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


Splints or Braces Against Pressure from Hands


Horses experiencing a variety of conditions may be rigid when asked to extend (dip) the back with manual pressure along the spine or top-line muscle. Horses experiencing pain in the back, abdomen or chest may resist this movement. The problem is that some otherwise healthy horses will do the same and it can be very difficult to differentiate behavior from pain or stiffness.

Similar to horses that excessively move away from pressure, this is a highly subjective observation. It is always best to practice placing your hands on this area when your horse is healthy, and feeling comfortable with how the region feels, and your horse's responses. In this way, you are more likely to be able to discern a difference.

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You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), look for lameness and other signs of illness or injury and share your findings and concerns with your vet. Compare one side of the back to the other. Feel for swelling or heat of the muscles of the back. Watch the horse move at the walk and trot to see if you notice lameness.

your vet's role

Taken alone, this is usually too broad a sign to help your vet narrow down the problem. However, if accompanied by other abnormalities, it could indicate injury or illness. Your vet's assessment of the back is intended to differentiate real pain or stiffness from normal responses. They will likely want to perform a complete physical exam, and rule out lameness with a lameness exam. Back pain is often caused by underlying lameness.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How is the horse performing under saddle?
  • Do you notice swelling in the back or anything else that suggests back problems?
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Have you changed tack or type or degree of work lately?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

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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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP