Back Pain in Horses: Causes And Symptoms

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Back Pain in all vertebrates originates from the spinal cord which controls the entire nervous system of the body. In horses too, it is responsible for every movement, every twist and turns from his head to tail. Therefore, if there is any problem with the spinal cord or the interconnected nerves and muscles, it leads to back pain in equines. Back pain can also originate due to the anatomy of his body. For instance, short backed horses are prone to vertebrae issues whereas, long-backed ones are more susceptible to muscle strains. Performance related issues in horses can be mostly related to back pain and weakness. Therefore, we must identify the underlying causes and the signals that a horse gives when he is in pain. Not just will it help in treating him well but will also be beneficial in comprehending his behavior when he has issues.

Symptoms Of  Back Pain In Horse

  • Reluctance to grooming or physical contact
  • Sidestepping when you try to mount
  • Showing aversion while you attempt to put a saddle on his back
  • Pinning his ears when you saddle him
  • He becomes restless and difficult to control
  • Doesn’t involve his hind legs while running
  • Feels stiff or sinking when you try to mount
  • Doesn’t sit down in his slides
  • Fidgety and resistant to any activity
  • Performance issues
  • Becomes Testy

All these behavioral patterns indicate that he may be suffering from mild to severe back pain.  Back pain in horses can be caused due to miscellaneous reasons which are sometimes overlooked by the equestrians.

Causes Of Back Pain In Horse

  • Unfit or ill-fit saddle
  • Injury
  • Lack of fitness
  • Limb soreness
  • Poor hooves that cause strain on back muscles
  • Twisting, turning, falling or slipping abruptly
  • Congenital impairment of back or limbs
  • Pinched nerve of the spinal area
  • Tumor in spinal nerve


Back pain in horses is examined by the change in his gait. A vet may also consider taking an ultrasound, MRI or CT scans to find the cause. A neurological exam may also be conducted for proper diagnosis of the area or the nerve affected.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be used to relieve the back pain. However, for a permanent solution, all the contributing factors that had inflicted the pain must be avoided. If the reason for his back pain is stiff muscles then it is an indication that your horse needs more exercise. Whereas, if the muscles are strained or, the tissues are damaged he would be required to take complete rest.

There can be other underlying causes for the weakness and stress of your equine. It is advisable to get him checked regularly and provide the required treatments and preventives to keep him healthy and pain-free.

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