Horse people...How to procede from here???


11 Years
Jun 18, 2008
Asheboro NC
So I need some clear thoughts. I have a 12yr old pinto/arab that I just ADORE! Have had her for about 18 months. When I bought her she would walk and BARELY jog. She had horrific awful scar on left rear leg down to the bone. took me about 2 moths to get her to the point of letting me pick her back feet. Also had to find a blacksmith with a gentle touch that she likes.

We trail ride a lot in rocky hilly terrain. We show in some local shows (4 a year) and do a parade and a games show.This is my second year going thru this cycle with her. Mare is awesome. NO spook, well behaved, not hot, and a joy to ride. She is AWESOME in obstacle classes and will let me do ANYTHING on her, ring spearing, potato race, costume class with really crazy costumes, she is a gem!!

So first year out I worked on the basics, walk/halt a half halt, trotting, upward trasitions, downward trasitions. When doing ring worl LOTS of figure 8's and serpentines as she gets bored. With all the hill work on trail and circles etc, I got her to the point of walking, jogging or trotting, lenghtening these gaits, half halts and backing up.

Now last Oct I had had her about 6 months and had set a goal for us to be able to do canter classes by NEXT october which would be now. SO over the summer I did work on it. She wouldn't even canter before now, i ask and she bucks and then its a 50/50 shot of me being able to smooth out the cmater OR she just bucks, canters a few strides, bucks again.

So I did my tried and true trick I tried UPHILL in 2point. SHE STILL bucked!! So I take her to daughters trainer this week and ask her to ride and see if she has better luck or can give me some direction.So games show was saturday so we truck up on thur to take advantage of trainers nice ring. I ride thur and mare is wonderful, bendy, soft, fluid.Trainer says wow she is really working thru her topline. She felt fabulous, so I close my outside leg, cluck and say canter and mare pinns her ears,bucks and canters about 5 strides, bucks again and then quits. Then she of course is no longer feeling fabulous and it takes me about 10 minutes to get it back and mare is really anticipating me askeing her to canter again which I never did.

SO friday trainer asks and mare drops her head and gives the BIGGEST buck I have ever seen other than bucking broncs. Never could get mare to canter more than about 5 strides. THEN she is clearly lame on what I thought was left front but dd's trainer thought was right rear.

SO yesterday is the games show and I give her 2 grams of bute as I am sure she hurts. Wonder of wonders she is sound, AND we show and she will canter for me in both directions with NO BUCK!!

SO WHERE or where do I go from here?? Obviously something hurts when she canters. She is so much better at everything else, I am thinking I am going to keep working on strenghtening her with the hills etc and if no better in 6 months THEN I am thinking a vet work up at state I guess. Just not sure what this means. no but buck at canter, bute all is well. UGH any advice, and don't say dump the mare cuz that ain't happening.
Will she canter on long line or in a round pen? If you've got an arena to use that is big enough (can't really go too big so long as you know how to work the horse) then start working canter there or introduce her to lunging. Then you can figure out if the buck is against you or out of pain and work on getting her to find a comfortable way to canter without worrying about a rider. It may be more of a need for stretching than for strength work. You can also use side reins to keep her on the bit and round irregardless of how she acts up. There will be no human hands to get out of position. If she starts bucking you can just keep pushing her on the ground until she settles in to a nice canter without her breaking stride while you collect yourself again. If you can accomplish that without her having issues of lameness the next step is to set up cavalleti. Start with a pole or board on the ground and work up to no more than 2'. If a horse is gonna buck they'll buck over cavalleti or break the canter. Once they learn how to balance a canter over that then sit on her while someone else works her. Finally move on to you holding the reins and then unclipping the lunge line or taking control in the arena.
Arkane THANK YOU!! don;t know why that hadn't occurred to me and she does canter/gallop in the pasture sound, with no buck I hadn;t even put that in the equation. Yes she will lunge , but I quit doing it once we were doing so well walk trot.
I don't feel that if there's a cantering problem under saddle, that cantering ok on longe, in pasture, is a guarantee of anything particular, at least not for absolute sure.

It's possible it's simply that the horse has done very little cantering under saddle, and just was not used to it. Muscles get tightened up and joints get stiff without cantering.

Or.....Cantering under saddle can make a lameness show more than cantering when no rider is up. Horses quite often 'look great' when running around loose and are lame under the rider because the legs have to work harder with the rider up. So riding the horse is more likely to make a lameness show.

You also said after one session that included canter, in fact if I got it right it was immediately after the cantering, the horse seemed lame(at the trot?), you thought in the foreleg, the trainer thought in the opposite hind leg.

With a more obvious lameness, the horse's head bobs up and down at the trot, normally the horse's head is supposed to hold fairly steady at the trot, rhythmic bobbing of the head usually means lameness.

Less obvious lameness is hard to see at the trot. But a hitchy hip motion might be seen with a lame hind leg, or a shorter step, or less flexing and reaching of that hock. Usually in the hind legs, the lameness shows itself 'one joint up', so that if it's in the ankle or below, the hock will seem to move differently. If it's in the hock, the stifle or hip or back will seem to bump up and down oddly. So many people often conclude the lameness is in a hip or stifle. It may be, but it can be deceptive; it may be in the hock.

If lameness disappeared immediately, it might not have had anything to do with bute. A little bit of bute one day doesn't do much, it takes a while to provide any effect. Bute doesn't have any real effect on a big arthritis, especially if it's already advanced some.

So my guess is, 'I dunno'. I would watch out for any more lameness. If there was no more lameness for a few weeks, I'd start cantering the horse every ride, so she can build up her muscles and stretch them.

I think cantering is a good part of a training program, it's good for stretching and building muscles.
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Have you done the obvious things like teeth floating and saddle fit? Sometimes a pain issue will happen at one gait but not another. Poor saddle fit may also lead to mysterious lameness.

Have you tried lunging her before you ride?

If she bucks when you are riding her, hold one hand up high, the other down low. You will effectively be creating a "triangle" between your hands, the reins and her mouth and it will be harder for her to get her head down. My mare bucks occasionally at a canter, usually out in the open due to high spirits.
Welsummer it was definitly the trot that I saw her lame and I saw it as everytime that left front struck she bobbed and seemed to lurch, but I have a good eye and i fully acknowledge that you can FEEL more than you see, so maybe trainer is right it is right rear.

When I bought this mare dd's trainer was kind of agast as she was such gamble as I only walk/trotted her in a HUGE HUGE field. But Trainers is dd's not mine. I did lunge her before I bought her and she did canter. But her trot was more of a jog, I had to work her up to lengthening and increasing to a trot.

When DD went to summer camp LAST year I brought my mare to use her ring. DD's trainer said when I tried to canter then that mare probably had issues with her stiffles. Last year she was HIGHLY resistant to canter under saddle. Like would trot forever and not even take a stride to the canter. Trainer said you may never get her to canter. I heard but did not accept.

This year mare is soo much better at everything that even the canter is better. She will buck and canter or half the time not buck and just canter. Last year she would never do that. I just felt that slow and steady she would get better. Now I am not sure.

Wellsummer I gather that you would say, if not lame at trot, canter her every ride and she just needs to get over it. A dressage friend has told me that but I am disinclined to agree with her because she has lost her last 3 dressage horses to lameness, mostly from over work/use, and she is fully of the oppinion, work them till you can't. Mare has so far improved so I just figured time and work would do it.

I would LOVE to canter, and had set a goal of doing the canter classes this year. I can't enter the classes if she bucks and quits. Now I have tried to just apply leg and smooth it out but that works half the time. The other half she just quits, and then I am back to canter transition and a probable buck. We have cantered about a dozen times when she willingly just went into for me. Mostly on trail when she was feeling good.

I would say many older people don't canter because they are afraid of the possibility of falling. I have seen this myself. I am not going to give anyone else a hard time about it. I would simply say don't have a horse you are afraid of. THat in fact was why I bought this mare, because I never got that vibe from her, and even with this it is not GET OFF I AM DONE. If I don't continue to ask her to canter she is fine.

I worry If I ask her to canter too much/ too soon, or just make her keep doing it, then if she has an underlying issue, it will make it worse. I also worry that If I gave her bute say 3 times a week before a ride I plan to canter in, I could also do further damage if there is any. I always got the feeling that she needed to stretch the scar tissue from whatever horrible thing happened before me. That was why she was able to improve and lenghten her stride. But that is just my GUT feeling, which usually serves me well.
chicken wrangler
her teeth were floated in April. I ride her in a cushy county competitor or COrbette merkur. And they clearly do NOT come down on her withers and I can see clear thru the gullet. Also when I take saddle off she has sweat marks that show equal pressure all down the flap. SO it makes good contact. no pinching or gaping.

As to your triangle thing, have not heard that, i'll try. I find myself automatically pulling UP with both hands, hard to stop myself from doing that. I DID know the trick of raising your insde rein about 2" higher than outside to help get a lead. Either by rising your own shoulder or helping the horse to raise his, that often works.

No as of yet I have not lunged before riding because she is so steady eady, not spooky and will listen well. That is one of the things I love about her, she isn't even UP when we go to a strange new show. I apply leg she goes I ask her to slow or stop, she does. So lunging her seemed pointless before.
Have you had her checked by a vet or equine chiropractor? There may be something that neither you nor a trainer would find that they might. One place that I've heard horses will sometimes have a problem that most people don't think to check is in the poll area.

Another thing to think about is it may be remembered pain. You mentioned that she had an awful scar on the one leg. Do you know any of her history, how she got the scar, etc? If she was in pain b4 while cantering, while she may not be now, just the anticipation can make her act up.
Once you rule out the pain/vet/back issues (an equine chiropracter would be a good idea. A gal I know had a Paso Fino who was very *itchy* became much better after an adjustment), I would take her in a round pen and free lunge her just to see how she moves. At the very least, voice train her to a canter before trying it under saddle.

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