Healthspan February 15, 2018

A cold-backed horse is one that is showing symptoms of a painful or sensitive back. Unfortunately, this is a common problem so it’s important to know the signs and what can be done to help your horse.

Knowing the signs

‘Cold-backed’ is a general term and symptoms can vary on the severity of your horse’s condition. As every horse is individual they may display slightly different symptoms. As a guide, owners should look out for signs including the below.

  • Sensitivity when grooming under the saddle area.
  • Flinching or shaking when placing the saddle on their back or tightening the girth.
  • Refusal to let you mount from the ground or sinking their back.
  • Trying to buck you off or stiffness whilst being ridden.

What is the cause?

The main cause of a cold-backed horse is thought to be due to the various elements of carrying people on their backs. A problem with saddle fit, issues with your horse’s feet, rider’s technique and posture can all contribute to discomfort. As a first port of call in treating the problem it is important to discover what the underlying issue is. Consult a vet who will be able to diagnose whether there are any signs of anything more serious.

As always it is recommended that prevention is better than cure so all owners should be aware of the issue and take steps to protect your horse from becoming cold-backed. Have your saddle checked annually, warm up and cool down properly before exercise by walking them around for a little bit before mounting and then use a mounting block.

Already seeing the signs?

Fortunately, in most cases there are treatments for a cold-back. Once your vet has ruled out any underlying medical issues, and your saddle is fitted properly you can try following some simple steps. Typically, once muscles are stretched a horse will improve significantly and their muscles will become stronger.

  • Warming their back before exercise using a blanket and then walking the horse for 10 minutes before mounting.
  • Tighten the girth in increments.
  • Try different grooming tools that help to prevent sensitivity.
  • Consider massage therapy to help maintain muscle health.
  • Always use a mounting block to prevent pulling on the horse’s back.

Benefits of supplementation

Diet plays an important role in overall muscular health so it is also worth reviewing your horse’s nutrition. Sulphur, in particular, is an essential element used by your horse every day but they may not receive enough of it through pasture alone. It helps produce and regenerate many tissues including muscles, bones, hair and skin. For more information discover EquiMSM.



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