological source (in the form of a pinched nerve), or a musculoskeletal pain. Here are the common causes of back pain in horses:

  • Incorrectly fitting saddle.
  • Twisting or turning abruptly.
  • Jumping incorrectly or awkwardly.
  • Pain elsewhere, causing extra strain on the back.
  • Saddle sore.
  • Sacroiliac strain (ligaments).
  • Arthritis of the spine.
  • Traumatic injury.
  • Tumour of the vertebrae or spinal nerve.

How to Analyse Your Horse

To discover whether your horse has back pain, it is good to carry out some regular visual assessments. Signs of back pain in your horse include:

  • Areas of heat.
  • Refusing to walk backwards.
  • Rigidity or lashing out when you touch a certain sore point.

To discover the extent of back pain your horse is experiencing, view the back of your horse from both sides with the horse standing square. Note any irregularities, tensions in the skin, lumps, saddle sores, areas of asymmetry, swelling, wasting, or curving on the spine.

Run your hands over the withers and tail on either side of the spine to feel for any abnormalities. Gradually increase the pressure to see if your horse reacts in an unusual way. If you suspect a problem, call your vet. They will assess your horse thoroughly and establish the cause of the problem and whether there are additional issues elsewhere.

Management of Back Pain in Horses  

When dealing with back pain in horses, the course of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the discomfort. Many of the following methods are used in combination, either at the same time or concurrently. However, they are all effective methods for managing back pain in horses and can help your horse’s condition improve.

Plenty of Rest

Horses suffering from back pain should not be pushed too hard and it is likely your vet will advise you to offer plenty of rest to your horse. If the back pain is diagnosed as mild and non-progressive, rest is extremely beneficial. It can help your horse relax, avoiding any unnecessary exercise or weight-bearing movement. In some horses, additional physiotherapy may be beneficial. But first and foremost, it is best to allow your horse to rest.

Medical Treatment (as Advised by Your Veterinarian)

Medical treatment for horses with acute or severe back pain is generally advised by veterinarians as it can help ease the pain in the first few days. Pain-killing medication is very effective in reducing the discomfort experienced by your horse and may be followed by anti-inflammatory drugs for horse suffering extreme discomfort.

Your vet and only your vet should prescribe the appropriate medication for your horse and only after a thorough evaluation of his physical condition.

Physiotherapy Treatment

The process of physiotherapy isn’t just recommended for humans with back pain but also for horses. Sometimes, the back pain may go away on its own after the above treatments are used. However, if this does not happen, physiotherapy may be required. Physiotherapy is extremely effective in promoting the healing of back pain and injuries in horses, getting your horse back to full health as soon as possible.

Back Pain Prevention

The best cure for back pain in horses is to prevent it in the first place. Since many back injuries are a result of accidents, bad riding techniques, ill-fitting saddles and bad training, owners can generally avoid back problems in their horses from arising. Taking care to ride your horse correctly, groom him thoroughly, regularly check him for injuries and keep him safe while riding or competing can have a lasting impact on the health of your horse. It not only helps improve your relationship and trust with one another but it helps prevent back pain, keeping your horse healthy and happy.

Contact Prime Stables Today

If you have any further questions about back pain in horses, give us a call today. Our staff here at Prime Stables would be more than happy to talk with you. Alternatively, please feel free to browse our website and view the products we have on offer – there is sure to be something you will like! For more reading, find additional horse-related content on our blog, simply click here.

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