If I knew then what I know now – back pain in horses

I don’t think I’ll ever shut up about horses and back pain. It has really become a focal point in my work, and every horse I meet gets tested for it.

Back when I was riding regularly, I knew horses could get back pain, but I never really understood the depth of what it meant, or the intensity that it might be.
Because most horses I rode, even those who I now suspect had back pain, were just so damn accommodating, showing minimal to no symptoms!
I used to think that if a horse was really in pain, they would show it clearly. I now know otherwise.

I now know that horses with back pain will often still allow people to ride them, even when the pain is really strong. Some horses are very clear, yes, with bucking and other obvious signs, but most of my kissing spine cases where horses that showed subtle symptoms: difficult to canter, lack of bending, lack of forwardness, and even sometimes, nothing at all. And yet all of those horses have needed medication or surgery, and rehab, to get to a comfortable point!

Subtle signs to look out for:
– shape of the back. Even thought I have met very weird looking backs that work perfectly fine, generally speaking, if a back isn’t soft and straight, there’s something going on
– a recurrent problem when riding, such as always touching poles when jumping, canter always a bit hard, something that just doesn’t really gets better even with training
– position of the head when your ride. If, when your trot, you have to use your hands to keep the head low otherwise it shoots up, get someone out asap
– lack of topline even though you ride regularly

Generally speaking it’s your bodyworker’s job to keep an eye out for signs of pain, but as you are the rider, it’s your job to take care of the back every day. There are easy steps that you can do, such as regular groundwork and saddle checks, to keep your horse happy and comfortable.

Please listen to this: rehab is hard. HARD. It takes months, dedication, mental stress and money, all of which could be avoided by taking the steps beforehand.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame owners for not noticing those signs, because sometimes even professionals miss them.
What I’m saying is BE AWARE that it can happen without you noticing, and take the steps to protect your horse. Get them seen regularly, do those checks, do the groundwork, spend time making sure your horse is actually happy 🙂

Comment bellow with other subtle signs of back pain, let’s start observing our horses with purpose!

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