How can I tell if my horse has a sore back?

Your horse’s back is LONG - and it’s attached to a lot of things, like his neck, legs, and your own seat.  For many horses, they go their whole lives without a single back problem, other horses don’t fare so well.  Things get complicated for horses when we ride them - and it’s out job to watch out for their comfort and health.  This starts on the ground and continues when you are in the saddle. 


Sometimes a gentle squish along your horse's spine will create a painful reaction. 

Horses have many ways to tell us their backs don’t feel well.  They range from the reactions they give when being groomed, to the behavior under saddle doing their jobs.  Most back pain in horses is demonstrated by behavior changes.  


Look for:


  • Twitching, flinching, ear pinning, tail wringing when being groomed and/or tacked up. 
  • Reluctance to back up on the ground and under saddle. 
  • Lack of forward movement under saddle. 
  • Resisting lateral movements under saddle. 
  • Changing the way they walk up and down hills, some horses will try and go down at an angle. 
  • Hock and hind leg lamenesses.  



A properly trained saddle fitter can help you get the most comfortable saddle for your horse. And you. 


It’s up to you and your Veterinarian to flush out the issue here.  Back problems in horses are often the result of:


  • Poor saddle fit
  • Injury 
  • Lameness in a leg 
  • Spinal cord issues
  • Skeletal structure issues like kissing spine
  • Muscle pain - from any dozens of reasons, including over training
  • Ligament issues along the spine



There are all sorts of back helping blankets out there, also!  Some for ice, some for heat, some for magnetic therapies.  


Sometimes things are as simple as getting a saddle flocked properly, or treating the muscles soreness.  Other times things are more complicated, especially when the legs are involved.  It’s not easy to track down the exact cause of your horse’s back soreness, but noticing the behavior changes are the first thing to do.


Your Veterinarian will be able to give you a proper plan of action for your horse, which might include x-rays, bone scans, massage, chiropractics, saddle adjustment, medications, and even cold and hot therapies.  There are lots of things you can do to make your horse healthy and comfortable!