How to Prevent Spinal Problems

The proper functioning of the back and neck is an important basis for maintaining the animal’s performance. For this reason, health care should be high on the agenda of any owner.

Confirmation And Build

When selecting your animal for a particular discipline, you should always pay attention to the it’s build. Many breeds have been selectively bred for years to achieve certain goals and are therefore suitable for particular disciplines such as dressage, jumping or western riding in the horse, or agility, hunting or gundog-work in the dog.


Massage encourages circulation and metabolism within the muscles, promoting the supply of nutrients and removal of toxins. Massage relaxes tense muscles enabling them to function better. It can also promote healing in muscular injuries by loosening muscle fiber adhesions and increasing the flow of fluid and toxins from the tissue.


Animals have an increasing tendency to subluxate and damage the spine if ligaments, tendons and muscles have not been developed to cope with the demands they are placed under. Interval training, suitable warm-up procedures and variety in training can help optimally condition sport animals.

Equipment/Saddle and Leashes

Ensure that your saddle fits your horse. If a saddle fits correctly, no thick padded saddle cloth/numnah or additional pads are necessary. Check your saddle regularly to see whether the flocking is evenly worn, there is asymmetry of the panels or tree and that the saddle tree is intact. Any dampness under the saddle area after riding should be even in distribution. On the dog, make sure that your leashes fit the dog preferring broad and soft materials.

Shoes and Nails

It is practically impossible for a poorly shod horse or a horse with badly fitting shoes to have or maintain a spine that functions properly. Heels that are too high or underrun, toes as well as toenails in the dog that are too long or uneven hoof wall length can negatively affect the mobility and posture of the animal. For the limb and spinal joints to function properly, it is necessary for the animal to be correctly trimmed or shod.

Training Aids

Many horses are forced into a desired frame with side-reins, martingales, draw-reins and other auxiliary reins. Used correctly, some of these aids can help in training; however, in the wrong hands they do the opposite. If a restriction in the spine already exists, these aids can make the problem even worse. Continual jerking and pulling on the lead rope or chain, especially with young horses, can lead to tension in the poll and neck area. In dogs make sure you minimize the timeframe of using special training aids like gentle leader or Haltie to relax the neck.


Most sport horses and some racing dogs are still kept in stables with limited space in which to move about and turnout is often restricted. The more time an animal spends in the stable without freedom of movement, the worse its coordination becomes. Its natural balance suffers, leading to an increased danger of injury. Bucking and rolling and moving freely are the animal’s natural means of mobilizing its spine. Make sure your animal gets enough exercise.