Natural Horse Therapies

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Back Pain in Horses

Posted on Wednesday, March 31st, 2010 at 2:42 am

Identifying Back Pain in Horses

Cute horseIn today’s blog I am going to talk about Back pain in horses. Unfortunately, it is something that is common, and that often goes unrecognised. It is something I see a lot in my clinic. Riding horses who have pain in their back region can have a big impact on their happiness and comfort.

A horses back is dividable into three regions. The Thoracic (spanning from the withers to just past where the last rib attaches to the spine), the Lumbar continuing on from the thoracic section (this region spans to the point of the croup) and the Sacrum (the region spanning to the tail). The tail is an extension of the back, where beneath the dock the coccygeal vertebras continue to the point of the tail.

In today’s blog I am going to discuss Lumbar pain. The Lumbar Area is an area that is often sore in horses. These back muscles receive a lot of use, and even unridden horses can be stiff and sore across the lumbar region. Additional problems such as an incorrectly fitted saddle or uneven rider weight distribution for riding horses can further exacerbate a back problem. The back lumbar muscles assist a horse in being able to flex sideways (laterally) and they ensure free movement through the back as the horse progresses forward. Freeing up pain or tension in the lumbar area can lead to a greater ability and willingness for the horse to move forward and to improved flexibility and range of motion for the whole horse.

How to tell if a horse is sore:

You will know if your horse has a problem in their back area if there is sensitivity or pain when you palpate (feel with an adequate amount of pressure) or if there is tension across the muscle bands. Any unwillingness to move sideways may indicate pain in the opposite lumbar region (opposite side of the horse) or any unevenness in hind leg stride can indicate back pain. Check for sensitivity when your horse is saddled, groomed or touched or for any resistance to go forward properly. If your horse drops in the back, or is overly restless or defensive when touched or mounted, it may be that they are sore.

Excessive tail wringing or holding the tail to the side as well as a difficulty collecting can be signs of lower back pain. A horse that exhibits uncharacteristic behaviour such as bucking or refusing to jump when he normally be willing, is a cause for exploration also, and may indicate pain in the lumbar area.

In my next blog I will explore how one can carry out a treatment for relieving lower back pain in your horse.

All the best,


7 responses to “Back Pain in Horses”

  1. Lacey Cook says:

    i have some slight back pain and stretching helps a bit to reduce its severity~~`

  2. Zoe says:

    I agree. The better the blood flow the less stagnation, and therefore pain, we often get. A really good suggestion.

    Thanks for your comment Lacey

  3. horselover says:

    i am working with an 8 year old horse who has history with bucking whenever anyone tries to ride her. she is uncomfortable when you touch her back and she sidestepps. we were wondering if she possibly has back pain. she will let me touch her back but no one else.

  4. Zoe says:

    Without seeing her it is hard to know for sure, but it sounds a lot like her back is sore, especially if she is obviously uncomfortable when you touch her.

    She clearly trusts you, so some gentle massage and acupressure point work may well be appropriate for her.
    If you don’t find she is improving, you may like to consider getting the help of a professional horse therapist to aid her healing, in addition to checking the fit of your saddle for rubbing and pressure points.

    Lastly, I have seen some great results using therapeutic grade essential oils to aid muscle recovery. Please notify me if you would like suggestions on oils.

    All the best for you and your mare!

  5. June Morgan says:

    Hi Zoe,

    Saw your article on the Natural Horse Therapies web site regarding treating lumber back pain. One of your answers to a post was using therapeutic grade essential oils to aid muscle recovery.

    I would be very grateful if you could give me info on which oils these are as I have a young horse who has just been diagnosed by the vet as having pain in the lumber region.

    Many thanks


  6. Crystil Graham says:

    I have an older thoroughbred mare. She is 18 years old. I have had here since she was 3. I don’t really ever ride her anymore. She has been stiff and sore in her muscles all over not just her back for the last couple of weeks. I took her to the vet a couple of days ago and he did blood work and checked her. The blood work all came back good and the only thing he suggested was a chiropractor to see if that might help. But couldn’t really find anything wrong. I was wondering if maybe it could b arthritis and if so what could I do to help. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks.

  7. Zoe says:

    Hi Crystil

    Please see the new article I have just put out on Arthritis in Horses at I will be doing a follow up addition to this where I will cover herbs, homeopathic and essential oil remedies that can be used in cases of arthritis.

    I hope this helps and I wish your mare more comfort and ease.

    All the best!


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