Soreness and Back Pain in Horses

Horse's thoracic vertebrae with kissing spine location arrows.
Horse's thoracic vertebrae with kissing spine location arrows. Pooring Studio

Newsdate: Monday, May 13, 2024 - 10:30 am
Location: PLYMOUTH, Massachusetts

Nothing frustrates horse owners and veterinarians like back pain in horses. Because of the wide variety of causes—as well as the variety of clinical signs and therapeutic options—back soreness can be a diagnostic challenge and a treatment dilemma.

Horse confined in stall.

Horse confined in stall.

Identifying a change in your horse’s performance or personality and then pinpointing the primary cause of back pain can be a veterinary diagnostic challenge.
© 2017 by Smerikal

Fortunately, there are a few veterinarians who seem to be able to successfully navigate these waters so let’s gain a better understanding of horse back pain from them.

Causes of Back Pain in Horses

According to Phillipe Benoit, DVM, a former French show jumping team veterinarian, the majority of back problems are bony in nature but are always combined with soft tissue damage. While ligament or muscle soreness may be the primary culprit in some cases, causes of the more common bone pain include:

    •    kissing spines (overriding dorsal spinous processes)
    •    spondylosis (ossification, or bone formation, of vertebral joints)
    •    arthritis of the articular facets between vertebrae
    •    fracture of bony structures in the spine

Some veterinarians say that back pain due to hock lameness, poor saddle fit, and behavioral issues are all myths. Others insist that certain disciplines, rider imbalance, ill-fitting tack, poor conformation, unsatisfactory shoeing, lack of conditioning and even poorly fitting blankets can all lead to soreness in the back, proving just how challenging a diagnosis and treatment can be.

Treating Back Pain in Horses

According to Dr. Kent Allen, Official Veterinary Coordinator the Olympic Games and the World Equestrian Games, the ideal treatment is one that addresses both bone and soft tissue, lasts four to six months, and is relatively inexpensive. Examples of various treatments include:

    •    Injecting corticosteroids into painful joints
    •    NSAIDs to decrease inflammation
    •    Muscle relaxants
    •    Mesotherapy (a pain-dampening technique of injections that stimulate the mesoderm, the middle layer of the skin)
    •    Chiropractic and acupuncture
    •    Therapeutic ultrasound
    •    Ensuring proper saddle fit
    •    Estrone sulfate to help improve muscle tone
    •    Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT)
    •    Time off from performance in the case of trauma

Unfortunately, any time there are this many treatment methods available, it means that nothing works consistently. The key thing to remember is that when treating back injury, owners are not only dealing with inflammation but also pain. Therefore, treatment must break the pain/spasm cycle and motion must be restored. Rest alone does the horse no favors.

Watch a Video on How to Help a Horse with a Sore Back and learn about rehabilitation and prevention of sore backs in horses by clicking HERE

Press release by SmartPak Equine

About the Author

Press Release

Author picture

This news article is a press release received by the organization or person noted above. Press releases from recognized horse health companies and individuals are frequently posted on EquiMed as a service to our visitors. Please contact the author of the press release directly for additional information.