Spine Problems In Horses: What To Expect

You can encounter different spine problems in horses when you own one. No horse is immune to these, and it can happen in even the healthiest herds!

Spine problems can make your horse uncomfortable. Depending on how severe their injury is, your horse might not be able to continue working or participating in a contest. Knowing how different injuries affect horses will help you care for your better.

In this article, I share the different types of spinal injuries horses can get and list how these can be treated. 

Spine Problems In Horses: The Different Types Of Injuries

Horses are big animals. They can get injured if they fall, land wrong while performing, or carry a heavy workload.


Horses of any age can fracture their spine. Young horses who have reared and fallen over onto their backs may have multiple fractures in the upper part of their withers. These are called spinous processes, and the prediction of each case varies. 

Other spine fractures may occur when your horse has a nasty fall that results in a somersault. These are usually in the main body of their vertebrae and are more serious. Partial paralysis or even total paralysis of their limbs may occur. The outlook for recovery from a more serious spinal fracture is grave.

 How can I strengthen my horses back?

Ligament and Muscle Strain

Soft tissue damage is the most common cause of back pain and issues in horses. The muscles along their backs are usually affected. Most of these muscles are typically strained while your horse is ridden. The sites just before and behind the saddle are mostly affected.  

Signs that your horse strained a muscle or ligament include acute back pain, discomfort, and a decline in their performance. With rest, your horse should fully recover in a few weeks. 

The ligament running down the middle of their back is another area where soft-tissue damage often occurs. This takes longer to heal than muscle damage and may not heal completely.

Degenerative Spinal Disease

While it’s uncommon to see degenerative spinal disease of the thoracic region (the area of the back of the chest) in working horses, when they are seen, there is little that can be done to keep your horse working.  

Arthritis of the lumbar region is a much more common disease and will mostly be seen in older horses. Arthritis is caused by the degenerative loss of the cartilage of a horse’s joints. This won’t cause discomfort to your horse since the lumbar region is mostly held rigid. 

Kissing Spine Syndrome

Kissing spine syndrome happens when 2 or more spinous processes touch each other. These are the bony structures protruding upwards from the vertebrae.  

Your horse can develop this when you or someone else rides them. If kissing spine syndrome occurs beneath the saddle, your horse may develop back pain. 

Kissing spine syndrome can also cause false joint formation. Prognosis differs depending on the severity of the case.

Sacroiliac Injury

Sacroiliac injuries include hunter’s bump, strains, dislocation, and arthrosis. The result of these injuries typically causes acute strains on the sacroiliac ligament. 

Your horse can become lame in their hind legs and experience severe pain in their pelvic or sacroiliac region. Back soreness is usually a cause of long-term sacroiliac strain. This may also indicate the reinjury of an earlier strain or incomplete healing.  

Treatments For Spine Problems In Horses

Different methods can be used to treat spinal injuries in horses. Some are as simple as letting your horse rest, while others require professional help. Common treatments include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Shock wave therapy
  • The addition of bisphosphonates such as OsPhos or Tildren
  • Thoracolumbar facet injections
  • Regenerative therapy
  • Rest

Muscle spasms may be treated in one of the following ways:

  • Mesotherapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine injection into the muscles
  • NSAIDS like Banamine, Previcox, or Bute
  • Shockwave therapy
  • Muscle relaxants like Robaxin
  • Chiropractic or acupuncture treatments

 How do you treat a horse with back pain?

Why Do Horses Develop Spine Problems?

Horses develop spine problems for many reasons. Your horse may have injured themself when rearing up and falling backward. Injuries to their spine can also occur during jumping or when being ridden hard.  

If your horse is older, spine problems can develop due to their age. 

How To Prevent Spine Problems In Horses

While some spine problems can be prevented, you simply don’t have control over others. 

You can try to prevent your young horses from rearing up and falling onto their back. Avoid jumping your horse if you’re unsure of their landing. 

Allow your horses to recover from muscle strains and other injuries before riding them again. 

If your horse develops any issues, seek help from a veterinarian. All spinal injuries should receive immediate treatment with professional help. 

Wrapping It Up

Spinal injuries in horses can range from minor to fatal. There’s really no way of telling without veterinary assistance. If your horse shows any signs of a spinal injury, you should get your vet to examine them immediately.

Quick reactions could save your horse a lot of pain and even ensure they live. With the proper care, minor injuries will heal in less than two weeks, while more severe ones can take months.

I hope this article was helpful and that you have a better idea of what to expect from the different horse injuries that could occur. If you have more questions about spine injuries in horses, ask them in the comments!

 What can cause back pain in a horse?


How do you treat a horse with back pain?

The treatment you need to use for back pain in your horse will depend on the severity of their injury. Treatment options include shockwave therapy and administering muscle relaxants.

What can cause back pain in a horse?

Horses can develop back pain from riding injuries, falls, heavy workloads, or age.

How can I strengthen my horse's back?

The simplest way to improve your horse's back is hill work. With this exercise, you ride your horse up and down a hill, strengthening their back even more than flat surface riding does.

What is the best anti-inflammatory for horses?

Commonly used anti-inflammatory medications for horses considered the best include Banamine, Bute, Equioxx, and Ketofen.