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Back Pain

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  • Back Pain

    I decided to cross post this from Horse Care since it's an eventing issue too.

    My daughter's 14 yo TB, who she events at BN (horse has gone up to Prelim), stopped suddenly and uncharacteristically at the 2nd fence in a tiny pony club horse show yesterday--the jumps were 2'6". She circled him, and he bucked and threw his head around--also unusual--tried to stop again but she was pretty fierce with him (daughter is also 14) so he awkwardly jumped it, then again nearly stopped and went through the next fence. At which point my daughter withdrew, saying, "Something's wrong with him."

    Turns out his back is very sore, particularly on the right side, far back near the hip (only partially under the back of the saddle). Her saddle was actually custom-fit to him and her; he hasn't changed shape and it seems to fit him well. I'm assuming he did something stupid in the field. I have a new mare and the horses have been running in the field more than usual (they are turned out 24/7 except in bad weather).

    Experiences with this? Suggestions? We gave him bute, liniment, did some stretching exercises and some massage (I know a fair amount about human massage). A chiropractor is coming on Friday. We're also supposed to go to a horse trial on Friday, but my daughter's already saying she thinks that's a bad idea. She's got a pony club rating the following weekend, and really wants him well for that.

  • #2
    First, let me say I was so impressed with how your daughter handled the situation yesterday. She noticed there was a problem quickly and didn't think twice about withdrawing. I love seeing kids putting their horses first!

    Second, this may sound a little hocus pocus but I've had great success using Moxabustion sticks to treat sore backs.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moxibustion Let me know if you want more info on them. I've also had success using liniment (sore no more is my favorite on sensitive TB types) and putting a hot towel over the area.

    Hopefully he just tweaked something in the field goofing around and will be good to go for the rating!
    Brae Mont Farm


    • #3
      Welcome to my world.

      Toby suffers from chronic muscle soreness/tightness in his back. In fact, his back is what caused me to withdraw from an event awhile back, when he was SO UPSET in dressage (highly unusual for him).

      The BIGGEST help has been shockwave therapy, which is pricey but oh so worth it. One treatment after that show, and we have had very little issue since then. I maintain with regular massages (once a month. I would do more if I could afford it. I do supplement with some massage on my own), LOTS of long and low work, warming up in the canter before trotting, lots of good warm up in general, some stretching, and liberal use of a magnetic/massage blanket (employer has one) and his BOT sheet. His back has been far, far better the last two months than it ever was the year + I had him before the shockwave, even though a lot of that was being used already.

      One of my employer's horses, a late teenaged TB, had a pretty sore back this summer, as well. His owner isn't a fan of shockwave (not sure why), so he was gotten through with first twice weekly massages, and daily sessions in the magnetic blanket. He's now down to once a week massages. While he is FAR better than he was, and got there quickly, that method is extremely pricey (knowing how much the massage therapist charges. Yikes! ).

      I have also used meso therapy, both on Vernon and on Toby and on quite a few other horses. Great stuff...except for Toby, who's skin had such a horrific reaction that we really never could tell if his back actually benefited.

      I am not a believer in chiro, and it wouldn't do Toby any good anyway, as he is all muscle (his vet feels this is extremely typical of TBs, especially hard working ones).

      If you all are willing to forego the horse trial, then do so, though I think with liberal application of massage and stretching and smart warm up, you could get him feeling good and he would be fine. If you are willing to spend the money and your vet thinks it will help, it may be worth investigating shockwave. And the earlier in the week you can do it, the more likely you all may be to make it to the event. Otherwise, skip the event, and get him good for the rating.

      Good luck! I feel your pain! It is manageable...but, that's the thing, it just takes diligent management.


      • #4
        All that is great (though not a big believer in chiropractors), but there is no substitute for time off. Going to a show next weekend doesn't sound like a great idea, even if he is somewhat better.

        As someone who has always ridden older "been there done that" horses at the lower levels, three weekends in a row of shows and ratings is a lot for an older horse, particularly if those are one day shows. I would never schedule that tightly.

        Your daughter has it right -- skip next weekend's show and hope all is well for the rating.


        • #5
          Oh I am the back problem pro, LOL. You are correct not to show him -- first guess would be muscle/SI ligament strain. Treatment: rest, massage, but keep him moving lightly, walking, hacking. It just takes time.
          Life doesn't have perfect footing.

          Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
          We Are Flying Solo


          • Original Poster

            Thanks everyone--

            The pony club show was a pretty piddly event for him, so it's not really like 3 horse trials in a row. But I'd say he has some issues with his back that aren't related to his saddle; I'm glad to hear that's not totally off base.

            My daughter was pretty adamant today about skipping the horse trial, and I do think she's right--we want him well as soon as possible, but also really well, and I'd love some more suggestions about keeping him comfortable full time.

            I'm not really familiar with shockwave therapy. Can anyone tell me more? How does it work? How much $$? I live in the sticks and the local vets aren't always up to--well, more than bute and rest--but I've had good luck taking my horses on road trips to university vets.


            • Original Poster

              I also never heard about moxubustion sticks, but they sound fascinating. Where do you get them?


              • #8
                The best answer I have found in keeping older horses going is careful exercise management. They get ridden at least five days per week, with most of that lower level activity, and as much turn-out as I can get.

                I also managed their show schedules carefully. Personally, I never considered a 2'6' show "piddly" even for the CCI*** horse and kept his post show routine pretty much the same whether BN or CCI***. I would not schedule back to back weekends of shows.

                I'm not a big believer in joint injections -- done hocks twice in 20 years when they really needed it -- none of this "preventative" injection crap.

                The only thing I have used other than limited Bute, as needed, is Adequan (Feed through prior to that). I would probably be willing to try shock wave or similar non-invasive therapies, but would be very wary of drug based therapy that might mask issues, as opposed to treating.

                Been very lucky to be taught by the best and have had four older horses successfully compete at the lower levels of eventing and First Level dressage into their late 20's and/or early 30's. Keeping them moving in the correct way and balancing demands has been key.


                • #9
                  I'm not really familiar with shockwave therapy. Can anyone tell me more? How does it work? How much $$? I live in the sticks and the local vets aren't always up to--well, more than bute and rest--but I've had good luck taking my horses on road trips to university vets.
                  Ugh. I SUCK at explaining. I totally comprehend, but I am bad at telling someone how it works! I will dig around for some good articles (unless someone beats me to it), or I'll ask my vet if he has good suggestions for articles.

                  Basically, you use bursts of energy to tell nerves and whatnot to relax and stop hurting (I am being extremely simplistic and probably explaining it completely wrong!). My one treatment for Toby's back was about $500. So, pricey. But totally worth every penny in my book. I also used it on his tendon, which required fewer pulses, so was less money (I think that was $300).


                  • #10

                    Our pony got a very sore back from Lyme, no other lameness. Depending on where you are, may be worth a check.


                    • Original Poster

                      Sevendogs, I appreciate your insight. He's turned out very nearly full time, and is usually ridden 4-5 times per week, with some of that being walk/trot hacks. But my daughter was sick most of last week, and he didn't get his usual work.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by gully's pilot View Post
                        I also never heard about moxubustion sticks, but they sound fascinating. Where do you get them?
                        I got my last box from a vet in Chattanooga, but you can get them (and books about moxibustion) on Amazon.

                        I can bring one to the Rating if you want (but I'm guessing you want it sooner than that).
                        Brae Mont Farm


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by gully's pilot View Post
                          Sevendogs, I appreciate your insight. He's turned out very nearly full time, and is usually ridden 4-5 times per week, with some of that being walk/trot hacks. But my daughter was sick most of last week, and he didn't get his usual work.
                          Based on this... is it possible that he tied up?


                          • Original Poster

                            Good thought--but I dont' think so. He's turned out always; he gets very little grain. He did get ridden on Friday. Plus no discolored urine, no funny stance. But thanks!


                            • #15
                              Muscle cramping can be related to lack of electrolyte's and I never learned much about electrolytes until I started riding some endurance. No event trainer, jumper trainer or dressage trainer ever talked about electrolytes, and I never heard about them when I did my coaching prep and exams.
                              My accupuncturist uses the moxi sticks, along with needles and electro current in the needles. I have turned to depending on my accupuncturist for all my horses, using her for regular checkups, not just waiting till something needs fixing.


                              • #16
                                poor guy!

                                From my understanding of shockwave therapy, I just saw it done for the first time and asked what it was/did....but its been a couple weeks and a lot has happened in my world since then.

                                Its concentrated sound waves being sent into a specific area. It makes a loud rhythmic (sp?) snapping noise.
                                Its supposed to promote healing and blood flow to the specific area. The vet was doing it to a popped splint. He shockwaved my hand because I was curious and it was defiantly startling/surprising, and it kind of hurt, the other girl I was with didn't think it hurt, so I guess its relative.
                                "Hell yes I can ride. I was riding when I fell off!"


                                • Original Poster

                                  It's such a bummer, Chelsie, they've been doing so well. I was astonished when he stopped, but I had a bad view from where I was, so I wondered if Katie'd massively screwed up somehow. When she came out she told me she knew that when he didn't WANT to jump, he had to be hurt somewhere. He did look fine today, being a complete nut in the field--but if he's not really improved pretty quickly we'll look for a solid diagnosis & treatment plan.


                                  • #18
                                    It hasn't been mentioned yet, but you should be concerned about a lameness issue. I had a Rood and Riddle vet tell me that he rarely if ever sees back pain that is a primary issue. Usually he sees it as a secondary result from a soundness issue elsewhere. On that advice whenever I suspect the back I try to get a comprehensive soundness exam.


                                    • #19
                                      Kudos to your daughter. Thats true horsemanship.
                                      Re: pain, besides the NSAID, stretchiing, easy work, massage, You could look into Arnica as well- its a homeopathic herb used for muscle strain, brushing soreness that can be used on horses. I rec'd it to my 2-legged back pain patients when i write rx's for other mess, including NSAIDS, antispasmodics etc but have used it on horses with success too. like the gel b/c it absorbs faster & with less mess than the cream or ointment. Your natural food store or even maybe a vitamin world may sell it. Apply to affected area 3-4x/day.

                                      I worked with vets at rood & riddle & haygards who did acupuncture with moxibustion that worked well for all different types and ages. Agree with other rec'd for other lameness work-up if it doesn't resolve with conservative measures. Would not confine him either after you give him stall rest for a few days- hell self-regulate if it really hurts, otherwise moving around in a field may help. Could be wrong tho.
                                      And the wise, Jack Daniels drinking, slow-truck-driving, veteran TB handler who took "no shit from no hoss Miss L, y'hear," said: "She aint wrapped too tight."


                                      • #20
                                        My mare has had chronic back pain particularly on her left side around her lumbar spine and hip over the past year. It makes her resistant at times. So, after doing all the things one would normally do to deal with it, I decided to have a bone scan as I was tired of guessing what was going on and was concerned about kissing spine. Long story (and lots of money) short, the soft tissue scan showed sore hocks, sore SI and sore stifles. The stifle on the left was particularly sore and I should note that she does have intermittent upward patella fixation. There was nothing from her SI forward and I had her entire body scanned. But if you put your hands on her you would get a completely different impression. And she passes her flexions pretty easily.

                                        I ended up having her hocks and stifles injected because what the ___ at this point I had already spent more money than I paid for her.

                                        There is no moral to this story, except to say that I have concluded that it is so hard to conclude what causes these problems.