Humans have been using horses for over a thousand years. Human interactions with horses have evolved over the years depending on human needs. But the horse’s ability to carry a human had the most significant impact on the human-horse relationship. It’s important to understand that, horse’s back was not designed to ferry human individuals around, especially with saddles and tack. It has evolved to accommodate the extra weight.
The extra weight can exert pressure on sensitive sections of the horse’s back, such as tendons, leading to issues such as the cold back. Unlike humans, horses are unable to express pain verbally. Thus, as the owner, you should look out for signs and symptoms of a cold-backed horse, and manage them.
You go through the following article to understand what you need to know about cold-backed horses. You’ll learn about sore and cold back, causes of cold backed horses, signs of a cold back in horses, and much more. Read on.
What Is Cold Back In Horses?
You might be thinking the expression ‘cold back’ refers to the temperature on the horse’s back, right? Also called sore back, cold back describes a horse displaying signs and symptoms of a sensitive or painful back.
A cold-backed horse usually displays these symptoms when you put on the saddle. It can also show the symptoms when you mount, and it walks off for the first few steps. But it’ll walk normally after the affected muscles, tendons, and ligaments relax and become used to the extra pressure of the rider or saddle.
Sometimes you might think these symptoms indicate a horse’s normal reaction to mounting or saddling. But it’s important to conduct a diagnosis to identify what could be causing the reaction.
What Are The Causes Of Cold Back In Horses?
The fact that horses didn’t evolve to ferry humans around can cause cold back. Rider’s weight, saddles, and other bits used for comfort can exert pressure on muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This will lead to sensitive nerve endings or a misaligned spine, causing a cold back.
The common causes of cold-backed horses include:
- Poorly Fitted Saddle: A poorly fitted saddle can be painful, leading to cold-backed horses. It may affect the freedom of movement and balance, leading to constricted nerve endings. It’s important to understand that the saddle will play a huge role in ensuring the even distribution of your weight. And if it’s shifting or moving, you can affect the horse’s center of gravity, leading to a misaligned spine.
- Rider Position: Although overlooked, your riding positing can affect the muscles and the alignment of your horse’s spine. The horse will strain to accommodate your bad riding posture, leading to back pains. This will cause your horse to have a cold back. It’s also important to understand that a moving saddle can affect your posture, causing your horse to have a painful back.
- Previous Injuries: Worsening injuries caused either by ill-fitting saddles or ruptured tendons can cause a cold-backed horse. It’s also important to understand that memory of pain can lead to a sour back.
How To Know If Your Horse Has A Sore Or Cold Back?
The following are ways you can use to identify a cold-backed horse. They include:
1. Observe Behavior
This is one way you can know if your horse has a cold back. Use the following behavioral aspects to identify a cold-backed horse.
# Acute Changes In Behavior
It’d be best if you understood any discomfort might make your horse develop a sour attitude. Although most horses are naturally cinchy, any sudden behavior change could indicate a cold back. For instance, if you notice a horse who wasn’t grumpy before acting up, this could signify a sensitive nerve ending.
# Reluctance To Move
This is another symptom you should look out for. Back pain and a misaligned spine can make a horse reluctant to move forward or drive with the hind legs. The horse will refuse to move forward only for the first few steps. After that, the muscles will relax and become used to the extra weight, and the horse can walk normally.
# Sudden Moves And Discomfort
This is common, especially when you’re tightening the girth. The discomfort may make your horse stomp and shake, or flinch. Any pressure on the damaged muscles, tendon, and ligaments will make the horse do sudden moves. Take necessary precaution to avoid injuring yourself in the process.
You can also see discomfort when you’re grooming or petting your horse. It’s important to avoid using nails to pet your horse, as this can create a false sense of discomfort. Instead, use the soft pads of your hands to pet your horse.
2. Conduct Diagnosis
There is another way you can use to identify a cold-backed horse. While you can conduct the diagnosis by yourself, sometimes you might be forced to invite your vet. If you decide to perform the examination yourself, ensure you view the back from both sides, especially from behind. Note down any lumps, lesions, muscle swellings and rubs. Use your hand to apply increasing pressure on either side of the spine and identify if there’s any discomfort.
If you suspect an issue, it’s vital you call your regular vet. The vet will conduct a more detailed examination to identify any underlying issue causing the discomfort. Your vet may observe the horse as it’s walked and trotted up and down a slope, or ridden by the usual rider. This will help the vet identify whether your horse has a cold back or not.
The vet can further investigate your horse through blood sampling to test for muscle damage, and x-rays to study the alignment of the horse’s spine.
How Do You Treat A Cold Back?
The following are some of the ways you can use to help your cold-backed horse. They include:
- Conducting several pre-ride stretches and massages will go a long way in relaxing your horse’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
- Use properly fitting saddles to ensure proper distribution of rider’s weight. This will help reduce strain on the lower back which can contribute to back pains.
- Your vet can recommend several medications and therapies you can use on your horse to manage sensitive or painful back.
As discussed above, the human-horse relationship has evolved over the years, depending on human needs. These needs can contribute to issues such as the cold back. This issue can affect the overall performance of your horse. There are several ways you can use to know if your horse has a cold or sore back. They include observing your horse’s behavior and conducting a detailed examination.