What Injuries Can a Horse Sustain From Pulling Back?

What kind of physical damage can be done when a horse pulls back violently? A sports medicine practitioner weighs in.
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horse pulling back
A change in posture or gait or lack of desire to move would warrant an examination by your veterinarian. | Photo: iStock

Q.Recently I witnessed a tied horse pull back very violently. I’m wondering what kind of physical damage a horse can do to himself when he pulls back. What kinds of physical injuries could be sustained? Any spinal column nerve damage? Muscle damage and, if so, which muscles could be affected? How can you reduce a horse’s pain after a violent pull back? Should you ever call the vet?

—Laura Ponter, via e-mail

A.Horses can create amazing forces, especially when in flight mode. In the scenario questioned, the main areas of stress are through the spinal column—especially the neck

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Scott Anderson, DVM, graduated from Virginia/Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1984 as part of its inaugural class. A New England native and a Richmond, Virginia, area resident for more than 30 years, Anderson joined Woodside Equine Clinic as an associate and then purchased the practice in 1989. He has a special interest in equine sports medicine and lameness.

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