Horses come in all shapes and sizes, with riders of varying shapes, sizes, experience and training philosophies. Some horses go through their careers with few problems, but most suffer from some sort of musculoskeletal pain at some point, we often see horses with back pain ranging from ‘work sore’ to ‘seriously compromised.’
Spotting the Signs of Back Pain
To pinpoint back pain, you need to know your horse well and be able to recognise the signs.
• A change in your horse’s performance or behaviour is an indication that there is a problem.
• Your horse may object to being groomed, saddled or mounted.
• Your horse may be less supple than usual, reluctant to go forwards, feel uneven in the contact, lose regularity or tilt his head in one direction.
However, these symptoms could arise from a wide range of causes not just back pain. We recommend going to your vet first before calling in anyone, as with a few exceptions, legally only veterinary surgeons are permitted to make a diagnosis and treat animals. It’s also important that the vet rules out any other causes, such as lameness.
Identifying the Cause
Back problems go hand in hand with hind leg lameness, because the horse adjusts its posture to try to minimise the pain in the leg. One of the most common injuries in dressage horses is inflammation of the hind leg suspensory apparatus, which can lead to lower back and sacroiliac joint problems. Dressage horses tend to get injuries relating to repetitive strain, rather than the high impact and traumatic injuries, seen in eventers and racehorses.
Confirmation is another origin of back pain, such as the following:-
• Is he croup high so he always has to work to lift himself off the forehand?
• Does the shape of the back make saddle fitting an issue?
• Is the angle of the jaw going to make poll flexion limited?
• Is there a foot balance issue that is going to affect the way the limb is loaded?
The level your horse is working at can be a problem. Younger horses often go through a stage of being tight and sore through the lower back, which resolves itself as the horse becomes stronger.
The rider’s ability to maintain a correct seat is another issue. Rider balance has a huge impact on the horse’s ability to move in a balanced and coordinated manner.
Arena surfaces are equally significant. The standard of arena surfaces varies hugely and the quality of the surface is almost as important as regular maintenance. Deep or uneven surfaces are likely to cause injury of some kind.
To help keep your horse mobile and pain-free, we recommend a regular check from an ACPAT Chartered Physiotherapist. A six monthly or annual check is usually appropriate, depending on the amount of work the horse is doing and the level he is working at.
To book an equine physio session, please follow the link below. Find out more about our Rider Analysis and Physiotherapy sessions by following the link to the page.
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CLINICS & EVENTS
We run a variety of Clinics and Events. Click below to find out what’s on and when.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Vicky has been treating my horses since 2008, as the Team GBR equine physio and also as my home physio. She is a highly skilled professional, who works hard to ensure that my horses stay in optimum condition to carry out the demanding work required of a top class event horse. With Vicky, I feel confident that my horses are in the best possible shape to do their job and would not hesitate to recommend her to my colleagues and friends
Nicola Wilson - International Event Rider, Olympic Silver Team Medallist
Vicky is a highly valued member of my team, helping our horses to maintain their athleticism and minimise the risk of injury, in what is a very demanding, competitive sport. She is an expert in her field, with a professional, no nonsense approach and I feel safe in the knowledge that my horses are receiving the very highest level of care to enable them to perform at their best.
(photo by Ken Ettridge)
Emile Faurie - International Dressage Rider & Trainer, Olympic Team GB, European Champs Team Gold, List II judge
Vicky has been treating my horses since 2006 on a regular basis. She is the GB team physiotherapist, so she is hands on at the team competitions and hence it is important for her to know my horses at home too. Vicky is great at adapting her methods and approach to the type of horse or problem she is dealing with. At competitions, it's great to have Vicky there to keep my horses feeling happy and prevent them getting tight or sore, when they're working more intensively for several consecutive days. It is a pleasure to work with someone who is easy to communicate with and understands what I want from my horses and knows how to help me to improve their physical state.
Laura Tomlinson - MBE European, World and Olympic Medallist
Vicky has been working with our horses for a number of years now. She plays a huge and vital part in our team.
William Whitaker - International Showjumper
Vicky has been looking after my horses since 2015, after being recommended by my trainer, who is on the World Class Development programme. After seeing the difference that physiotherapy makes to my horses’ way of going, I’m now a total convert to the philosophy that ‘Prevention is better than Cure’ and that regular sessions with a chartered physiotherapist are an absolute necessity, to keep my horses in peak physical condition.
Kate Hallitt - Amateur Dressage Rider
I have known Vicky for 15 years, initially when my horse was diagnosed with kissing spines. Vicky has always been the ultimate professional, exceptionally good at what she does and above all, always a call away, if you are worried or need advice.
Vicky has also looked after my last dog, following cruciate surgery, giving me advice to aid his recovery, sadly he is no longer with us, but physio did allow him to enjoy his last years. More recently, our puppy was diagnosed with a luxating patella. Vicky's skills and advice have meant that Ollie has been discharged with a follow up plan in just a few months. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Vicky for your horse or dog, she is a credit to her profession.
Chris Cromwell - Client
I wanted to write to say what a massive difference Paula has made to my little mare (Letty) but they say a picture says a thousand words. I love this picture; she’s using her back, her tummy muscles and over-tracking… this is the result of 18 months worth of work following this young pony having major abdominal surgery to remove a tumour (GTCT). Paula doesn’t need to treat my pony as part of a rehab plan anymore but she still visits to do general assessment and treatment. We are starting to get out and about this year and I genuinely don’t think we could have got this far without physiotherapy.
Sam Edwards - Amateur Rider
I really can not thank you guys enough, especially Paula for all you have done to help my boy, he's had various things wrong with him which Paula has treated and the results I'm seeing are amazing!! He is much happier in himself and it’s reflecting in his scores! Took him for a trip to dressage this weekend and came home with a 2nd and 4th which I still can't quite believe! He felt amazing! Thank you.
Sarah Jackson Bargh - Amateur Dressage Rider
Victoria has worked with me as part of the World Class Program of the BEF for a number of years and provided valuable horse assessment and excellent advice and support to the program Athletes. I have always been able to rely on her support and good humour.
John McEwen - MBE BVMS MRCVS, Director of Sports Science and Medicine, British Equestrian Federation
Victoria has been working with the veterinary surgeons and pets of Abbey House for over 15 years. In that time, I have always been impressed by her ability to bring about the best in an animal's power to recover from injury. She is patient, attentive and able to alert the veterinary surgeon if there are any problems with her charge's rehabilitation. She is also able to communicate the animal's needs to their owners and teach them how to perform the physiotherapy exercises. This is an essential, invaluable skill. She has been a fantastic member of the extended team at Abbey House, particularly when assisting the surgeons. I hope that our association continues for many years to come.
Tom Clarke - BA VetMB CertVR CertSAS MRCVS, Abbey House Veterinary Hospital
Victoria Spalding and her associates have provided Churchfield Veterinary Centre's equine patients with a reliable, effective veterinary physiotherapy service for a number of years. Victoria is very professional and we are confident to recommend her.
Phil Dixon - MRCVS, Churchfield Veterinary Centre
ACPAT Chartered Physiotherapists
We are ACPAT chartered physiotherapists and always work with veterinary approval as stipulated by the Veterinary Surgeons Act (1966), to ensure that your animal receives the best possible care.
As chartered physiotherapists, we will always obtain your vet's permission before proceeding with the initial treatment.