How To Manage Horses With Back Pain

The 2 goals of an equine back treatment plan are breaking the pain cycle and increasing strength, function, and stability.
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How To Manage Horses With Back Pain
Back pain is an extremely common and performance-limiting problem in horses. | Photo: iStock
Back pain is an extremely common and performance-limiting problem in horses. When managing it, veterinarians have two main goals: stopping the pain and strengthening the horse.

Erin Contino, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVSMR, assistant professor of Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, described treatment strategies and the science behind them during the 2020 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held virtually.

Breaking the Pain Cycle

After a veterinarian makes an accurate diagnosis of what’s causing a horse’s back pain—based on history, the physical and clinical exam, and imaging—he or she can choose from a variety of modalities to control it. Contino listed some of the most common:

Focal injections. The main injectables veterinarians use for back pain are corticosteroids. “They’re potent anti-inflammatories, and I find them to be one of most effective ways to get ahead in the game of treating back pain,” said Contino

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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