Back To Back: Deciphering Common Causes of Back Pain in Horses

July 28th, 2016 10:47 PM | No Comments

2118_Mesh-Rug-HorseWe all know how an aching back can just derail your entire day.  We also know some of the causes of our back pain such as tension, incorrectly lifting heavy objects, and sleeping on a bad mattress.  However, have you ever thought your horse could be suffering from back ailments as well?  Unlike humans, they obviously can’t tell us exactly what the problem is or where it hurts, but we do know some of the common causes of back pain in horses and how best to treat and prevent them.  If your horse seems to be uncomfortable or even in pain, it could be suffering from a sore back. There are two main types of back pain, muscular and skeletal.   Always contact your veterinarian for a thorough exam, but read on to learn more about the most common causes of sore back muscles.


Proper warming up and cooling down is essential to prevent stiffness and pain.

Proper warming up and cooling down is essential to prevent stiffness and pain.

Cold Back

Less of a cause and more of a description of back sensitivity and pain, a cold back horse has mild to severe back pain that lessens with exercise as the back muscles warm up and relax.  Signs your horse could be cold backed include soreness during grooming, acting sensitive or sore when tacking up, particularly tightening the girth, overly stiff in the beginning of exercise, and issues with a rider mounting from the ground.  If your horse is diagnosed with being cold back, or even just stiff from age or weather, products like Back On Track saddle pads can help warm up and relax your horse’s back muscles faster when warming up compared to using a traditional pad.  These pads are specially designed to reflect your horse’s body heat back into their muscles, helping to increase circulation and ease any stiffness and discomfort. 

Saddle fit also plays an important role in back health.  In improperly fitting saddle can cause pinching, rubbing, and soreness.

Saddle fit also plays an important role in back health. In improperly fitting saddle can cause pinching, rubbing, and soreness.

Improper Saddle Fit

Just like an ill-fitting pair of shoes is painful for us to walk in, a saddle that doesn’t fit can pinch, rub, bruise, or put pressure on a horse’s back and contribute to soreness.  Proper saddle fit is crucial to not only preventing pain and discomfort, but also ensuring your horse performs at his best.  It may seem like a superfluous to have a professional saddle fitter take a look at your horse and saddle, but it can be time and money well spent to ensure the welfare of your horse.  If you’re worried your saddle might be the cause of physical or behavioral issues, see how your horse acts when ridden with a different saddle, no saddle, or a lighter pad with more cushioning.  If your horse stops showing symptoms when some of these factors change, your saddle may be to blame.

Back On Track products use infrared technology to reflect body heat back into your horse's muscles aiding in recovery and reducing inflammation.

Back On Track products use infrared technology to reflect body heat back into your horse’s muscles aiding in recovery and reducing inflammation.

Poor conditioning/Overwork

You know that feeling after you’ve been too ambitious at the gym after a long time off?  Your muscles ache from the strain, and it is usually not a pleasant feeling.  Well, if your horse isn’t quite conditioned properly for your ride, that can cause aches and pains for them too, particularly in their back.  One of the problems veterinarians see in horses with back problems is lack of conditioning.  Gradual introduction is recommended when beginning a new exercise program for your horse and that includes ample warming up and cooling down time to make sure muscles are less likely to be tight or become strained.  Products like Back On Track’s Therapeutic Horse Back Pad can be used prior to exercise to help the muscles begin to loosen and warm up.  Blankets like their Therapeutic Fleece Horse Blanket pull double duty by not only soothing muscles post exercise, but also wicks away sweat while preventing your horse from becoming chilled after a ride in cooler weather.


Let’s face it.  Accidents happen.  No matter how careful we try to be, ask any horse owner, and they’re bound to tell you that horses can find ways to injure themselves doing nearly everything, from under saddle to even just being turned out.  If you suspect your horse may have injured his back somehow, it’s important to have your vet do a thorough exam to determine the exact cause and course of treatment.  Stall rest is usually one of the prescriptions, along with a specific rehab program.  Products like the Back On Track blankets and saddle pads, have been used as part of many rehabilitation programs to ease inflammation and soothe tension when being introduced back to work.

BOT Saddle Pad - EnglishLimb soreness

Sometimes, back pain doesn’t actually start out being from the back.  Let us explain.  If your horse is sore or uncomfortable in a specific part of his body, for instance, his hocks or stifles, he will begin using “protective” or “guarding” postures to help compensate for that discomfort or pain.  Just like ergonomics, poor posture can lead to pain elsewhere in their body, particularly in their back.  This becomes more than just a treatment for the back pain, but it is essential to determine and treat the root cause of the guarding patterns that caused the tension and soreness in his back. 


Back pain isn’t fun for anyone, especially our 1,000 pound friends.  It can totally derail a horse’s career at worst and cause them to not perform at their highest level at best.  However, just like with many things, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.  Products like Back On Track’s are important to incorporate into your daily routine to help prevent some of these problems from occurring.  For more in-depth information on the state-of-the-art technology behind their special Welltex fabric, and to check out their full selection products, visit and follow them on Facebook.


This post was sponsored by Back On Track USA, but all opinions are those of

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