What can you do to help a cold backed horse? (And what is a cold backed horse?)
Calling a horse cold backed is a very general term that describes a lot of horses. Generally, a cold backed horse is sensitive in his back, usually under the saddle area. He may be sore in his back muscles and flinch when you groom there, or he may try and buck you off if you don’t allow proper time for him to warm his back muscles up.
This Ice Horse back blanket can be used with heated packs to loosen up your horse!
Some reasons why you may call your horse “cold backed”:
-He’s tender on his back when you groom him or pet him.
-He flinches, dances, stomps, shakes, or otherwise tries to tell you something when the saddle is placed on his back. This is also true for tightening the girth.
-He may also appear to walk around with a “hump in his back” when you lead him from the cross ties to the mounting block.
-Mounting from the ground is a source of major irritation for him and he tries to evade you.
-He will try and buck you off if you ask him for trot and canter too early in a ride.
-Stiffness and cranky behavior while being ridden. Sometimes he works out of it, sometimes not.
****All of these are also signs of other "stuff" that could be going on with your horse, too!****
What are some options?
-Your Veterinarian needs to be involved. Pain is a top reason for a “cold backed” horse. And exam is warranted, and maybe even some diagnostic tests.
-Talk to your Veterinarian about the possible benefits of chiropractics on your horse. Many Veterinarians are also equine chiropractors. I caution you to avoid any equine chiropractor that is not also a licensed Veterinarian. Regulations vary by state.
-Get your saddle fitter involved. I would flinch, kick and buck, too if I was forced to wear clothing that didn’t fit. And then exercise.
Let’s assume that you and your Vet have ruled out all medical reasons, your chiropractor is a regular visitor to your farm, and your saddle is flocked to perfection. It could be that your horse is just plain cranky. Or he takes some time to warm up!
Some cold backed horses benefit from lungeing a bit.
Ideas on how to warm up his back:
-Cover his back with a cooler, a magnetic blanket, or a blanket with ceramic threads to warm his muscles.
You may be able to forgo this in the summer. In cooler or downright cold months, don’t take off his blanket without replacing it with something to keep his muscles warm. (Think about getting out of your warm bed and running outside to get the paper in January without any clothes on…)
-Tighten the girth in increments. This also allows the saddle to “settle” as you walk to the mounting area.
-Walk him before you mount. Sometimes five minutes, sometimes three or ten.
-Allow ample warm up under saddle.
-Mounting blocks are preferred to ground mounting. I agree that every horse should be trained to be mounted from the ground as a matter of safety. (I’m often reminded of this when I drop something on a trail ride.) Every day mounting with a mounting block can save his back unnecessary strain.
-Try different grooming tools. Perhaps he’s just got thinner skin!
Consult a Vet! And a Chiropractor!
How have you helped a cold backed horse?