The nature of the horse – The back

Due to evolution, the back of the horse has changed a lot. The horse evolved from a leaves and fruit-eating forest animal with an arched back, short neck, short muzzle, paws, short legs and a long tail to a steppe animal with a long skull, long legs, fused toe bones – developed to toe walk and a straight back. With the evolution the horse also developed a very sensitive biological system in which the structure, movement and functions of the horse’s back play a major role. Due to its complex functionality, the horse is often affected by back damage.

Back damages

Contractions and atrophies are unfortunately the most common damages of the horse’s back, but also strains and overexpansion of the sensitive spinous process ligaments. If a malfunction occurs in the ligaments caused by contractions in the back musculature, the vertebral joints block which can cause vertebral damage. Local pain combined with swelling and degeneration of the musculature are among the corresponding symptoms. The horse shows not only a defensive demeanour when it feels local pressure by the brush when grooming, putting the saddle on and while riding, but especially dysplasia in the muscles and a restricted and crooked gait.

Causes of back damage

Back injuries can have different causes. An inharmonious conformation, accidents, wrong saddle fitting and wrong training are among the most common causes. However, scientists and veterinarians have also done researches on birth trauma and genetics. Depending on how the foal is born, for example, a birth trauma can occor by a too narrow birth canal. Minimal bone shifts and mental stress can manifest until the horse is fully grown up.

Organic problems, such as stomach acidity, cause spasms in the back muscles. General dysfunctions of the organs lead to limitations of the work in their fascial tissue, which is connected to the back musculature, which contracts in this case. Dysfunctions of the jaw-skull-back muscle connection can also cause a problem in the back. For example, in the case of incorrect feeding, such as too little roughage, too short digesting and  chewing phases shuts down the jaw activity. A limitation in the activity of this musculature and the hyoid  bone restricts the movement and thus the musculature of the back.

Anatomy of the horse’s back