Saddle related equine back pain, muscle condition and behaviour

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Back pain is prevalent in horses and contributes to poor performance, with poorly fitting saddles associated with thoracolumbar asymmetry and back pain. Our aim was to describe frequency of back and saddle related issues by horse owners and behavioural responses to being saddled/ridden via an online survey. Frequency analysis identified 65% (n=2,927) of owners had observed negative behavioural responses to saddling/girthing and 30% (n=1,339) negative behavioural responses to mounting. A small proportion of horses (<15%) had experienced abnormal lumps/filling, skin trauma or coat discolouration under the saddle area with 34% (n=1,542) observing horses being tender to touch there. Approximately 62.1% (n=2,811) had observed muscle improvement in the saddle area in the last two seasons, while 9.8% (n=445) had experienced muscular deterioration. Most respondents (65.4%, n=2,959) reported their horses were symmetrical with similar muscling on both sides of the spine. 32.7% (n=1,489) reported their horse to be slightly asymmetrical; 4% noticed this more on the right-side. Binary logistic regression (cold-backed: yes/no) identified ten variables significantly associated with an increased likelihood of a horse being self-reported as ‘cold-backed’, including using the same saddle on different horses, behavioural responses to girthing, tenderness to touch under the saddle, behavioural responses to mounting, presence of non-specific low-grade lameness not visited by veterinarian, muscle condition and use of a musculoskeletal therapist (all P<0.001) and discipline (P=0.012). Negative behavioural responses saddling/girthing and mounting were commonly reported and as pain is likely to be underlying these responses, this must be addressed to improve horse welfare
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022
Event11th International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology - Uppsala, Sweden
Duration: 26 Jun 20221 Jul 2022


Conference11th International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology
Abbreviated titleICEEP2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Saddle related equine back pain, muscle condition and behaviour'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this