In this final segment about pinning down back pain in the horse (Part 3), we'll be discussing pain in the lumbar area. This is one of the most common areas I see pain displayed when evaluating a horse for back pain. This is not surprising when you consider that the engine of the horse is its hindquarters. It can also be one of the more frustrating problems to track down simply because there are so many possibilities for a source. Using the information in this article and short video, you should have a good starting point.
Rule Out Non-Musculoskeletal Problems As Source For Back Pain
When attempting to track down the source of your horse's lower (lumbar) back pain, it is very important to seek the advice of your veterinarian. There are some serious conditions that will display as back pain. Kidney problems and mares with ovarian pain will sometimes palpate painful in the lower back for example.
Additional symptoms that may accompany problems associated with the kidney are depression, increased water intake, increased (or cessation) of urination, unusually strong smelling and/or dark-colored urine, weight loss and decreased appetite just to name a few. If you see any of these symptoms you should contact your veterinarian right away. Blood and urine tests may be used to help determine a diagnosis.
Mares may be a little harder to pinpoint, but additional symptoms to look for which may point to hormonal imbalances would be things like cycling issues, problems retaining pregnancy, witchy mare syndrome, etc. These symptoms may indicate the presence of uterine cysts, enlarged ovaries or possibly an ovarian tumor.
Musculoskeletal Issues That May Translate To Lumbar Pain
When a horse palpates painful in the lumbar area of the back, it usually relates to a problem in the back end somewhere. It can be anywhere in the back end, which makes it very difficult to track down. One of the most important things to look for is where in the lumbar the horse is sore. Is it on only once side, or both? When only one side is painful, this usually translates to the opposite hind leg/quarter. So if you have a horse that has arthritis in the right hock, it will often be painful in the left lumbar. Pretty much any condition that can affect the back end from the pelvis to the hoof can cause a pain in the lumbar due to the way the horse must compensate.
So once you have determined where your horse is sore, if you already know that your horse has an existing problem that would correspond to the opposite hind leg, you are already ahead of the game. Chances are that is probably the source of the problem, and you can talk to your veterinarian and equine bodyworker about strategies that may help your horse with pain relief or to help resolve the problem. If you are not aware of any pre-existing conditions, there are several clues that you can look for to help you track things down.
- Look at your horse's hooves and leg angles check for imbalances. The way your horse compensates in its movement may cause uneven wear patterns and lead to further exacerbation of imbalances in the body. Things like postural habits can affect hoof growth patterns and eventually lead to pain elsewhere in the body. Other painful conditions such as navicular, ringbone, hoof abscess, etc. are other things you will want to rule out. Enlist the help of your hoof care professional to correct issues that you may find with hooves. Postural habits can often be overcome with equine bodywork, stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Watch how your horse moves at the walk and trot. Is your horse even? Do they track up evenly? Are they dragging the toes? If you see these signs, you should have your vet do a lameness evaluation and enlist the help of your equine bodyworker to develop strategies to address the underlying problem.
- With your horse standing square, stand behind your horse and observe if the pelvis is higher on one side than the other. Imbalances in the pelvis may require the help of an equine chiropractor to help resolve. Also check for curves in the spine which might indicate problems.
What Does A Painful Back Look Like
Therapies, Exercises And Stretches For Lower Back (Lumbar) Pain In The Horse
By providing your horse with a well-rounded exercise and stretching program, you can help resolve and even prevent a lot of the problems horses develop in their back end. Pelvic imbalances, tight hamstrings, weak quadraceps and bad postural habits such as standing cow hocked are all things that can contribute to your horse developing problems down the road.
- Always enlist the help of a knowledgeable equine bodyworker, chiropractor and/or acupuncturist to help get some initial muscle relaxation and balance back to the area. Chiropractic can help resolve issues related to spinal and pelvic misalignment. Massage and acupuncture will help release the muscles, restore energy flow and help facilitate bringing the body back into balance, as well as bringing much-needed pain relief to your horse.
- Carrot stretches which encourage the horse to reach down stretch laterally but low are a good way to help stretch the lumbar area of the horse. See this article to see how to perform this Carrot Stretch With A Twist – http://www.heavenlygaitsequinemassage.com/carrot-stretches-for-horses/.
- Hindleg stretches encouraging flexion of the hip, stifle and hock will help to re-establish muscle memory and encourage the horse to bring their hind legs underneath themselves.
- Refer to the pelvic mobilization exercises covered in my eBook A Prescription For Parelli to help develop a targeted exercise program that fits you and your horse. Make sure to discuss any possible exericse program with your veterinarian first to make sure that there are no underlying conditions that might become aggravated by certain exercises.
- See also the natural rememdies listed in Part 1 of this series.
Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 1
Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 2
Lisa Carter is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist (CEMT), with multiple certifications from several different equine bodywork schools. She incorporates her knowledge and experience with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, equine bodywork and as a veterinary technician to provide her clients with the resources they need to make informed decisions for their horses. She encourages and facilitates network building between equine health care professionals, working together to find the best combination of therapies to meet the needs of the "whole horse".
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