What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Back Sore, Dips Away from Pressure with Hands


You run your hands along the muscles of the topline and your horse dips away from this pressure. Some response is normal, and each horse reacts somewhat differently. Is there a problem or is the response normal? Many otherwise healthy horses dip away from pressure from hands on the back.

Generally, a horse that has less muscle and fat cover on the top-line will dip away from pressure more than one with full muscle cover. Many cases of back soreness are misdiagnosed because it is a difficult diagnosis to make, similar to back pain in humans.

Also, lameness of many types predisposes to back soreness and this type of reaction to pressure. Add the behavioral aversion that some horses have to pressure or touch along the top-line, and the situation becomes even more complicated.

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You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

Assess freedom of movement both under saddle and on a lunge. Look for lameness at walk and trot. Look for swelling and heat. Look for uneven sweat pattern under the saddle pad. Consider whether anything has changed- tack, exercise level or type, rider, etc. Assess the back, always noting whether responses are even on left and right side. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

your vet's role

Your vet will seek to differentiate behavioral issues from actual back pain, and primary back pain from that created by underlying lameness or ill fitting tack or rider factors.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How is the horse performing under saddle?
  • Do saddle fit, girth and tack look OK?
  • Has the saddle or pad changed?
  • Do you notice swelling in the back or anything else that suggests back problems?
  • Have you changed tack or type or degree of work lately?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Have you noticed the horse seeming uncomfortable under saddle?
  • Do you notice any lameness?
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Is the horse eating and acting normally?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP