15 ways to keep your horse's back healthy

massage2-1.jpg

Keeping your horse's back healthy will enhance his performance and keep him pain-free, making him a happy horse to be around.

There are lots of little ways that to care for your horse's back. Check out physiotherapist Sam Rodwell's top tips. 


1. Use a mounting block 

If possible, always use a mounting block to mount and stand your horse as close as possible to it. 

mounting  a horse

This minimises twisting the saddle tree and causing discomfort. 

Try not to use your right hand to pull on the cantle when mounting as this will also cause the saddle to twist. 

Instead, place your hand on the right side behind the pommel. 

2. Is your saddle twisting? 

When riding with a friend, ask them to ride behind you to check your saddle isn't slipping or twisting as you walk or trot. 

They can also check you're sitting level and your stirrups are the same length.

3. Warm up your horse

When schooling, it takes 15 minutes of walking and mostly trotting for your horse's muscles to warm up and start to work to the best of their ability.

Factor this time in before asking your horse to come into an outline and really start to work.

Also allow 10 minutes to cool down. 

4. Let your horse stretch 

Lunge your horse once a week allowing him to stretch. It's good for him to use his back without your weight - and it's also a good chance for you to watch him move and spot any changes. 

lunge-copy.jpg

His back muscles should show a gentle 'ripple' if they're healthy. 

5. Work on your fitness 

Look after yourself too - rider balance and fitness will directly affect how your horse moves through his back. 

Keep yourself fit and supple, and keep your core strength up. Joining a pilates or yoga class will help. 

woman-in-plank

Boost your fitness

In five ways... 

6. Mind your back

Care for your own back when mucking out and doing yard duties, so you don't become sore and tight.

7. Check your horse's back

It's a good idea to have a professional check your horse's back regularly as prevention is better than cure. 

The frequency needed depends on the individual horse and his level of work. Once a year is fine for some; other competition horses may need monthly check ups.

They'll be able to advise on appropriate stable-based and in-hand exercises to help develop core muscle strength, back stability and flexibility.

Carrot+stretch.jpeg

Look after his back

More tips here! 

8. Train your horse gradually 

Don't suddenly increase or change your horse's workload; it had to be a gradual process to avoid muscle injury. 

9. Work your horse evenly 

Work your horse evenly on both reins - it's too easy to do more on their easier, dominant rein and neglect the harder one. 

10. Remember to change diagonal

When hacking, change diagonal regularly while trotting, every 20 rises. 

trot-1.jpg

11. Be aware of your horse's other conditions 

Other conditions may affect your horse's back. Things like hock spavin, poor foot balance, dehydration, poor nutrition and joint arthritis will all change the way he moves and uses his muscles. 

12. Try lateral work

Ridden lateral work in walk, trot and canter will help strengthen your horse's core and back. 

Some basic leg-yielding can make a huge difference and this can even be done when you're out hacking. 

School on a hack

Here's how...

13. Focus on riding your horse straight

When riding, focus on calmness, forwards movement and straightness as this helps develop a horse's self-carriage and back strength. 

Have this in mind when you're both hacking and schooling. 

14. Change his canter

When hacking, alternate canter leads each time you canter. 

horse-long-and-low

15. Work your horse long and low 

Spend time in each session encouraging your horse to work in a correct or long and low outline to avoid extension of his back.