A large number of people take time off work each year due to back pain. Our horses do not get a choice as to whether they work each day or not and so it is our responsibility as their carers to recognise any problems which may be causing them pain.

These are a list of common symptoms your horse may display when suffering discomfort in the back:-

  • Bucking
  • Rearing
  • Napping
  • Refusing to jump
  • Cold backed
  • Loss of performance
  • Leaning on one rein
  • Preference to one canter lead or trot diagonal
  • Biting or kicking when groomed, girthed or mounted
  • Unlevel gait
  • Jumping to one side
  • Lack of top line
  • Unwilling to go forward
  • Change in behaviour
  • Changing legs or going disunited in canter
  • Constantly resting a leg
  • Continually shifting weight when standing still
  • Not able to roll from side to side
  • Carrying the tail to one side
  • Tilting the head when ridden
  • Asymmetrical muscle tone
  • Toe dragging
  • Tripping
  • Uneven hoof/shoe wear

It does not always take a direct trauma or an accident for back pain to develop. Small but repetative traumas are just as harmful to the body. Initially the body compensates for these minor traumas but when all of the body's compensatory abilities are taken up pain and spasm will occur. It is therefore important for us to recognise small changes in our horse's physique and way of going before minor discomfort turns to pain. By recognising common causes of back pain you can also help to prevent its occurance.

Common causes of back pain in the horse are:-

  • Falls
  • Getting cast
  • Poorly fitting tack and rugs
  • Poor foot balance
  • Unbalanced rider
  • Sharp teeth
  • Conformational compensations
  • Inappropriate intensity of work
  • Compensations from other injuries
  • Insufficient warm up or cool down