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Back Problems of Your Horse

Horses used for riding often have problems with their backs. The spinal column protects the nerve cord but the joints in the backbone can be injured. If a horse takes a fall the discs between the joints can be damaged. Or the pelvis can become dislocated from the backbone.

The weight of a rider landing hard on the backbone can cause injury. A rider with poor posture putting a lot of pressure too far back in the saddle can cause injury. An unbalanced rider can cause lateral stress.

The top of the spine is very close to the skin in all but the most obese horses. So even the inseam of a pair of jeans can rub on the backbone when riding bareback. A poorly fitted saddle can rub on the backbone or put pressure on the withers bone. A dirty saddle pad can irritate the backbone. Any of these things can cause pain to the nerves in the skin covering the top of the backbone.

It is easy to feel under the pommel of any saddle to make sure there is space between the saddle and the withers. The saddle pad should be shaped to fit the horse's backbone if the horse has high withers.

Make sure to feel the underside of the saddle for anything that may irritate the back. Also feel the saddle pad thoroughly for any hidden irritant.

A cowboy taught me that you don't need a super tight girth if you use a breast collar on the horse. The strap going between the front legs to attach to the cinch will keep the saddle from slipping around. He also taught me to get on the horse by holding the reins in the left hand with the horse's head slightly toward you and grab the mane with that hand. Then grab the horn or pommel with the right hand and put your elbow on the seat of the saddle to brace the saddle on the backbone. Then put your foot in the stirrup and swing your leg over. If the horse takes off while you are getting on, you will just be swung onto the saddle. If you have your right hand on the cantle your arm will be in the way of swinging your leg over.

You may be able to feel heat along the backbone or detect sensitivity to the nerves along the backbone by feeling along the backbone. But the discs are not close to the surface so you can't really feel the discs. There is a condition where the back is swaybacked and the top of the spine bones will be touching each other and pinching nerves causing pain. If you horse seems uncomfortable you should try to find the cause of its discomfort and correct any problems if you can.

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