Ask the Vet – How to help a horse with a sore back
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Ask the Vet – How to help a horse with a sore back

October 21, 2019

DAN: “How to help a horse
with sore back muscles– alternative therapies,
stall rest, exercise.” DR LYDIA GRAY: Right. The first thing I would say is
you got to work with your vet and make sure that your horse
has sore back muscles, right? My friend and colleague
and Olympic veterinarian– and I think he’s also the
chair of the USEF Drugs and Medications Committee. DAN: Oh. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah,
pays to know good people. DAN: Yeah, seriously. DR LYDIA GRAY: Dr. Kent Allen–
he has this great quote, and it’s, “Absent a
diagnosis, surgery is trauma, medicine is poison, and
alternative medicines are witchcraft.” DAN: Huh. DR LYDIA GRAY: So his
point is, get a diagnosis. DAN: Yeah. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah,
because a sore back can be a primary
condition, or it could be a secondary condition. DAN: Symptom of something else. DR LYDIA GRAY:
That’s right, and you can work on the back all day. But if you don’t treat
the underlying cause the back will
continue to be sore. DAN: And sometimes
I think people feel that they’ll
spend less money by, “Oh, I’ll just do this or that.” DR LYDIA GRAY: It’s
the other way around. DAN: Yes. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. DAN: You end up spending more– DR LYDIA GRAY: And time. DAN: Yes, over time, versus
just spending the money, finding out what it is,
and then treating that– DR LYDIA GRAY: That’s right. DAN: –and being done it. DR LYDIA GRAY: That’s right. The other things
that are important is there is, on our website
in the Horse Health Library, a really good article
called “Horse Back Pain.” And you can find it under the
joint and lameness category. And it says– there’s a quote. “The majority of back
problems are bony in nature. But they’re always combined
with soft tissue damage.” So if you’ve ever
had a back problem, it may have started
with a bony– like a herniated
disk or something, something with your spine. But then your muscle goes
into spasm, all right? That’s the issue. DAN: Where you can’t
move your neck. DR LYDIA GRAY: Because once
your muscles go into spasm, it doesn’t matter almost if
you fix the bony underlying problem. You’ve got to release
that muscle tension. DAN: Yeah. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. So we’ve brought a
couple of things. There’s that one. There’s a Back on Track here. There’s the Rambo. DAN: So yes. So we have the Rambo
Ionic Stable Sheet. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah,
and this is the– DAN: The Benefab. DR LYDIA GRAY: Benefab
Rejuvenate SmartScrim, ceramic and magnetic. So there’s a couple
of these that can help you or help your horse
when you’ve got that diagnosis and you know what the
primary problem is. And these might get you
back to performance, help you rehabilitate
the horse in getting back to where you need to go. So the bony in
nature– like, what do you think of when you
think of a bony in nature back problem? Kissing spines, you know. DAN: Yeah, absolutely. DR LYDIA GRAY: So
you got to make sure that that’s not going on. But there are some other
things that maybe you don’t think of that can
also lead to back pain, like saddle fit. DAN: I was just going to say. DR LYDIA GRAY: OK, yeah. Rider imbalance– so the
saddle can be balanced, but the rider can
not be balanced, even certain disciplines. Poor conformation, lack
of adequate shoeing– like the shoeing and
trimming is not quite right. They’re not conditioned
for the work they’re doing. Therefore, they get sore. And then even a poorly
fitting blanket– you’ve heard the ones that
pull down on the withers. And they wear them all
winter, and then they’re sore. DAN: Well, it’s like, if
you wear something that’s like too small and
you can’t move in it, it just stiffens everything up. DR LYDIA GRAY: So as far
as other therapy options, ones that your vet
might recommend as you’re working
through the treatment, they can inject steroids into
painful joints in the area just like they do for your
legs, your hocks, whatever. Non-steroidals like banamine,
Equioxx might be prescribed. There’s muscle relaxants to
help break that cycle of spasm. There’s something
called mesotherapy. And this is where it’s a device. It’s tiny injections into
the middle layer of the skin. It’s a pain dampening technique. DAN: Huh. DR LYDIA GRAY: And so the middle
layer is called the mesoderm. So then it’s mesotherapy. DAN: OK. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah,
so that’s common. And then the alternative
therapies, I think, would be like chiropractic,
acupuncture, massage. DAN: Massage. DR LYDIA GRAY: There’s
therapeutic ultrasound and all that. There is some
hormone therapy that can help improve muscle tone– DAN: OK. DR LYDIA GRAY: –if lack
of tone is the issue. DAN: Would that be like for more
senior type horses generally? DR LYDIA GRAY: No,
no, not necessarily. It all depends on what
the primary issue is. Shockwave therapy can be used. And then I think
she mentions rest. Like, she says stall
rest or exercise. I found an article, and
the title says it all. It says, time heals,
but good care helps. Layups benefit from an
accurate diagnosis– healing, nutrition, proper
therapy, and patients. 30 years ago, if
you broke your leg– this is a quote from Kent
Allen– you sat on your butt until it healed. Today, you’re in therapy
almost immediately. DAN: Yes. DR LYDIA GRAY: Right? They keep you
moving, and they tell you, even with human back
pains, the worst thing to do is to rest or lay in a bed. DAN: Because then everything
stiffens up even more. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah, you
get up and move around. It’s the same in horses. But again, and I really feel
like I’m harping on this– you’ve got to have
that diagnosis. You’ve got to make sure that
what you’re dealing with is something that’s going
to be OK with movement. DAN: Yeah. DR LYDIA GRAY: And then let
your vet, who may refer you to a rehabilitation– a vet board certified
in rehabilitation– let your vet set
the program of what needs to happen, like what kind
of movement and for how long and how many days in a row. DAN: Because for some things,
work might be beneficial. DR LYDIA GRAY: Exactly. DAN: Other things, work
might be detrimental. DR LYDIA GRAY: Exactly. And some things, activities,
you want to do every day. And some you want to skip a day. So there needs to be a program
developed by your veterinarian and maybe a team of
health care professionals. DAN: And I do love that
you mentioned saddle fit because that is one
where I think we all make the mistake where we
just put the saddle on, assume that’s good. And over time of having
that incorrect fit, it does create some issues– DR LYDIA GRAY: If
the horse’s back changes, the saddle
changes, the rider changes. So yeah. DAN: We do have actually
a bunch of videos that we just filmed for
Ask the Saddle Fitter. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah,
they’re very, very good. DAN: They’re very great. So definitely check those out. We’ll put some
links in description so you guys can kind of take
a look at those as a resource. DR LYDIA GRAY: The
last thing I want to mention before we forget
is one of my favorite books. It’s maybe my second
favorite book. It’s by Dr. Hilary Clayton,
who I’ve mentioned before, and Narelle Stubbs. It’s called Activate
Your Horse’s Core– Unmounted Exercise
For Dynamic Mobility– DAN: My horse and
I are both having to do some core exercise. DR LYDIA GRAY:
–Strength and Balance. They found exercises. They’ve proven by research. They’ve done– these are
published studies that certain, the carrot-baited stretches, can
not only stretch out the horse but strengthen muscles that
might be unused and un– horse just forgets
they have them, like many people do, and
don’t use their core. So we get the horse. We remind them, you
have these muscles. Use them. And then it helps them with
kissing spine or other back problems. DAN: There are some
really cool exercises out there for
horses to do, carrot stretches being one of them,
the pole work, things like that to– DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. DAN: –engage certain
muscle groups. So– DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. DAN: –absolutely. Well, hopefully
that helps you out. That’s a lot of
great information. But definitely
get your diagnosis and then go from there. And I hope you guys get
back to riding soon.

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