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Does Your Horse Suffer With Back Pain?

Does Your Horse Suffer With Back Pain?

Published 29 Jun 2016

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.

#backpain #equinephysio #veterinaryphysiotherapy #physiotherapy


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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.

Victoria Spalding. Chartered veterinary Physiotherapy