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Ideas for a sore back

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  • Ideas for a sore back

    I'm at a bit of a loss with my horse. He tends to suffer from a tight, sore back. This seems to be him (possibly caused by kissing spine, but at the moment we are holding off on diagnostics, since the treatment would be the same), and I have been able to get ahead of it in the past. But, right now, we seem to be struggling, and, financially, I am hitting a wall as to what I can do.

    I had his back shockwaved almost 2 weeks ago. I did this late last summer and it made a HUGE improvement, but this time we're not reaping the benefits as much. My vet said there was a chance we'll need to do it again in short order. He is also currently on Robaxin, and spends some time every day in a magnetic/massage blanket. He also receives monthly massages (always has). His saddles are in good order (just got his new one yesterday, actually). I spend a lot of time doing stretchy/long and low work with him and typically warm him up in walk then canter (per vet's recommendations). In a perfect world, my vet would like to see very regular (as in, twice a week, at least for now) acupuncture treatments, but I just don't know if I can afford anymore! Not and be able to lesson and compete....and feed myself. Unless I am way off in my guesstimate for what a session with the acupuncturist would cost me.

    Anyway, looking for any thoughts or ideas on things I can do that may cost less or nothing to do as general maintenance of this horse. He is well put together, a good mover, light on his feet, and a remarkably good worker despite his back sometimes. He IS a tight, opinionated little horse, though, and is so over winter (doesn't like cold or wearing blankets), and I think sometimes he ends up causing a lot of these issues to himself by going around being tense (because he's cold and/or uncomfortable in his clothes). He has a lot of skin issues and is VERY sensitive to touch and life (massage therapist says he is the absolutely most sensitive horse she's met), which can make deciphering HOW sore he really is challenging (is he really sore, or is he just over reacting to being touched?).

    Any ideas would be appreciated. I want to do right by him, but at some point I just run out of funds!
    Amanda

  • #2
    Gabapentin. It sounds like he's in wind up, which is not a terribly surprising thing for a kissing spines horse. The nervous system starts anticipating pain and interprets non-pain signals as pain signals.

    I used gabapentin very successfully on my mare with c-spine arthritis who was also terribly, ridiculously sensitive to everything. Worked very well for her.

    This is the dose we used. You can get gabapentin inexpensively at Walgreens or CostCo.

    Lysine may also be useful, along with all natural vitamin e.

    Comment


    • #3
      Chiropractic is IMO, a staple for a horse that may have kissing spine. Really for any horse that is ridden but certainly needed for any with chronic back issues.

      Comment


      • #4
        Both great suggestions, we've had success with an osteopath for KS horses. Sounds like you're doing all the right things, so jingles for the right combination of treatments that works for your horse

        Comment


        • #5
          Have you checked the feet extremely thoroughly? Always, always, start there. Next up, check the hocks.
          McDowell Racing Stables

          Home Away From Home

          Comment


          • #6
            Are you sure it is a bony problem and not some kind of muscle myopathy? If he has something like PSSM, EPSM, or RER, he could benefit from a high fat, low starch diet.

            My own horse has suffered from a lot of weird issues that we couldn't really figure out...mostly related to hind end (not so much back). In any event, a vet of mine finally suggested putting him on an EPSM diet to see if it helped, and it has done WONDERS for him. In fact, he just had chiropractic work yesterday, and my vet/chiro noted that his muscles felt the softest they have felt since she has been working on him. It does take a few months of the diet to make a difference, so if you try it, hang in there.

            My horse is a TB, approximately 16 hands (haven't sticked him since he was a four year old, so he might be slightly larger) and gets 1/2 lb. SafeChoice twice a day, and 2 cups of vegetable oil per day. I also supplement magnesium and vitamin E, use a Back on Track quarter sheet for riding, and get him chiropracted regularly.

            It might be something on the less expensive side to try to see if it helps him.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Thanks for the suggestions. Like I said, at the moment I would like to try and NOT pay more expensive practioners (and, while I know I am often odd man out, I do not believe in chiro, and neither does my vet. If I had the cash readily available, it would go to acupuncture).

              His feet are beautiful. He is mildly challenging to trim, but my farrier has worked hard to get him sorted out and he is very well balanced with good support. He is also in good shape in all his limbs (we just did flexions on him two weeks ago). His SI is good, too. Really his only two complaints are his back and his skin, which can feed into each other.

              FineAlready, interesting thoughts about the muscle myopathy. While we think the soreness is related to KS, both the vet and I (and his massage therapist) are in agreement that his PAIN is muscular (another reason why I don't think chiro will be beneficial). Having dealt with those types of horses, he doesn't LOOK like one. He is very muscular and has a great topline and is a very STRONG horse. He is also on a pretty high fat/high fiber/low starch diet (Fibergized Omega plus 8oz of Cocosoya oil). Definitely something to keep in mind. And a friend and I were just talking about magnesium for him....

              He lives in a Back on Track sheet.

              I will look into the gabapentin.

              The vet and I just chatted and he has a theory to try. Thankfully, the vet knows my guy very well, and realizes he is, for lack of a better term, an opinionated jerk about life, so we always have to take things he tells us with a grain of salt. He FEELS great working...he's just over the top right now when you touch him.

              He and I would both benefit if spring would hurry up and spring!!!
              Amanda

              Comment


              • #8
                yellowbritches, your horse as described is VERY much like my horse. He has always looked very good muscle-wise, and has always appeared fit and healthy. It is only in retrospect that I realized that his muscles were very HARD compared to how they are now.

                My horse is also extremely sensitive, touchy, etc. Tacking him up can be a challenge. Sometimes it is hard to tell if something hurts, is only mildly annoying, or he is just being a jerk. He once had a complete bucking fit walking to the arena because a single piece of hay was on top of his saddle pad hanging down touching his side. I could barely get him calmed down enough to remove it. He frequently objects to the way a cooler, or blanket, or halter, or whatever touches him. Sometimes just looking at him pisses him off. He has thrown himself to the ground more than once because of: bugs, too much breeze, too little breeze, etc. He is extremely offended twice a year when he sheds because I can't POSSIBLY understand how ITCHY he is. I have to remove him from the cross ties to curry him because I honestly fear he will fall while cross tied because of how overreactive he is to grooming when he is itchy. He breaks out in hives in the summer. He is allergic to sedation and has had head swelling reactions, and on and on.

                In summary: he is a chestnut Thoroughbred.

                Also, re: chiro. I never believed in it either until my horse was SO out that I had to have it done unless I wanted to ride with my saddle basically hanging off the right side of him for the rest of his life. It improved him so much that I have stuck with it. A rib out or similar can be hugely painful!

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by FineAlready View Post
                  yellowbritches, your horse as described is VERY much like my horse. He has always looked very good muscle-wise, and has always appeared fit and healthy. It is only in retrospect that I realized that his muscles were very HARD compared to how they are now.

                  My horse is also extremely sensitive, touchy, etc. Tacking him up can be a challenge. Sometimes it is hard to tell if something hurts, is only mildly annoying, or he is just being a jerk. He once had a complete bucking fit walking to the arena because a single piece of hay was on top of his saddle pad hanging down touching his side. I could barely get him calmed down enough to remove it. He frequently objects to the way a cooler, or blanket, or halter, or whatever touches him. Sometimes just looking at him pisses him off. He has thrown himself to the ground more than once because of: bugs, too much breeze, too little breeze, etc. He is extremely offended twice a year when he sheds because I can't POSSIBLY understand how ITCHY he is. I have to remove him from the cross ties to curry him because I honestly fear he will fall while cross tied because of how overreactive he is to grooming when he is itchy. He breaks out in hives in the summer. He is allergic to sedation and has had head swelling reactions, and on and on.

                  In summary: he is a chestnut Thoroughbred.

                  Also, re: chiro. I never believed in it either until my horse was SO out that I had to have it done unless I wanted to ride with my saddle basically hanging off the right side of him for the rest of his life. It improved him so much that I have stuck with it. A rib out or similar can be hugely painful!
                  HAHAHAHAH!!!! They must be twins, except my horse just THINKS he's chestnut.

                  Looking into mag, which the vet thinks is a good idea. Hopefully, it'll help some! So thankful this horse is such a freaking superstar....because he is frustrating dude!!!
                  Amanda

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by yellowbritches View Post
                    HAHAHAHAH!!!! They must be twins, except my horse just THINKS he's chestnut.

                    Looking into mag, which the vet thinks is a good idea. Hopefully, it'll help some! So thankful this horse is such a freaking superstar....because he is frustrating dude!!!
                    I may write a book about my horse someday. He's something. I wouldn't exactly call him a superstar because of how difficult it is do get him past certain things to even get him to the point of being able to show. On a good day, he is freaking amazing. Super smart, super capable, most brilliant horse I have ever owned. On a bad day, OMG, I barely want to deal with him at all.

                    Side note: he has an almost absurd preference for being ridden in the very early morning. Most other times are extremely offensive to him.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      So your vet believes in acupuncture but not chiro? I wonder why, could it be that the vet has no training in it and doesnt want to loose out on the money if another vet sees the horse and can actually help it?

                      It really is the basics of taking care of a back that is sore. It helps millions of horses. Just because your vet is ignorant about it doesn't mean you can't explore what might be best to help your horse. Just something to think about...

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        ^ Charming. FWIW, he also doesn't do acupuncture, but is keen on me to try it.

                        I have held my beliefs about chiro for a lot longer than I've known this vet (and, he's not the first vet I've used who hasn't been a big fan), and would be skeptical, AT BEST, even if he did feel it would be beneficial. I've used it, quite a bit, both on horses and myself, and I have never been impressed with the results. I have seen tremendous benefits from acupuncture, both in horses and myself, though, which is why I would spend the non-existent money there.

                        I DON'T believe it is the basics of taking care of a sore back, especially when we are talking MUSCULAR pain. If we don't address the sore, tight, tense muscles, whatever is "out" is just going to remain "out".

                        I would like this not to be a debate on chiro, in large part because I CAN NOT AFFORD IT. I am looking for things *I* can do for this horse without pouring more money into other practioners.
                        Amanda

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Personally, I'd skip the massage, acupuncture, and other therapies you are doing and have your vet shoot an x-ray. Very easy, can be done in the barn, not that expensive. If you find the issue, you can inject it directly. Depending on where and how advanced it is, you could get a year or more of comfort out of one injection.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Have you ever tried hot towels? It's kind of old skool, but I used to do it with my junior hunter that was chronically back sore. Basically, got a towel wet, put it in the microwave, and then put it on the horse's back prior to work (with a cooler over it). Just be careful that the towel isn't too hot in spots (it can get way hot in one place and cold in others if you don't reshuffle it in the microwave a few times).

                            You obviously remove the towel before riding.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I agree with skipping the acupuncture right now and get the xrays done. In one sentence you say it's not bone related because it's muscles so no chiro but the next you suspect KS. Far as I know KS is the spine which is bone and may benefit from chiro. It seems you are getting suggestions that are great but are turning them down. Ime a chiro is not that expensive. I don't know about acupuncture cost. What breed is he? I know you said saddles are fine, but have you had a saddle fitter out to double check the fit of the saddle you have been riding in? Have you had his hocks xrayed? If say he has a sore right hock he may not test positive to a flex test but if he is sore this will cause him to Try to protect that hock and shift his weight to the Left foreleg which will cause them to tense the back muscles and over time can cause tremendous back pain. Alot of back pain causes stem from hind limb soreness somewhere. Is he a low heel,
                              long toe horse? This can cause back pain also. IMO acupuncture treats a symptom not the problem. The first part is finding the issue which takes diagnostics and more money. You can put a band aid on it with massage and acupuncture and it may help for a minute but the problem will always come back unless you find the source of the issue. Don't get me wrong, my guys get massage therapy when in work but they have no issues, it's just like when we get a massage to relax the muscles some and maybe work out some soreness from hard work that week but it's not a fix if there's a serious problem.
                              Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Well, it is easy to spend someone else's money. OP said she is hitting a financial wall on treating/diagnosing this horse. I believe it. Have you guys priced shockwave lately? It's not cheap.

                                I do agree that if it were my horse I would probably try to find the money to take x-rays to determine whether it really is kissing spines or not. I think I would want that ruled in or out as the cause of pain. But, insidious back pain isn't easy to diagnose (nor is ANYTHING easy to diagnose in an extraordinarily temperamental horse, ask me how I know), so I can understand needing to stop the money bleed at some point...at least temporarily.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Thanks, FA.

                                  My vet bill, exam plus shockwave, was $731. I believe about $600 of that was shockwave and sedation...and the vet said a second round might be necessary. That's a week's pay for me.

                                  So, since no chiro vet I know thinks one treatment is enough (most want to see the horse at least once a week initially), and they are probably $125 a pop, that quickly adds up. As does the acupuncture (which, Toby being who is, may not be worth it on him, anyway, since he's needle shy and highly reactive).

                                  I'm not against x-raying his back, but rads add up and my vet (God bless him) does not feel they are necessary right now. And I see zero point in doing rads on any other limb when he has great flexions and moves well under tack, on the straight, and on the circle. His last x-rays were 2010.

                                  This is also not my first rodeo. I have a lot of experience dealing with backs and other soundness issues(my old horse was clinically diagnosed with KS by another vet- a mentor of the current vet and world class- not to mention many horses I've had in my care). I've been around the block many, many times and I am very familiar with various treatment protocols for KS and other back related issues (funny, I've never had chiro suggested for KS, and I've worked with several different vets with horses diagnosed with it).

                                  His feet are great. Again, I know good farrier work, and we've got it with these feet. His toes and heels are where they should be. He is well supported in the heels, as well, and well balanced, which is not a simple feat with him.

                                  I HAVE had success with shockwave + regular massage + smart warm up/cool down + liberal use of the magnetic blanket I have access to. And, this go round has helped (the performance issues I was experiencing are gone or greatly reduced), but this time around his back is not rock solid like it was last time.

                                  The ONLY idea I have soundly dismissed is chiro, and in large part due to financially not being able to consider that level of treatment right now. Everything else that has been suggested I am either already doing or taking under consideration.

                                  Thank you to those who have offered me the less expensive "in home" ideas that I was looking for. FA, I kinda like the hot towel idea....I wonder if he'd hit the roof, being who he is, or if he'd actually like it!
                                  Amanda

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Like Finealready said

                                    I would have never believed in a chiro for my horse until I took her.

                                    Be open minded. Try a chiro for a few times for an adjustment. If it doesn't work, then you know.

                                    FWIW my horse had no issues from her back, she short strided on one of her hind legs. It effected her gait, and attitude.

                                    She is fine now. But I will take her back to the chiro if it happens again. My chiro is a horse and dog/cat vet. Endurance vet too.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by FineAlready View Post
                                      Basically, got a towel wet, put it in the microwave, and then put it on the horse's back prior to work (with a cooler over it).
                                      I remember this. We'd use some sort of liniment on the skin (not for a fussy horse though), then hot towel, then garbage bag over top to trap the heat, followed by wool cooler or quarter sheet.

                                      Also, I've heard of people using large heating pads/small heated blankets to get a similar effect. Ideally, use before and after riding.

                                      (For my previous fussy OTTB chestnut, I would spray Sore No More or a liniment/water dilution on his back, then BOT blanket, then wool cooler. He looooved it.
                                      A quick tutorial on interval training: Conditioning your horse for eventing

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I would not bother with xrays. If xrays do show some sign of KS, it doesn't really matter that much if you aren't going to explore treatments. I personally know of several horses that have been diagnosed with KS. I am not a big believer in that diagnoses as every single one of the horses I know is still showing and doing very well with chiro, acupuncture and proper riding. Those are treatments often done when a horse has a sore back so it doesn't really matter what the xrays show as long as the horse gets better with treatment. If you think $700 is expensive to treat a horse you may want to just put him in pasture and move on.

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