Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

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Back Pain
Q: I have owned my seven year old gelding for nearly a year and have changed his saddle twice in that time, as has altered shape.

Until recently there have been no problems however that last time I rode he seemed less energetic than usual and tried to lower his head at ever opportunity. I asked the owner of the livery yard to check his back and he noticed that my horse appeared uncomfortable, with some tension in the muscles. What should I do now?

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A: You need to be careful when dealing with back pain such as this. It is most likely that your horse has muscle damage in his back as a result of difficulties with the fit of his saddle or an injury sustained while out in the field.

If you do not manage this problem correctly the situation will get worse. There is also a chance that the problem could be deeper than a muscle -related one, and involve the bony parts of the spine. You should not ride your horse until he is completely better.

Call you vet immediately and ask him to look at your horse in order to assess the damage. Anti-inflammatories can be used to reduce the pain and soreness, and also speed recovery. In addition, I treat such conditions with herbs and use ginger, frankincense, devils claw and prickly ash. I also use antioxidants to limit muscle damage, and magnesium products to improve the availability of this mineral to the muscles.

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