Coping with a cold back

Last Updated on April 5, 2022 by Allison Price

What does “cold-backed” mean?

A horse with a sensitive or painful back is called ‘cold-backed’. These symptoms may be mild like discomfort due to tightening of the girth, or more severe, which lasts until the horse is warm and the muscles relax. Christine East, McTimoney Animal Practitioner has treated many horses with cold-backs. She says that there are many different ways to interpret the term “cold-backed” and it can be used for a variety of symptoms. It is important to keep in mind that each horse is unique and may show different symptoms to others with the same problem.

What to watch out for

Christine emphasizes that horse owners often worry about a horse’s behavior towards grooming and tacking up because they are concerned about a cold back. There are certain signs you should be aware of, such as:

 Cold Back

Reflexiveness to grooming or soreness in the back
Reacting to the saddle by dipping or bridging your back after it is placed
When the girth of the woman is tightened, it causes discomfort.
Refusal to mount or reluctance
Stiffness in the back after the first few minutes of workEventing Square

What causes a cold back?

Christine believes that evolutionary causes are the root cause of many of these problems. “Horses weren’t designed to support people and carry extra weight. As a result, they may develop sensitive nerve endings and misalignments in their spines. A poorly fitting saddle, aggravation from back injuries; and problems with the horse’s teeth or feet can all lead to a cold back. This causes them to adjust their posture. Christine says that the posture and position the rider can also be a cause. I often get calls from horse owners who have their horses with the same back problems. It is usually caused by the horse trying to compensate for bad posture. It is worth taking your horse to a specialist for back problems.

How to treat a cold back

There are many symptoms of a cold back. It is important that you consult your veterinarian immediately to rule out injury or other serious issues. If necessary, they can refer your horse to a McTimoney practitioner or physiotherapist. Christine says that cold back symptoms are usually not difficult to treat. “Most treatments are designed to relieve spasms and misalignments in your spine which cause a pull on the surrounding muscle tissue and results in soreness.

Prevention is key

There are some preventative steps that you can take to ensure your horse does not develop back problems. Your saddle should be checked every year as horses’ shapes can change over the years and could not look the same as it was when it was first fitted. Warm up well before you start exercising. After your exercise, let your horse cool down. This allows your horse’s muscles adjust to your weight and prevents any injuries. If your horse is sensitive, you can tack up and walk him for five minutes before mounting. This will give his muscles a head start. Mounting from the ground can cause extra strain on the back, so it is better to use a mounting block. If a horse is unable to stand still while mounting, this could be an indication that he feels uncomfortable. You should work on both the reins and the back when schooling your horse. This will help him to be flexible throughout his body.

It is possible to treat a cold back

Christine says that it is possible to treat cold back problems almost all of the time. Preventing is better than treating. This is why it is so important to take good care of your horse’s back. It will allow him to be fit, healthy, and perform at his best.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!