Pinning Down Back Pain

Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 1
by LISA CARTER on AUGUST 9, 2013
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by LISA CARTER on AUGUST 9, 2013
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Rotated Scapula With Associated White HairsA very common issue that I get asked questions about has to do with back pain in the horse. There can be so many root causes for back pain in the horse, and it has such a great impact on a horse’s performance. From a an equine bodywork standpoint, because back pain displays itself in many different ways it’s very hard to pinpoint the source, let alone determine the best course of action to resolve the issue(s). In this 3-part series, I’ll show you some things to look at, as well as what you can do at home to help get your horse some much needed pain relief.

In this first segment we’ll cover the wither and scapula area of the horse as a common source of problems with the back. And while not what many would consider the “back” of the horse, it represents the first segment of thoracic vertebrae and is heavily influenced by things that are placed on the back. Yes, that’s right…the saddle!

Horses with downhill conformation seem to be predisposed to problems in this area by default because the saddle and weight of the rider bear down more on the withers due to gravity. These types of horses (the cutting bred horses especially) have a tendency to carry their weight on the front end anyway. Add an ill-fitting saddle and the weight of a rider and it’s a recipe for trouble. If the horse tends to have “mutton withers” – very wide and flat across the withers – finding a good saddle that doesn’t impede movement can spell double trouble!

Problems you might see related to the wither and scapula area:
Scapula rotated forward on one or both sides
Short striding with one or both front limbs
White hairs developing behind the withers
Cinchiness
Bucking or kicking out
Ear pinning or biting during saddling
Problems with lateral flexion under saddle
Unwilling to move forward under saddle
Problems holding a bend in a particular direction
Problems picking up a particular canter lead
Watch the video as I show you what kinds of things you should look for to determine if you horse may be having a problem in the wither and scapula area.

Therapies, Exercises And Stretches For Rotated Scapula And Painful Withers
When the scapula in the horse is habitually rolled forward, the cervical trapezius muscle is in a state of constant contraction along with several other smaller muscle groups associated with the shoulder girdle. This chronic contraction can cause become quite painful. If the problem has been going on for a while, it may take several weeks (even months in severe cases) of consistent muscle re-education to overcome the muscle memory.

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 buried issues like those involving the first rib, which may be impeding movement of the scapula, causing misalignment of the vertebra at the withers and pinching nerves in the this area. Massage and acupuncture will help release the muscles and help facilitate bringing the body back into balance.
Stretching and exercises that extend the shoulder/scapula and thereby stretch out the cervical trapezius muscle are very helpful in overcoming the muscle memory of a scapula that is rolled forward. See this article for additional information on the subject and individual stretches and exercises.
When dealing with a possible first rib issue getting your horse to stand on a pedestal and then alternate having them hang one foot and then the other off the side of the pedestal. Or if you have access to a slope, have them walk along the length of the slope in both directions.
If at all possible use a mounting block or fence to mount from. Mounting from the ground in essence gives your horse a chiropractic adjustment to the withers every time you get on. So if your horse is already experiencing problems in this area, you’ll want to do whatever you can to minimize additional trauma to the area.
Giving natural herbal supplements that may help with inflammation like devil’s claw, chamomile, comfrey, or willow can help as long as their gastrointestinal tract is not compromised in any way. Apply a natural linament like Sore No More to the area. Or make your own with essential oils that may have properties beneficial in the relief of pain and/or inflammation like lavender, copaiba, frankincense, wintergreen and peppermint.
Using the shoulder extension stretch to help with rotated scapula in the horse – http://www.heavenlygaitsequinemassage.com Using the front leg extension stretch to help with rotated scapula in the horse – http://www.heavenlygaitsequinemassage.com

As you can see, the issue is quite complex, and all possible scenarious cannot be covered in the scope of this article. That is why it is so important to consult your veterinarian, equine bodyworker, and chiropractor before you begin any therapy for your horse.

In the next segment, we’ll discuss pain in the middle part of the back. Come on over to the Facebook page and tell us about things that have helped your horse with problems related to the withers and scapula. http://www.facebook.com/HeavenlyGaitsEquineMassage.

Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 2

Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 3

Lisa Carter, Certified Equine Massage Therapist, with her Arabian mare Siofhice. www.heavenlygaitsequinemassage.com.

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”.

Are you ready to get better results with your horse? Put your equine health care team to work so you and your horse can be doing what you were meant to. Click here to get started!

Share this:
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Tagged as: benefits of equine massage, copaiba essential oil, equine bodywork, equine massage therapy, equine massage tips, essential oil uses, frankincense essential oil, horse exercises, horse health, horse massage, horse stretches, identifying imbalance, improve performance, improve spinal mobility, lavender essential oil, natural remedies, pain management, pain relief, peppermint essential oil, rotated scapula in the horse, saddle fit, wintergreen essential oil, wither pain in the horse

Please feel free to share any of the non-restricted access articles on my website. However, if you do, I only ask that you use the article in its entirety (including the author bio at the end of the article and any embedded links present), the name of this website and a link back to the original article url. Member only content may not be shared under any circumstances without prior written consent from Heavenly Gaits Equine. Thank you for your consideration.

Sue Hobson February 10, 2015 at 4:02 pm
I have a six year old warmblood dressage horse who has extremely big movement 16hh. He finds it very difficult to pick up canter and lift withers into transition. He is obviously in pain somewhere. I have had him checked out with vets and also saddle fitters and all say he is good. He is sound and moves well until you ask him to pick up canter. I can feel something holding back in the shoulder area which is causing him discomfort – would really appreciate your advice.

Lisa Carter Lisa Carter February 11, 2015 at 8:40 am
Hi Sue,

It really sounds like you probably need a chiropractor to take a look at him. I’m afraid I can’t really offer any insight without an in-person evaluation where I can actually see how the horse is moving and laying hands on to feel for tension in the body. But horses can be out at the withers and need adjusting there. They can also have issues with the 1st rib being out, which is incredibly hard to see, but causes them a great deal of discomfort. If you are sure that your saddle doesn’t have too much rock in it (not allowing the horse to lift its back fully to collect into canter), and it is not impinging on the movement of the scapula (many saddle fitters don’t check for the width of the saddle while the scapula is at it’s full extension position), then I would recommend the chiropractic route or have a reputable bodyworker come out to do a thorough eval of him. It is also possible the the problem is somewhere in the back end that doesn’t allow him to properly collect. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help with specifics :-(

Blessings,

Lisa

Annie May 1, 2015 at 10:15 am
My horse is lame. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with his legs or feet but I have noticed that he has sore withers. I think it was caused by his saddle and recently had him fitted for and bought a new one, but then he went lame, so I haven’t used it as yet. Would sore withers cause front leg lameness? If so, what would you recommend for this problem…chiropractor or equine massage?

Lisa Carter Lisa Carter May 4, 2015 at 8:00 am
Hi Annie,

It’s quite possible that your horse’s withers are out and/or has a pinched nerve there affecting his front legs. Your best course of action would be to enlist the help of a chiropractor to check that out for you. I always recommend a good massage before chiropractic to help relax everything and help facilitate the chiropractic adjustments.

Blessings,

Lisa

COMMENTS ON THIS ENTRY ARE CLOSED.
{ 4 trackbacks }
Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 2
Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 3
Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Par…
Rescue Horse, Rescue Me: Pedestal Training 101. | Capital Cowgirl
23142
Rotated Scapula With Associated White HairsA very common issue that I get asked questions about has to do with back pain in the horse. There can be so many root causes for back pain in the horse, and it has such a great impact on a horse’s performance. From a an equine bodywork standpoint, because back pain displays itself in many different ways it’s very hard to pinpoint the source, let alone determine the best course of action to resolve the issue(s). In this 3-part series, I’ll show you some things to look at, as well as what you can do at home to help get your horse some much needed pain relief.

In this first segment we’ll cover the wither and scapula area of the horse as a common source of problems with the back. And while not what many would consider the “back” of the horse, it represents the first segment of thoracic vertebrae and is heavily influenced by things that are placed on the back. Yes, that’s right…the saddle!

Horses with downhill conformation seem to be predisposed to problems in this area by default because the saddle and weight of the rider bear down more on the withers due to gravity. These types of horses (the cutting bred horses especially) have a tendency to carry their weight on the front end anyway. Add an ill-fitting saddle and the weight of a rider and it’s a recipe for trouble. If the horse tends to have “mutton withers” – very wide and flat across the withers – finding a good saddle that doesn’t impede movement can spell double trouble!

Problems you might see related to the wither and scapula area:
Scapula rotated forward on one or both sides
Short striding with one or both front limbs
White hairs developing behind the withers
Cinchiness
Bucking or kicking out
Ear pinning or biting during saddling
Problems with lateral flexion under saddle
Unwilling to move forward under saddle
Problems holding a bend in a particular direction
Problems picking up a particular canter lead
Watch the video as I show you what kinds of things you should look for to determine if you horse may be having a problem in the wither and scapula area.

Therapies, Exercises And Stretches For Rotated Scapula And Painful Withers
When the scapula in the horse is habitually rolled forward, the cervical trapezius muscle is in a state of constant contraction along with several other smaller muscle groups associated with the shoulder girdle. This chronic contraction can cause become quite painful. If the problem has been going on for a while, it may take several weeks (even months in severe cases) of consistent muscle re-education to overcome the muscle memory.

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 buried issues like those involving the first rib, which may be impeding movement of the scapula, causing misalignment of the vertebra at the withers and pinching nerves in the this area. Massage and acupuncture will help release the muscles and help facilitate bringing the body back into balance.
Stretching and exercises that extend the shoulder/scapula and thereby stretch out the cervical trapezius muscle are very helpful in overcoming the muscle memory of a scapula that is rolled forward. See this article for additional information on the subject and individual stretches and exercises.
When dealing with a possible first rib issue getting your horse to stand on a pedestal and then alternate having them hang one foot and then the other off the side of the pedestal. Or if you have access to a slope, have them walk along the length of the slope in both directions.
If at all possible use a mounting block or fence to mount from. Mounting from the ground in essence gives your horse a chiropractic adjustment to the withers every time you get on. So if your horse is already experiencing problems in this area, you’ll want to do whatever you can to minimize additional trauma to the area.
Giving natural herbal supplements that may help with inflammation like devil’s claw, chamomile, comfrey, or willow can help as long as their gastrointestinal tract is not compromised in any way. Apply a natural linament like Sore No More to the area. Or make your own with essential oils that may have properties beneficial in the relief of pain and/or inflammation like lavender, copaiba, frankincense, wintergreen and peppermint.
Using the shoulder extension stretch to help with rotated scapula in the horse – http://www.heavenlygaitsequinemassage.com Using the front leg extension stretch to help with rotated scapula in the horse – http://www.heavenlygaitsequinemassage.com

As you can see, the issue is quite complex, and all possible scenarious cannot be covered in the scope of this article. That is why it is so important to consult your veterinarian, equine bodyworker, and chiropractor before you begin any therapy for your horse.

In the next segment, we’ll discuss pain in the middle part of the back. Come on over to the Facebook page and tell us about things that have helped your horse with problems related to the withers and scapula. http://www.facebook.com/HeavenlyGaitsEquineMassage.

Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 2

Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 3

Lisa Carter, Certified Equine Massage Therapist, with her Arabian mare Siofhice. www.heavenlygaitsequinemassage.com.

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”.

Are you ready to get better results with your horse? Put your equine health care team to work so you and your horse can be doing what you were meant to. Click here to get started!

Share this:
Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)367Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)367Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)142Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)14223Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)23Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
Tagged as: benefits of equine massage, copaiba essential oil, equine bodywork, equine massage therapy, equine massage tips, essential oil uses, frankincense essential oil, horse exercises, horse health, horse massage, horse stretches, identifying imbalance, improve performance, improve spinal mobility, lavender essential oil, natural remedies, pain management, pain relief, peppermint essential oil, rotated scapula in the horse, saddle fit, wintergreen essential oil, wither pain in the horse

Please feel free to share any of the non-restricted access articles on my website. However, if you do, I only ask that you use the article in its entirety (including the author bio at the end of the article and any embedded links present), the name of this website and a link back to the original article url. Member only content may not be shared under any circumstances without prior written consent from Heavenly Gaits Equine. Thank you for your consideration.

Sue Hobson February 10, 2015 at 4:02 pm
I have a six year old warmblood dressage horse who has extremely big movement 16hh. He finds it very difficult to pick up canter and lift withers into transition. He is obviously in pain somewhere. I have had him checked out with vets and also saddle fitters and all say he is good. He is sound and moves well until you ask him to pick up canter. I can feel something holding back in the shoulder area which is causing him discomfort – would really appreciate your advice.

Lisa Carter Lisa Carter February 11, 2015 at 8:40 am
Hi Sue,

It really sounds like you probably need a chiropractor to take a look at him. I’m afraid I can’t really offer any insight without an in-person evaluation where I can actually see how the horse is moving and laying hands on to feel for tension in the body. But horses can be out at the withers and need adjusting there. They can also have issues with the 1st rib being out, which is incredibly hard to see, but causes them a great deal of discomfort. If you are sure that your saddle doesn’t have too much rock in it (not allowing the horse to lift its back fully to collect into canter), and it is not impinging on the movement of the scapula (many saddle fitters don’t check for the width of the saddle while the scapula is at it’s full extension position), then I would recommend the chiropractic route or have a reputable bodyworker come out to do a thorough eval of him. It is also possible the the problem is somewhere in the back end that doesn’t allow him to properly collect. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help with specifics :-(

Blessings,

Lisa

Annie May 1, 2015 at 10:15 am
My horse is lame. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with his legs or feet but I have noticed that he has sore withers. I think it was caused by his saddle and recently had him fitted for and bought a new one, but then he went lame, so I haven’t used it as yet. Would sore withers cause front leg lameness? If so, what would you recommend for this problem…chiropractor or equine massage?

Lisa Carter Lisa Carter May 4, 2015 at 8:00 am
Hi Annie,

It’s quite possible that your horse’s withers are out and/or has a pinched nerve there affecting his front legs. Your best course of action would be to enlist the help of a chiropractor to check that out for you. I always recommend a good massage before chiropractic to help relax everything and help facilitate the chiropractic adjustments.

Blessings,

Lisa

COMMENTS ON THIS ENTRY ARE CLOSED.
{ 4 trackbacks }
Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 2
Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Part 3
Pinning Down Back Pain In The Horse – Par…
Rescue Horse, Rescue Me: Pedestal Training 101. | Capital Cowgirl