View Full Version : Downhill/hind end issue.

May. 26, 2011, 02:09 PM
As the title says. One of my endurance horses is making me a bit crazy. He's never been a 'good' downhill horse. He's fine on inclines, but steep stuff causes issues for him - last weekend he came up with a grade 2 lameness on his back left and I feel.. it's due to the downhill issue. So I'm at a bit of a loss here. Lameness is definitely higher up, he's already totally sound again btw. (Ride was on Sunday)

Essentially, on steep downhills, he pussy foots his way down - not sure how to explain it. Rather then sitting back and using his hind end to pace himself, he loads his front end horribly and then tip toes down in a way that completely odd - and very different then any of my other high mileage horses (this guy is moving into 100s) except for if I can't resolve this, there's no point, he'll just lame himself all the time. I've tried to keep his head up and so forth - but he tends to ignore that and bogs down on me.

We have nothing but mountains here, so I can't figure out why he just doesn't seem to have learned how to manage himself on steep parts.

Now the other part is, he does have a weaker loin then I've ever been happy with, so I do spend a lot of time on arena work, keeping his back and hind end built up, but clearly something still isn't working right:/

After Sunday, I took him home, he got a massage and chiro and by tuesday he was right as rain.

Most of the strain appears in his deep digital flexors, - which is why I figure it has something to do with the way he moves downhill. flatter rides, he's 100 percent sound --anything with a lot of steep down hill work, I pray we make it through final vet check:/

Love this horse, but I'm getting to my wits end with him - everything about him is great--awesome PRs etc -- except this issue (which of course is a BIGGY) So I'm trying for the life of me to figure out-- how does one go about teaching a horse to carry themselves down steep hills correctly ?

Auventera Two
May. 26, 2011, 02:23 PM
I haven't been on the board in a long time but just signed on to look for the latest EHV outbreak info and saw your post.

Can you post photos of hooves and limbs? Hind toes that are too long with a delayed breakover cause a lot of trouble for horses in the hind end.

One of my endurance friends was having trouble with his horse coming up lame on the hind end at the end of 50s. By the next morning the horse would be sound again. This horse has been pulled for lameness, and a few rides he has barely squeaked by with a grade 2 lameness.

I took a good look at his feet and told him I'd trim off a good 1" of toe if it were me. He had his farrier cut the toes way back, get better breakover on the shoe, and the horse hasn't had a lame step since. (Ok, to clarify - he got a new farrier since the old one would not trim the toes any shorter.)

We just rode a sloppy wet 50 this weekend together with deep mud and long stretches of really bad footing and some hills. His horse came through very strong and with no soreness at all. This was a significant improvement for him and his first competition endeavor since reducing the toes quite significantly.

There are also a few cases of horses I now trim that used to be consistently "off" in the hind end and when I trimmed toes back fairly short, the horse has no more trouble. My QH mare is one such case. If her hind toes get too long, you can definitely tell it in her gait, especially going down hill. She tends to grow a lot of toe on the hinds so I have to keep a close eye on her.

Also in my experience, even when people "think" their horse has short toes, there is almost always more toe to cut off. I'd be inclined to get really good radiographs and have your farrier make sure the toes are as short as they can go. You might ask Ron Alders on www.horseshoes.com (http://www.horseshoes.com) for comments. He has some very good photographs and explanations with regard to trimming to the center of articulation for soundness.

No, I wouldn't just go willy nilly trimming too short and making the horse sore. I would try to get the radiographs and trim to the films to do it accurately and safely.

May. 26, 2011, 02:43 PM
Ill get some pictures ( not today though) it's raining cats dogs and wolves outside atm and I've been soaking wet and cold already today for a training ride early this morning:)

The hoof angle might be something to think about - hmm. He's got huge feet, and I've always felt they might be too huge.. if it ever stops raining HA! I'll get him cleaned up and get some pictures.

May. 27, 2011, 10:31 AM
How old is this horse? A friends horse moves like this and he has arthritic hocks. I adopted a mare who was a 7 yr old and because of her rough prior life she already had hock issues. With supplements she was able to compete comfortably for some time but had an early retirement at 11 when it showed that she was uncomfortable.

Has your horse had flexion tests or xrays done. Just a thought. I do agree that poorly trimmed feet could possibly be the cause but I'd really check out those hocks. Downhill work is typically the first place you'll see signs of hock discomfort.


May. 27, 2011, 06:30 PM
Horse is 9 = last fall when I started getting frustrated with this I had a full vet run up done on him, as I pondered hocks as well, came back 100% - I 've made an appt with a leg specialist for next week - maybe they'll find something the first vet missed (which isn't impossible, but would surprise me as vet who checked him last fall is very experienced with endurance horses - but eh, 2nd pair of eyes and all that) Then.. if he comes back 100% again.. blargh - back to the guessing game.

May. 28, 2011, 12:58 PM
Have you had his teeth checked? Many times that can throw the entire body out of 'whack'...and cause many hock issues.
Sounds like you need to work with him, listening to your signals to use his hiney! More leg to get him underneath him-and building that muscle. Would like to see a video of him working-is he tracking up, does he have good impulsion, or is he on the forehand?

May. 28, 2011, 06:52 PM
My horse did this. I know exactly the funny little pussy footing way you mean-left me trailing way behind everyone else on the hill! On the uphill he's a hundred percent, on the flats he's bottomless, head down a steep hill and he was mincing the whole way. As soon as the ground leveled out or went uphill he was fine again-it was very specific. We do some major mountain rides-having your horse sound on only a third of the territory is a good exercise program but not much fun!

I do think mine has hock issues (he's a long backed QH-not built well for downhill work) but more than anything that has helped has been putting pads on his fronts. He has severe scars on his front fetlocks and into the hoofbulb from before I had him and is low soled. Putting pads on him and some diligent upkeep by my farrier husband has made him sound on his front end. I also had to address some saddle fit issues that were probably working in conjunction with the feet and to a lesser (now increasing) degree soreness in his hocks. I finally flat out gave up on saddles for him after five and got a BMSS treeless saddle and he does TONS better. The first summer he had his pads and BMSS he was 100% for the first time ever.

May. 28, 2011, 11:13 PM
I had a tb that was always a bit weak in the stifles (which is why I got him for dog food price) who could have issues like that now and again. I took care to make sure I worked those stifles to get them in as good a condition as possible, lots of backing, walking over poles, 'gentle' hills, and that did the trick. Never anything wrong with his feet or his hocks.

May. 29, 2011, 12:36 AM
I had a gelding that went downhill like that. Turned out that he had a very arthritic stifle - he was just very stoic and since we used him mostly as a trail horse we hadn't realized that he was ever so slightly short on that side at the trot. We ended up retiring him. FWIW, we went through a lot of tests and other crap to figure out it was a stifle problem because he presented as a "classic" hock case. Hock injections helped, but didn't fix it (obviously).

May. 29, 2011, 10:19 PM
It doesn't sound like this would help your horse, but in case anyone else is looking for explanations for downhill issues...

My horse has really high withers and big shoulders, and before I got my current saddle, I was riding in a borrowed one that didn't quite fit him. He never complained about it otherwise, but going down steep hills, the saddle would slide forward a tiny bit and pinch him, which made him pussy foot and sidle his way down. Sometimes he would even stop and refuse to go down the hill entirely. I got him a saddle that fits, and the problem disappeared :)

Jun. 7, 2011, 07:43 PM
Update --
so xrays/ ultrasound, lameness expert out, $$$$$ drained from my account. saddle re-refitted (it was fine) flexions passed etc etc etc

.. so had the vet and farrier confab at the clinic.
nothing structurally wrong.. grrrr. Had them check every joint in the hid end pretty much, right up to sacro joint.

(Is it bad when you wished the vet/farrier would find an issue- rather then. nada? )

So for a wait and see approach, farrier is shortening his toes a touch (had rads done for that as well..they don't think its an issue, but we haven't got anything else that seems to be out of whack) and vet seems to feel his topline isn't the problem but could use.. more work. bah!

So final answer appears to be no one has a clue what the problem is - excellent. lol.

Jun. 8, 2011, 09:39 AM
What is his conformation like? I've found that horses that have some extra length through the back or over the croup tend to have a much harder time with the downhill work. Nothing structurally wrong, just naturally harder for them to pull themselves together, so they are rougher on themselves. I've had to deal with this to a lesser extent with my Arab mare; some dressage training has helped to some extent, but she'll never be a great descender.

Jun. 10, 2011, 12:15 PM
What is his conformation like? I've found that horses that have some extra length through the back or over the croup tend to have a much harder time with the downhill work. Nothing structurally wrong, just naturally harder for them to pull themselves together, so they are rougher on themselves. I've had to deal with this to a lesser extent with my Arab mare; some dressage training has helped to some extent, but she'll never be a great descender.

He's a bit longer then I prefer. His loin connection is where it's obvious, the tie-in looks weaker to me then I'm happy with. I've always been aware of that issue, and he does get dressage. He hates to jump, so its always been dressage school work for him . I think I'm going to start working him in side reins again on days he isn't being ridden, I used to - in order to keep his topline as strong as possible - if that doesnt work, well.. he'll be topping out at 50 miles or LDs, if that comes to it. I refuse to strain horses just to do farther mileages. Frustrating - I did have high hopes for this one :/ - he was due to replace one of my older 100 miler mares who I'm considering retiring down to lower mileages next season with a junior rider taking her over.

Jun. 10, 2011, 03:40 PM
I had the same issue-tip toeing down, traveling sideways on steep hills. Turns out it was saddle fit. which eventually left white patches over the shoulders. Switched saddles and no problems since then.

Jun. 10, 2011, 04:33 PM
Since you've been so thorough with everything else, I would indulge the possibility that maybe the horse just needs to figure out how to travel downhill.

If possible, I would find a very long lunge line and a mild-medium grade slope. I would forgo training aids and let the horse figure it out for himself. Likely, he will travel fine on the up-side of the circle and have difficulty on the down-side. I've found that if you help regulate their pace with appropriately timed "whoas" and clucks or whatnot that the horse does eventually find a better rhythm.

Because this can be strenuous work on the horse, I again recommend a long lunge line or connecting 2 together, and to limit to 5-10 minutes per session. IME, the horses who just seem to fall apart traveling downhill have usually had their toes too long as well.

Jun. 10, 2011, 09:30 PM
navicular on the front end as its tip toeing often a horse shows a false illusion thats its the hinds or back as in people think its the hinds when really its the front end as horses cant get there hinds underneath them properly so cant counter the weight

look at the front end and look for navicular syndrome

Jun. 15, 2011, 10:49 AM
If it makes you feel any better at all, I have a 17 y.o. Arab/Trakehner cross who has competed for 12 seasons and a couple thousand miles and 7 100s and is a horrible downhill horse, despite changes/experiments in shoeing, saddles, riders, mounted/dismounted.

In the last season or two, he's decided his best bet is to jog down hills, and at 16+H that's a lot of jogging horse, but I figure he knows best.

He's never been lame (knocking on wood furiously as I type this), has had a total workup front and behind, and has been on joint supplements and periodic Adequan for quite some time.

I'm a worrier by nature but have finally decided that I've done my due diligence and that this is just HIM.

(I confess it continues to make me crazy, however, and I now have a very tiny friend, very balanced, who rides him on 100s. He does it to her too.)


Jun. 16, 2011, 08:23 AM
rainechyldes, could you post a picture of your horse from the die?

Jun. 22, 2011, 04:30 PM
Sorry been away competing, I'm home for a bit! phew!
anyrate, - (still need to get a picture up)
I think.. *we finally found the issue* hoping hoping hoping
Said horse was 1 of 3 I had on the road with me for the last few weeks - happened to have a chance to meet up with a farrier who specialises in 'omg' this horse is whacky - and got an appt with him. After alot of going through rads etc etc.. he finally decided it was the horses front heels. Too high - and thusly were getting sensitive and somehow on the long downhills, was tiptoeing (as I said) and was throwing himself out of whack on his hind end, and.. coming up lame on the longer mileages. - seemed to make sense sort of to me, so I said ok, figuring really what did I have to lose by this point - the horse was not finishing sound at all on rough terrain, lets lower his heels on his front.

Rode in him a hilly 50 last chance ride, last stop on the way home - he took the hills like nobodys business and finished solid.

So thank god for this farrier, never in a million years would I think a front end heel high issue would cause lameness in the back end. So now, we'll wait and see if the 'fix' continues on his next few outings.

Jun. 22, 2011, 06:08 PM
Glad you figured it out-sounds pretty similar to my experience!

Jun. 22, 2011, 08:23 PM
I can't really offer a firm diagnosis, but I'm betting that if your guy was raised in the mtns., it's not that he doesn't know how to go down hills properly, it's because he's hurting in some way that makes that difficult/impossible.

You may be in for a long haul in that regard; one vet check usually doesn't do it. I had a friend whose horse kept coming up lame during rides. She took him to at least 3 vets, including spending a BIG bundle at UC Davis (they found nada). In total frustration, she just turned him out for a year.

That was 2 years ago -- hasn't taken a bad step since.

Even with people it often takes afew docs and tests and such to find the cause of something.

I guess this isn't very encouraging (sorry), but I would start with hocks & work my way up to the spine. Good luck. It's got to be frustrating for you.

Jun. 23, 2011, 12:45 PM
oh I agree Kyzteke !! - add to it that its something so small that its a check this/try this/experiment with that-

training rides, totally sound.. an LD - hilly or not.. no reaction. Its something so 'minor?' that it's only affecting him in longer races - something culmative is my guess so it only shows up in 50s or higher

Per my last post, my farrier who knew I was off touring for several weeks to hit a few different rides suggested I try to get an assessment from a different farrier that he knew (which I managed) - only reason I took a 3rd horse with me lol .. so came home, my farrier was here yesterday, I discussed it with him - he whips out his cell and he and the farrier who suggested the heel issue had a solid 20 minute chat. why I love my farrier! if he's stumped - he has no problem with getting me help from a fellow farrier. , This horse is due for another 50 july 16th in very rough country, so we shall see what happens.

Jun. 23, 2011, 01:18 PM
I hope you do find the source of the issue. There is nothing more frustrating than "vague" issues that just don't point to any one cause.

It would be great if it was a trim/shoe issue because they can be easier to fix than a structural issue.

Like Kyzteke, I had a friend that campaigned a well bred endurance mare (sister to the friend's 100 mile horse) that just kept coming up lame if she had to go more than 25 miles. After tons of $$$$ spent in vet bills from top vets (including endurance vets), and all different kinds of diagnosis, they finally just turned the mare out for a year. Unfortunately, their luck was different. The rest only produced a mare a year older who still continued to come up lame at 25-30 miles, and so they turned her out again for longer. What ended up was, after multiple years of rest, they had an older mare that still could never could get past the LD stage (and often got lame on those, too). :no:

Jun. 23, 2011, 03:12 PM
I am totally guessing here, but there has been alot of talk about the SO joint in the spine, which I believe is the sacrum. Apparently it's just afew $100 to inject it (and I'm not sure with what), but this alleviates the pain.

There was a thread on the Horse Care Forum that I was reading just so I could figure out what SO stood for :lol:.

Since it would make sense that this part of the spine would be involved in tucking the hind under to go down hills, maybe that?

Again, just a wild guess...