- Even a small problem in the back area can cause a horse to suffer greatly. The primary back pain that a horse may experience is usually the result of a traumatic injury resulting from laceration of the skin, muscle, bones, tissue, nerves and bones. Secondary back pain is often a result of underlying lameness problems. A horse's back and legs are united in function, so if there is a problem in one area, there will be a problem in the other.
- The most common cause for equine back pain is an improper saddle fit and unbalanced riders. Because an improper saddle can cause weight to be unevenly distributed on a horse's back, it should be checked and fitted every six to 12 months. The saddle should be level front to back and be in such a position that it favors the free movement of the horse with no discomfort. The rider should be balanced.
- The most common symptom of a horse experiencing back discomfort is its behavior. She will be noticeably sensitive to grooming, pinning back her ears and possibly trying to bite her handler. She will be difficult to saddle and cinch. She also might buck or rear when mounted, toss her head, have difficulty going downhill and resist backing up, be tense and be unable to concentrate. There may also be noticeable signs of uneven shoe wear.
- Equine back disorders are difficult to diagnose. An individual horse's pain tolerance and reactions can vary based on age, sex, previous experiences and familiarity with the environment or circumstances. Back problems may be described as acute when a light touch brings about an uncomfortable reaction, chronic/acute when a horse becomes uncomfortable when a deeper touch and firm pressure is applied and chronic when his back is dropped and the muscular tissue is tight without any elasticity or flexibility. Healthy muscles in a horse are soft and slightly firm, while sore muscles are hard and tense.
- Because of the thick and heavy muscles in a horse's back, it is difficult for a veterinarian to perform an examination. Procedures that might be performed include flexion tests, radiographs, bone scans, localized anesthesia and ultrasounds to assist in the diagnosis. These are best done when the horse is at rest and movement is curtailed. A veterinarian should be consulted for all concerns relating to a horse's back to keep the condition from being exacerbated.