What to Do if You Suspect a Cold Back

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Allison Price

It is common to use the term “cold-backed” but what does it really mean? And what can owners do to make sure their horses are not in pain? Rob Jackson, Vet, investigates.

A short-term change in posture caused by being mounted or tacked up can be called cold-backs. It is common in horses that don’t have saddle problems and they will return to their normal posture after a few rides.

After the horse has been ridden for some time and his cold back has warmed up, the horse will no longer show any signs of discomfort and will happily work.

Although it can be annoying for the owner, this is not something to worry about.

For some horses, being cold-backed can be a sign of a deeper problem. This is not always a matter of postural changes. Horses with affected horses might buck, rearrange, plunge, kick out, or bolt.

Cold Back Horse

It was believed that cold-backed horses didn’t like the cold saddle pressing down on their backs. Warming the saddle first would reduce the chance of them bucking. While this approach is no longer used, it highlights the main culprit: the saddle.

Steps to Take:

  1. Investigate your tack. Is it causing discomfort? Ask a registered saddle fitter for assistance.
  2. Contact your veterinarian if you have persistent symptoms. They will examine the following: lameness (from kissing spines), primary back pain, dental problems and internal discomfort.
  3. Your vet might suggest acupuncture or medication for pain relief.
  4. If there is no apparent pathological cause for the behavior, it’s time to investigate for other functional causes. The following treatment methods may be helpful: Physiotherapy, osteopathy, and chiropractic. These treatment methods can be helpful in managing pathology even if it has been diagnosed.
  5. Don’t rely on your horse to warm his back when you ride. Although experts no longer recommend warming horses’ saddles, warming their backs with a solarium is a good option. If your horse is able to tolerate it, heat pads or blood-temperature hot liquid bottles are also options.
  6. Massages are often very well received and can be useful for pre-ride stretching.
  7. Many horses will be happier if they are given extra time to tie up and adjust their girths slowly. It is also a good idea to have a plan for each ridden session.
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!