Should I ride my horse with a sore back? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 05-22-2017, 02:46 AM Thread Starter
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Should I ride my horse with a sore back?

Sorry if this is on the wrong forum

My 5yo thoroughbred gelding got a very sore and tender back/top line a couple months ago ,about two weeks after he got moved to a new paddock that is on a hill.I also got his saddle refitted and teeth done about a month or two prior and has his feet done every 4 weeks and is barefoot .I had my equine massage therapist out every couple of weeks to give him a massage, and she gave me heaps of exercises and stretches to do with him and he started getting better, she said I could start riding him only on the flat for about 15-20 mins just at the walk and a little bit of trotting and also over ground poles. Then about a week after that of course stupid me didnt put a rug on him and it was raining heavily and freezing.I got him out as the massage therapist was there and every time she touched him that day he would either dip down,move,barge into her or try and bite one of us and his muscles were rock hard and very tense and tight,she told me I should get an equine chiropractor or physical therapist to come out. So I called a natural equine physical therapist and he said he could come out in about two weeks.For that whole two weeks I left my horse in his paddock (which I regret doing, but I didnt want to make him worse) when the physical therapist came out he treated him and he was heaps better within the hour and said his soreness was most probably from 1. Being moved to a new/bigger paddock that is on a hill 2. Galloping around like an idiot and playing as young horses do 3.the soil in his paddock is clay so he might of slipped or fell when it was wet and 4.I was putting the saddle to far forward and it might of been slipping as well.He said I could start riding him within the next couple days,working slowly and only on the flat, both bareback and with saddle.he also said to put more padding under the saddle.i rode him bareback two days after he was treated ,I could tell he was still a bit sore ridden bareback so I stuck to riding with the saddle(in the correct place) and taking him over poles (in hand and under saddle) about a month after that I started lunging him as he had excess energy from the Autumn green grass. I then got the massage therapist out and she said he is heaps better still a tiny bit sore around loin area but wasn't dipping down only tensing a little bit.A week ago I lunged him and hopped on bareback on the flat and he was perfect, didn't seem to be sore at all then it started raining for a week straight so I couldn't ride but after it stopped raining I lunged him and hoped on him bareback again but we walked up hill and he was in a bit of pain and tossing his head.

So should I keep riding him under saddle? or get the massage therapist to come out? And if I do keep riding him with saddle on the flat at walk and trot only what are some exercise to do as it gets boring for both of us walking In a straight line? As he's young and green and starts playing up if he gets bored:)(I also got a new sheep wools half pad to provide a bit more cushion for his back)
Sorry it's so long but Thankyou so much in advance:)
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post #2 of 6 Old 05-22-2017, 04:09 AM
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Hi, firstly, don't mean to sound picky but it is hard reading a big block of text like that. Breaking up your paragraphs & using more punctuation is helpful

Short answer is a definite no. You don't ever ride a horse that is hurting, or you suspect is hurting, *unless* under vet's(or body expert's) advice. As we can't possibly know the facts remotely as well as anyone seeing the horse, let alone an educated & experienced bodyworker, can't really say much more than that.

But a few things came to mind...

What is a 'natural equine physical therapist'? I've never heard of the lable & TBH I'm a bit skeptical of people/products with the term 'natural' in them, because it's a bit like 'lite'... a too often effectively meaningless marketing term. Unfortunately, equine bodyworkers are completely unregulated, like farriery, so there's no guarantee of a basis of knowledge or skill level. So they may well be fantastic & very knowledgeable, or got their 'license' off the proverbial cereal box. Not that I reckon people that haven't done extensive formal training & certification are necessarily 'bad' at all, but if you have no way of judging either, I'd be inclined to look for a registered chiropractic *vet*. If they're registered as such, they must either be a vet or human chiro first, before doing an extensive course to specialise in equine chiro treatment. therefore, you're guaranteed of an extensive & specialised education before they touch your horse.

If it were just because he'd been put in a hill paddock, he must have been VERY unfit before - was he stabled full time or such, for the guy to think that? Chance of slipping over while playing is a LOT more likely, as is being saddle sore from you putting it on him wrongly, or otherwise badly fitting, so especially in the face of those things, the first suggestion is kind of not worth even mentioning.

If it is tight muscles, then it's possible it's nutritional - for eg. lack of magnesium/too high calcium will cause that.

If you got his saddle 'refitted', possibly that was the problem, that it still doesn't fit well(unfortunately 'saddle fitters' are like farriers - just because they do it for a job doesn't mean they're necessarily good at it), especially if you were fitting it wrongly & they didn't even ensure you knew where to place it on him. I hope it was all well explained by the bodyworker, but if it slips out of place so readily, either it still doesn't fit very well, or your horse has one of those bodyshapes that requires a breastplate &/or crupper/breeching to keep it in place.

In addition, if the saddle needs more padding, why is that? Is it Western or English style? Are the panels too hard, the saddle too big, too little of a channel...? And while I believe sheepskin is a great 'medium' between horse & saddle, it doesn't provide a lot more padding, and a 'half pad' in the way they're frequently made, with a doubled section of sheepskin at the front & back, if these parts are under the saddle(rather than sticking out, fore & aft), can cause a saddle to 'bridge', the extra thickness creating ridges.

And re what 'exercises' can you do(when you have the go-ahead to ride) because it's getting boring... go for a trail ride. Include obstacles to go round, through, under, over. Practice riding without reins(don't just go 'cold turkey' tho!).

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]
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post #3 of 6 Old 05-22-2017, 04:21 AM
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If it was my horse, I wouldn't ride him until his back is better. I would not ride him bareback at all since it can be much harder on their back than being ridden with a saddle, provided the saddle fits. It sounds like maybe your saddle doesn't fit him all that well.

A saddle that fits is supposed to distribute the weight of the rider evenly over a portion of the back to make it more comfortable for the horse and the rider. The channel of the saddle needs to be wide enough to clear the spine yet not to wide to put pressure to far out on the back. The length also needs to be correct as well as the curve of the saddle should fit his back and not bridge or rock. Saddle fitting is not an easy task for anyone, so I feel it is best left up to a certified saddle fitter.

If you are riding English the existing saddle you have may be able to be reflocked (stuffed) so as to fit your horse better, provided the saddle tree is the right size for him. This would cost a whole lot less than buying a new saddle. Also sometimes saddle fitters will have used saddles you can buy and get flocked for your horse.

After spending about 18 + months and allot of less than $1000.00 purchases of used saddles and saddle trials and much frustration and aggravation, I finally just had a saddle fitter out and spent the day trying saddles. I was able to get a proto type saddle and have it custom flocked to fit my asymmetrical withered horse. It was expensive but well worth it. One option she did give me was that I could get a used saddle and have it reflocked. She even offered to reflock a wintech Cair saddle I already had if that had been what I wanted. It wouldn't have been ideal but would have been better than what I had been trying. So, if you can, find a saddle fitter to help you with your saddle or purchase another saddle with the help of a saddle fitter. It is really the safest way to go and the best thing to do for the health of your horse.

When you ride bareback it causes all the weight to be right where you are sitting and even without any bouncing or off balance moments, it will hurt your horse.

I would think that by now if your horse isn't getting better, and continues to get sore after your ride, there is a problem. It may be the bareback riding, or it could be poor saddle fit. It also could be something else. I would consider getting a Veterinarian out to see your horse. I think that Equine Massage Therapists and Body workers are great, but they are not Veterinarians and should really only be complimenting a Veterinarians diagnosis. Just my opinion.
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post #4 of 6 Old 05-22-2017, 07:17 AM
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I'd be trying to figure out why he's so sore and have a vet look at him, rather than all these massage therapists and body specialists and rule out a pain issue or try to figure out what's going on. Id have a vet look at him first then look at what to do next.

Have you considered a muscle supplement? Purina super sport is actually quite a good muscle supplement that is quite affordable. Adding some natural vitamin E and perhaps a red cell type product? Or considered perhaps he needs a diet with less sugar? Some horses muscles become very tight from excessive sugar. I had a possible PSSM horse who had to be on a relatively strict diet (no pasture, low sugar/starch diet, even treats were regulated) to keep him from getting tight, ropey muscles and muscle spasms. He also did consistent dressage work. Good-correct dressage work can be very therapeutic by developing good posture in work and work in balance which is very important for developing good supportive musculature for the body and good form in motion (if you've been very athletic, you'll know how important good form is and the difference posture can make on day-to-day wear and comfort). I've ridden quite a few horses who would go lame and have extremely tense-sore muscles without regular work. But I'd talk to a sport horse vet first and see what they say and rule out and underlying cause or pain issue. Chiropractors can be extremely helpful as well.

I can say as well having been extremely athletic in the past, I mean I was running 25-30mi per week, doing intense cross fit, rope climbing, carrying 80lb packs for miles, and intense exercise. I have a series of degenerative issues, I have to stay in shape or I will go "lame" and be VERY sore and in pain. I have to be careful about what I do but if I do stability exercises, stretch, yoga, and strengthen my body I'm in a lot less pain and don't have a noticeable gimp when I walk.

I used to do quite a bit of rehab working with a vet. I rode a 17.2h 27-28yr old gelding who had a light workout schedule. I did light dressage work on him and it really helped him develop a topline and move more comfortably around the pasture. Another was a horse who had quite advanced EPM before his owners had him treated and within months he had significant improvement. I did dressage with him. To start his back legs were very stiff and he couldn't track up but after a few months he gradually became stronger, more coordinated, less stiff and after about 9 months rode like a normal horse. I had another who had had previous injuries on 3 of his legs and he always looked "lame" but the vet said keep working him and the more he did the less "lame" he became. The lame steps werent from pain but residual scar tissue. I can't remember what all he had, he was a mess. We think a lot of his issues came from being worked very hard, without balance or working over his topline. I've also rehabbed several from either check ligament surgeries or suspensory or I've ridden a few older horses who became sounder and more regular/supple and comfortable in their bodies doing light dressage work (working in a consistent rhythm, in balance, through over the back and meeting the contact). Holding the head down or working it into a position isn't dressage work, it's not about the head position but working in a consistent rhythm in balance, over the back that helps. And you also have to listen to the horse or learn to because they'll tell you how much is too much or if it needs to be a light day. Some days are better than others.

Some horses are also very sensitive and become sore from a rider posting or sitting too heavy in the saddle. Some need specialized half pads or ice packs or heating pads before being worked. If you ride bareback use a bareback pad because it can be very hard on their back even if you have an excellent seat because it concentrates pressure over a small area and often causes pressure points which can't be helped. With the saddle, I'm always cautious of saddle fitters because I've known quite a few who will say the saddle fits and the saddle bridges, has heavy pressure points and doesn't fit at all. I once ordered a fully custom saddle and it arrived didn't fit my horse at all and the fitter was entirely incompetent and tried to BS her way into convincing me it fit which I didn't buy and refused the saddle. I've learned quite a bit about saddle fit from a master saddler, as well as SMS qualified fitters, she wasn't going to BS her way through which a LOT of saddle fitters do to clients. I've seen some horrible fitting saddles people thought fit and paid TONS of money for. I wont say brand but I know someone who paid 8k for a saddle that didn't fit her horse at all. Just because something is crazily expensive doesn't mean it's good or fits correctly. And honestly there are a LOT of incompetent saddle fitters and even vets out there which is super frustrating.

I think the massage therapy and muscle work is a little excessive. I think chiropractors (competent ones) make a world of difference. If muscles are VERY tight and not improving, I've also had horses muscles injected or given meso injections if they were really tight. My possible PSSM horse had to have his muscles injected twice and he had to be in regular work or he'd become very stiff, sore and tight. I'd give him a full body massage twice a week with stretching to help him out. After switching his diet he didn't need to be massaged nearly as often. A friend of mine has a mare with shivers who has to stay in regular work or her symptoms get progressively worse. But I'd have a competent vet look at your horse and see what they have to say before going into work.
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post #5 of 6 Old 05-22-2017, 09:13 AM
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I have a TB that was back sore off & on for months and turns out it was from having a wrong hoof angle. It was 50 degrees or something and it's supposed to be more like 55 (I might have those numbers incorrect but it was something like that). I know it seems strange that an incorrect trim can cause back soreness but if you think about it, wearing the wrong shoes sure can hurt our backs!

Not saying this is what is wrong w/ your guy, but something to consider.
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post #6 of 6 Old 05-22-2017, 09:55 AM
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No, I would not ride a horse if its back was sore. I feel like it would make it worse...wouldn't help, that's for sure, adding pressure to his back.
I'd also recommend getting an actual vet out to look at him to see what the issue is. A chiropractor is good as well, maybe he could use an adjustment too.

Your saddle may not be fitting properly or he may need more padding. Could be a number of things, but I would definitely get a vet to check him out. Good luck!!!

Ride more, worry less.
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