Medical Index
First Posted Oct 22, 2008
Jul 21, 2010

Sore Back in Horses

We ask our horses to perform feats that are not natural to them such as carrying us, carrying packs and equipment, competing in many different disciplines, etc. Then we ask ourselves why they have sore backs. If a horse has a less than perfect conformation that just compounds the problem. Back problems in horses are often a secondary problem to a primary cause. "Back pain in a horse may be related to movement in an unnatural and stressed position, not unlike those that cause back pain in humans. Back pain in a horse may be caused for a variety of reasons. Saddle fit, poor riding technique, lack of conditioning, overwork, accidents, or lameness can all contribute to back pain. A saddle that is not fitted properly on the horse may lead to immediate, acute pain, or chronic, long-term damage. A saddle of ill fit will repeatedly bruise, pinch, or rub the underlying soft tissue or spinal processes. A horse that is not athletically fit may also experience back pain. Abrupt changes in work, footing, or terrain can make even a fit horse suffer soreness. Accidents, missteps, or awkward jumps all lend themselves to strain. Compensating for any type of limb, joint, or hoof injury can make a horse put extra stress on its back, which can lead to back problems in addition to lameness if not treated promptly. A rider with a poor seat can put abnormal pressure directly on a horse's back, or may indirectly cause back pain in other ways: An ill-fitting bit and bridle or bad hands, resulting in mouth pain, can cause secondary back pain as the horse lifts its neck and stresses its back to avoid the pressure to the mouth."

Soreness Signs
  • Sore back
  • Dipping and/or flinching
  • Violent tail swishing when grooming the back
  • Tail carried to one side
  • Stiffness
  • Performance problems
  • Uneven gaits
  • Reluctance to jump
  • Crookedness
  • Headshy
  • Disunited canter
  • Canter lead problems
  • Uneven muscle tone
  • Bucking or rearing
  • Dislike for saddle
  • Does not stand while being mounted
  • On forehand
  • Reluctance to engage hindquarters
  • Reluctance to impel forward
The Spine
  • Goes from head, travels along the neck, withers, back, loin, croup and ends in the tail.
  • Vertebrae can vary from 51 to 57.
  • Average vertebrae is 54.
  • Neck vertebrae 7 (C1 to C7); dorsal or thoracic (designated T plus a number) vertebrae 18; lumbar (L plus a number) or loin vertebrae 6; sacral or croup vertebrae 5; coccygeal or tail vertebrae 18.

Further information with images: Back (Horse)

Medical Index