On & Off Again Back Issues

Hi, just looking for suggestions for possible issues that would lead to back pain. My horse is 11 and has had notable struggles going supple and struggles a lot in the canter, especially the left lead which typically results in lots of bucking as well as struggling to maintain the correct lead behind. However this has also happened in trot work as well. I’ve checked for kissing spine via x-ray and ultrasound 3 times, the saddle fits well, scoped for ulcers & stomach was perfect. This issue is actually reoccurring and has happened in summer of 2016, spring/summer and later fall of 2018, early 2019, and now fall of 2020 to present day.

I have pulled her out of strenuous work for the past couple weeks because I feel there isn’t a good reason to ride when dealing with physical discomfort. However before this we were doing regular cavaletti lunges & also lunges through low grids as well as hillwork. The actual riding aspect has never been stressful, I typically capped my rides at 30-35 minutes max. On the lunge line, I noticed that the head/neck was being carried outwards, this also was noticeable during long lining but to a lesser degree.

I’m honestly at a loss as additionally, I’ve had countless bodyworkers out (massage therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturist), joint specialist, numerous general vets, surgeon, corrective shoeing, different kinds of injections, and nutritionist consultations. Conformation seems to be good, I bought my horse in 2015 as a rising six year old with the intention of 3rd level but these medical issues seem to be confusing my vets and I’m concerned as I’m fairly mindful of not overworking.

Could SI soreness be a possibility? And even though your saddle fits, have you tried any other saddles? I’ve heard from some people that even though their saddles fit the horse preferred something different.

Another thought is to check hoof balance.


Yes, we checked SI and didn’t find anything unfortunately. My saddle fitter helped me find a saddle that both fit & that my horse liked thankfully although I may add one of the very thin ThinLine pads. I’ll talk to my farrier about hoof balance, for reference my horse is barefoot.

Video would be really helpful.

Any reproductive workup? PSSM?

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Hm I haven’t looked into anything with reproduction. Neither with PSSM as no issue of muscle atrophy at all. However I’ll ask my vet about these, she has brought up the Adequan route a few times but I’m nervous about injecting it myself.

Unfortunately I don’t have any recent video, the only things my vet has seen have been in person.

Do you have any clinics near you that specialize in diagnosing and treating lameness issues that your vet could refer you to? I know how frustrating it is to deal with issues where you can’t pinpoint the cause.

Another possibility is if your area has a farrier association. My farrier belongs to various associations that offer clinics where the vets and farriers look at horses with specific issues and help diagnose and manage the condition.

I hope you are able to get some answers soon and find relief for your horse!

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I have had a few PSSM horses without muscle wasting. We’re they lightly muscled and struggle in the work like you say. After extensive vet work ups and bone scans etc. we did diet changes and testing.

All improved on one of two diets. The high fat and/or high protein diet. How high depends on work demands and each individual horse.

Add high fat to the diet for a week or two and if you notice an improvement that maintains for a month or so you most likely don’t need the high protein.

If you see improvement for a week or so then a back slide add the high protein diet to the high fat diet.

You horse may have a mild case which is a good sign of being able to manage the issue with diet change.

There are additional requirements besides fat and protein. Mag, salt, balanced nutrients, and reduction of carbs and starch’s. Also soy played a role for one of ours.

None of ours became upper level horses in their jobs but were comfortable with their jobs at liver levels. Under 3rd level or around novice level eventing.

It is a heartbreaking issue to deal with and very frustrating for all involved. Best of luck.


Also there are a lot of support groups on Facebook and with different vet hospitals that are doing the research.

And of course there are people fighting about this variant and that variant and proof or no proof… try not to get fussed in that and just try the diets. If the diet helps who cares why. Testing before or after diet changes will not change the outcome of the tests.

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with a mare I would wonder about cystic Ovary pain

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Yes, I’m about an hour or so away from Tufts! That’s where our surgeon is based out of, we have gone there 5 times for varying reasons so I might call them up again. I’ll ask my farrier about this, thanks!

If you’re in an area with Lyme, I would check for that. It has repeatedly caused pretty significant back pain for one of my horses.


I switched to a high protein diet last year but I’ll definitely ask my vet about PSSM and how to go about diagnosis!

I’ll add that to the list, I initially wasn’t worried about it because I haven’t found any ticks, normally it’s quite noticeable when there’s a tick on my horse but it won’t hurt to cross another thing off the list.

I’d get some images of the the neck as well.


If you are in an area with deer ticks (carriers of Lyme), you may not see the ticks before they’ve fed and fallen off. They are tiny little beggers. You might miss them, especially in the fall, when the winter coat is coming in and the ticks get up into various skin folds.

Good luck on a diagnosis

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Fingers crossed you can get some answers!


Check hind suspensories. My mare has a strain that caused back pain but no other overt lameness. It took a long time of guessing to find it, and the compensation caused the back pain.


Ah thank you very interesting, I’ll definitely add it to the list!