View Full Version : horse colapsing in cross ties
Dec. 17, 2011, 11:43 PM
My horse has done this a few times over the past year, and its pretty scary! The first time it happenened, right after i put on the saddle his legs buckled underneath him. I got him to his feat and took off the saddle and he was pretty scared. i went to ride him the other day and he collapsed again after i put the saddle on. He does not seem back sore at all. it seems like an unvoluntary reaction when he goes down. And it doesn't seem consistant...most days he's totally fine, and all of a sudden it's an issue. anyone have any experience with this? Advise? i thought maybe its the girth but im not sure. He never had an issue before and it only popped up recently. Help! :-)
Dec. 17, 2011, 11:57 PM
He could be narcoleptic. We have had two narcoleptic horses at the barn over the years, both of whom had similar symptoms. Narcolepsy is triggered by excitement, so the horse could be anticipate being saddled, get excited, which could then set off an episode.
I'm not sure how this diagnosis is confirmed in horses (both horses I knew were already diagnosed by the time I met them), but I know that for humans you go to a sleep lab where they can monitor your brain patterns in response to various stimuli.
FLIPPED HER HALO
Dec. 18, 2011, 12:19 AM
My old OTTB has narcoleptic issues. When he would get tired/relaxed his front end would buckle. When he started doing it with me on him at a horse show between classes I stopped riding him. He's pretty much been retired for 3 years now and he will be 24 this April. I have noticed him do it in pasture or in his paddock every now and then, but less so over the past year.
Dec. 18, 2011, 12:38 AM
I knew a narcoleptic horse who would collapse if cross-tied or kept standing still in the center of the arena to talk to an instructor/wait for someone else to do a course. However, it wasn't predictable that she would go down at the exact same time - the falling after saddle is put on would ring some alarm bells that it could possibly be something else, but it definitely sounds like it could be narcolepsy to me, too.
Dec. 18, 2011, 01:15 AM
We also had a narcoleptic horse who would collapse if the girth was done up too fast. We had to buckle up each side on the first hole, take him for a lap around the barn, then go up a hole, walk a bit, and repeat until tight as needed..
Dec. 18, 2011, 01:36 AM
Does your horse indicate that he sleeps prone at night (or day...)? Shavings on his flanks, mane, etc? Can he get up an down easily? (Some horses don't lay down because they can't get back up -- arthritis and other problems so they develop this sleep disorder). Horses need to sleep prone to get the benefits of REM sleep -- at a minimum of 1-3 hours/REM a day.
I ride a horse who does this -- his previous owner had the same problem. Even with deeper bedding -- he just doesn't lay down to sleep. He can roll and get up, so that is not his issue. We just watch him carefully and keep him moving when he is being groomed. During lessons, we make sure he doesn't stand for long periods of time. He is a dear, dear horse.
Some mares have this problem if there are not other mares around (they are the herd's night guards and some mares won't sleep unless they share guard duty with other mares). At least that is the theory.
Dec. 18, 2011, 06:59 AM
It sounds like your saddle or girth is causing this if he only does it when you put the saddle on. I had a horse that did this earlier this year--it turns out he had a rib out right where the girth went on his right side. Osteopathic vet fixed it and he stopped doing it.
Could also be the saddle is pinching. There are acupuncture points under the saddle that affect breathing. Do you notice if he holds his breath when you put the saddle on?
Is he perfectly quiet when you saddle him or does he get anxious?
It is not narcolepsy if he only does it when you saddle him.
Dec. 18, 2011, 07:11 AM
We had a horse at our barn that did this if you did not slowly and carefully put his girth on one hole at a time as another poster mentioned. Have heard of many similar stories. Try just being very careful and slow to tighten girth and see if that cures it. Sure is scary when they do go down though. I don't think its narcolepsy (if its the girth,) its a nerve that triggers it when you tighten girth too fast.
Dec. 18, 2011, 07:14 AM
My horse has done this a few times overthe past year, and its pretty scary! The first time it happenened, right after i put on the saddle his legs buckled underneath him. I got him to his feat and took off the saddle and he was pretty scared. he seemed a little back sore so i took him to the eqine hospital to have him checked out and everything checks out. Soreness but no cause. I gave him 3 months off and started riding again. Everything seemed ok, but he had another unfortunate injury after about a month under saddle so was off for another two months. i went to ride him the other day and he collapsed again after i put the saddle on. He does not seem back sore at all. it seems like an unvoluntary reaction when he goes down. anyone have any experience with this? Advise? i thought maybe its the girth but im not sure. He never had an issue before and it only popped up recently. Help! :-)
This was years ago before accupunture. It turned out to be a girth issue. A double elastic girth (elastic on both sides) solved the problem. There is a nerve bundle right under the girth, behind the elbow. It can be hypersensitive. Accupunture can address this but a girth with double elastic should help. Obviously tightening the girth very gradually is a good idea as well. Hope this helps.
Dec. 18, 2011, 07:23 AM
Does he have sores on the front of his front fetlocks? Some horses don't sleep lying down for who-knows-why reasons-keeping watch over his friends, doesn't like his bedding, hurts getting up, etc., etc. They sleep standing then suddenly the front knees buckle and they go down on their fetlock fronts, causing little sores. We had one like this. Couldn't figure out how those sores got there then EQUUS came out with an article describing exactly what our guy was doing.
You can search through these articles.
Another idea is that maybe there's a pinched nerve somewhere. A friend of mine has a horse with whom she's done H/J and Eventing. One fine day he went flat out in his dressage test...turns out after LOTS of diagnostics, his chiropractor found a pinched nerve in his shoulder. Your saddle might be touching something that makes him go down.
Dec. 18, 2011, 08:57 AM
I had a horse here with shivers and he did that. It didn't even matter if the girth was on yet.
Dec. 18, 2011, 09:04 AM
If it's the girth, anyone find relief with anatomical girths?
Dec. 18, 2011, 09:11 AM
I had horse who did this. I could make his start to drop by putting my hand on his withers and pressing. He had EPM.
Dec. 18, 2011, 09:52 AM
I leased a mare that had atypical narcolepsy and she would do this occasionally. What we did was to put Vicks Vapor Rub in her nose whenever she needed to stand around for a long time. And we also left the girth loose and then tightened it slowly. But it seemed to work for her. However, I'd have a vet and maybe a chiro out to check him over to make sure there's nothing going on neuropgically. Good luck!!
Dec. 18, 2011, 10:13 AM
The girth thing is more common than you might think. It's the reason why I got my horse for free :) Never, never put the girth on while the horse is tied. Start with the girth very, very loose-- like so that you can easily slide your whole hand between it and the horse-- and go for a walk in hand or lunge for a few minutes, put it up some, walk/ lunge a bit more, then put it up the rest of the way. I would also recommend girths with double elastic-- they make the whole routine a little easier. As Mr Winston said, the girth presses on a nerve-- I think it's the vargus nerve?-- which can cause some horses to collapse. Mine goes backward, hard, and then just sort of folds up. As soon as I undo the girth he leaps to his feet like nothing happened.
Truly narcoleptic horses will do it at other times, not only when you are saddling. Mine is a big napper on sunny days, so I know that's not his problem!
Dec. 18, 2011, 10:47 AM
Try this, and if you dont mind letting me know if it works...
DONT saddle again in X ties. Some horses are girthy, and in cross-ties, seems to make it worse.
Soooo...go in stall and put saddle on. As loose as you can, but still comfortable that it wont o under belly. Walk her in circle, tighten a hole,mwalk in circle, continue till comfortably snug, that you can lunge. Lunge few minutes, and go to riding. If this works, prolly a horse who is girthy.
Now, a training help, for that....
Take a REALLY THICK pad, and put on under a lunging cavesson. Leave on an hour so a day in stall. Or better in roundpen. I have found doing this for a few weeks will help. It allows them freedom to move about, and learn they can move. I have alwaysthought, personal opinion, that girthy horses are clastrophobic to some degree, and are not positive they are still capable of moving.
You should also, obviously, check for physicalissues. But my first TB that we had off track, exact same thing...he was just girthy. And would do it to the day he died...if we didnt go thru the whole process once in a while! But gosh he was an awesome horse!
Dec. 18, 2011, 11:25 AM
I have heard that the Vagus nerve in some horses can be involved in that "cinchy" reaction- could be on the crossties your horses stands in just the place that you catch this at times? I had a horse here that when being saddled would erupt into a bucking that would make a pro bucker proud. It was suggested to me at the time that this might also be a reaction to pressure on that nerve.
I would stop using the crossties to saddle, and see if that helps- would be afraid a horse could get hurt falling like that. Wouldn't Narcolepsy make itself known at other times?
Dec. 18, 2011, 11:27 AM
I have one that will do that. If it is only when you are putting on the saddle, like others have said, it probably isn't narcolepsy but the nerve thing. My horse would also do it if you tried to stretch his front legs with his saddle on- triggered the same nerve.
I always untied him to tighten his girth and didn't stretch his legs. Never had any more problems.
Dec. 18, 2011, 11:47 AM
I would not recommend putting the girth on in the stall. You need to be able to get out of the way quickly.
Dec. 18, 2011, 11:53 AM
my two year old did this. I was saddling him to get used to it and the farrier arrived a little early. didnt take the saddle off, and he almost went down. The girth wasnt tight, just a strange feeling for him. But since your horse isnt as green as mine, my bet is too tight, or you put it up too fast (that is since you didnt find anything else going on).
Dec. 18, 2011, 12:18 PM
Thank you so much for all the replies and suggestions! I don't think it is narcolepsy since he seems very alert each time it has happened. He does lie down to sleep too. The nerve thing sounds like it may be the culprit. I'll get a double elastic girth to try. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has had luck with the anatomic girths as well.
Dec. 18, 2011, 12:24 PM
I had a horse that did that a couple times, but they were isolated instances and I would just ungirth him and then start again, girthing up the saddle carefully and slowly.
Dec. 18, 2011, 12:29 PM
I find alot of young horses do this when you first put a saddle on for the first time but typically don't go down, they just sink before going forward.
Long story but I was given a horse that was broke and had evented (LL) because they need to get rid of him. The first time I put a saddle on in the cross ties, he went down to the ground so dramatically then jumped up (reared and jumped), broke a light bulb on the 12 or 14 foot ceiling before falling down again when the cross ties broke. OMG!! We then moved our tacking up into the arena, where no matter how slowly or what kind of saddle/girth/pad we used, there was always a reaction, although it got milder. However because this was a re-homing horse (ie I couldn't keep him forever), I sent him off to be a pasture pet. Nothing specific was found when examined by the vet. So I just didn't feel it was safe for anyone, especially given my intial experience. Too bad, the horse was a very nice mover, but I'm sure hes just as happy to eat!
Dec. 19, 2011, 12:57 PM
I know a horse that does that if girthed up too fast. He used to get regular chiro (but he's not in much work now and is feeling good when he does work) but if his sternum or rib was out he does this more frequently. He doesn't always do it, but we always girth him up loosely at first and just put it up another hole at a time when doing other stuff then walk him around one time before the final tightening before getting on and it seems to fix the problem!
Dec. 19, 2011, 01:23 PM
My aunt's OTTB would do this- girth up too fast and he'd hit the ground on the cross ties. First time he did it-scared the crap out of everyone. I told her not to girth up fast, but to loosely girth and then tighten slowly before mounting up.
Honestly- I think some horse do this when they intentionally bloat out.
Dec. 19, 2011, 08:15 PM
My mare has had a couple small episodes and the way I handle it is:
1) NEVER tighten the girth in the cross ties and always have her bridle on before I saddle
2) Once the girth is on I keep her moving
3) Tighten the girth one hole at a time
4) I do the final tightening from her back after 5-10 minutes of walking (awkward in a dressage saddle but feasible)
This has completely managed her buckling/backing issue. My mare is very sensitive and her girth was over-tightened once and she now has minor PTSD/claustrophobic moments sporadically.
Dec. 20, 2011, 12:22 AM
I've heard from somewhere that this is a common problem in a certain line of TB's- I guess it could be the nerve isn't protected as much and when girthed it hits it and they fall down??? Or it's a breathing thing? I don't really remember the details but do remember that it was a genetic trait.
No idea where to find info to confirm this, but the person I talked to about it said that it helped if you loosely tightened the girth and then did front leg stretches (you know where you pick up the front leg, pull it gentle forward and then set it back down) It's worth trying to see if it helps your horse!
Dec. 20, 2011, 11:58 AM
New a pony who did this if you girthed him up too fast (or in cross ties).
To avoid this, you had to put the girth on (completely loose) and then walked him for five minutes as you gradually tightened the girth. No problems then.
Dec. 21, 2011, 05:18 PM
Wow, i had NO idea how many horses do this and the nerve issue makes all the sense in the world. My horse is in this camp, though i was told he was "cold backed" when in fact, he is extremely girthy. If the girth is done fast and he's in cross ties, he backs up, sits down, then collapses. Ugh. It is so scary. He's done it only once with me, and I learned my lesson big time.
I undo the cross ties, place saddle, go hole by hole back and forth on each side, give him a little treat, and take our time, and doing up the final hole or two when mounted. We have a whole routine but if that's what i have to do, it's fine. I use a double elastic girth. He went out on a bunch of trials before he found me and was hard to sell because of this issue. He's an amazing horse though and I lucked out.
Dec. 22, 2011, 08:17 PM
I would not recommend putting the girth on in the stall. You need to be able to get out of the way quickly.
Depends on the orientation of where you tie the horse and where the stall door is...
I have a TB mare that does this in crossties too, she is fine with normal girthing procedures (which for me is fairly loose to start and then just one hole every minute or two as I proceed with other grooming and tacking) if she is tied in the stall or ground tied in the crosstie area. I think crosstieing limits their ability to wiggle around and release any nerve twinging they might feel.
It is the wierdest thing - my mare would always look just as surprised when she went down as we were.
Dec. 30, 2011, 09:37 AM
Thanks for all the replies! Does anyone have any suggestions for what to do when they bloat a lot? He has learned to really puff up, so even on the longest setting the girth is still tight on the first hole. But it's a really long girth so the it's too long when I get on him and he relaxes. Argh, horses these days! ;)
Jan. 2, 2012, 04:54 PM
Have a vet out ASAP! I am no expert but I think he is narcoleptic. I am pretty sure that this is an issue that can happen later in life and is not just genetic. The camp I boarded at had a beautiful big black young horse that jumped around beautifully! Perfect manners and went 4 ft+, not the norm in camp land where its broken down show horses and old ranch troopers. Turned out he was narcoleptic, but his was extreem. He would drop on you while you were riding him if he was tired, while being saddled or even one time in his stall. Vet said he had had some kind of head injury accident and that is what started it. Considering the training and time and effort it would have taken why would anyone put that much time on a horse that could not be used (or would be brave enough to).
Jan. 5, 2012, 11:50 AM
I rode a TB for a while that had the exact same problem. Maybe about 10% of the time you could tack up with no problem. The other 90% at some point between placing the saddle on his back and the first few moments of the ride he would collapse. What helped with him was
1) Boots/polos went on in the cross ties. He had shoes on all four and they kept him from banging himself up with his shoes or the ground if he collapsed. Then bridle and take outside.
2) Always saddled him in the grass away from the barn- that way if he did collapse there was nothing for him to injure himself on.
3) Slowly place saddle down on back, don't toss or sling (I rode in a western saddle), and have him take a few steps forward and take a few bites of grass.
4) Pull cinch under and do up VERY loosely so it wasn't even touching him. Take a few steps, eat some grass. Tighten girth a bit.
5) Rinse,wash, repeat.
By the time we walked to the ring it would be tight enough for me to get on, but still not completely tightened. Before getting on I would have him walk around me in a small circle on the end of a lead rope. It was very important to have him walk around with the cinch tightened up so he could feel it. You could see him almost get "stuck" sometimes with the cinch tight, but after a few seconds he would work himself out of it. Most importantly, I made sure someone was in the ring with me while I got on and until I'd been on his back for a few minutes. Once we started working he never had any problems with it, but getting on worried me if he hadn't had an incident that day.
After several months of slow patient work with several riders he did get much better about. It took a lot of time for him to learn that being tacked up did not mean that he was going to fall down.
Jan. 5, 2012, 05:36 PM
Sounds like the nerves behind the elbow. Lack of REM sleep or narcolepsy do not seem to fit quite right with your description.
My mare is touchy behind the elbows - it has set her off into fits of bucking when another trainer put a saddle on her which had a short girth and 'wings'.
With her, we do her up very carefully, and just recently she lifted her head and her eyes bugged out - sort of saying, watch it, you are getting close to setting me off.
But she is absolutely fine if done carefully and with consideration. She does have tender armpit skin too.