Possible Causes of back pain in the horse

Your horse acting a little testy lately? Sidesteps out from under you when you try to mount? Reaches around to snap at you as you curry along his topline? Refuses to back up or get his haunches under him for a really good spin? Looks like some cranky old geezer shuffling along the riding ring? Flat out refuses to jump anything more? You better listen up because he's not just being difficult; he could be telling you point-blank that his back is bothering him, maybe a little, maybe a lot.

  • Conformation: some horses’ conformation predisposes them to certain injuries and makes it difficult for them to perform the movements required for a specific activity.
  • Shoeing: poor foot balance and incorrect showing can affect how the horse moves and therefore lead to back pain. Back pain is often found in horses with boxy feet, long toes and low heels, or underrun heels.
  • Rider influence: how a rider sits in the saddle and whether or not they are straight and symmetrical can play a big part in a horse’s back health. If the rider places uneven pressure on parts of the horse’s back due to a lack of symmetry and independence, this causes pain.
  • Tack: an incorrectly fitting saddle or bridle can cause back issues in the horse.
  • Training: allowing horses to work ‘hollow’ with the head and neck up and the back inverted can ultimately cause pain.
  • Training aids: the incorrect use of training aids can lead to muscle strains and injury in the back.
  • Teeth: poor dental health, such as sharp teeth or a poorly fitted bit, can cause the horse to hold his head in such a way that causes back pain
  • Injury: an injury to the back can cause pain, as can compensatory problems due to injuries elsewhere in the horse’s body
  • Arthritis: this is a progressive and painful degenerative disease and can occur in the joints of the spine.
  • Kissing spines: kissing spines is where the spinal processes sit too close together and can rub on eachother, causing pain of damage to the spinal cord.