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  1. #1
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    Default Overchecks

    So had the vet out yesterday to discuss a NQR I've been seeing in the boy wonder. A very occasional bobble at a trot. Like 5 steps once or twice a year. I have been seeing this NQR since the day I've owned him, it predates me and certainly predates driving. But it has been popping up more than usual this year since we've been in regular work, and I just feel its never too early to chat with the vet.

    Well, sadly it *is* too early my boy jogged sounder than a dollar and looked fantastic in the roundpen too for the Dr.... naturally . Thankfully I had some vids where I did capture the issue, have been doing a lot of observation and taking notes over the last several weeks, and Dr made a very astute diagnosis of front leg/shoulder tendonitis.

    Since he is currently traveling sound, among other things, one of the changes the Dr wants me to explore is working him in an overcheck. She feels it will help stabilize and support him.

    I was initially a bit shocked at the suggestion, I am ignorant about overchecks and like anyone who is ignorant I'm skeptical.... but I really do trust my vet and I am going to give her suggestion an honest try. In addition to riding and racing, she also drives. She is extremely well rounded and current.

    So now that you know the reason for my asking....




    please tell me about overchecks I'm clueless and I have to say I have gravitated and associated myself with people who would also not use overchecks so I'm unsure where to turn for advice here.

    Is there a converter I can use on my bridle like a chambon? Is this simple kit? or do I need a new bridle? (good gravy I *just* got a new harness ).

    Is there an "overchecks for dummies"?

    I have to confess I'm a bit apprehensive about all of this, especially since my boy has been going really well (finally bending!! or at least not counter bending!!) and we were planning outings, local ADT, etc., but I do trust my vet well enough that I respect her advice and am going to see it through, despite being well out of my comfort zone .

    thank you sooooo much.
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  2. #2
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    Question on the Vet. What KIND of horse driving does she do? Is it just jogging down the road, breed showing type of driving to the light carts? Maybe she is doing Carriage Driving, with wooden vehicles, leather harness? Draft Horses? Retired Standardbreds using their track equipment?

    I am asking, to relate her experience Driving horses, to how she expects an overcheck to support his shoulder?

    All I can figure is if he bobbles in an overcheck, he is going to get grabbed in the mouth. Cranking his head up tight, pulling his nose up and out in front, will make him hollow his back, so he is not going evenly or maybe not even moving comfortably.

    Your horse is QH, if I remember right. QH breed is usually built to carry head level with his withers, not up-headed at all. Is she thinking the snug overcheck will prevent horse holding head low or below wither level? Maybe your horse is more up-headed naturally, so he would lean on the overcheck?

    I guess I would call to visit with her, get her to explain WHAT the overcheck is going to do while horse is in work, so you can ask more questions! Face-to-face, might let you understand her thinking, even do drawings!! If you don't know what to look for in expected changes, you may miss them.

    I am not there, don't have any idea of her expectations with using the overcheck in body changes to the horse. Just a very odd premise to me, but I don't have all the background from her.



  3. #3
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    I, too, am totally, completely, and utterly confused as to why your vet would suggest an overcheck. ?????? That makes zero sense in my mind.

    goodhors hit the nail on the head - you need to go back to the vet and get really specific answers as to what an overcheck is supposed to accomplish for your guy's problem. And if you don't like the answer, don't use it.

    Just for edification: the overcheck is a solid leather piece of which one end has a small loop that is slipped onto the saddle hook while the rest of the leather runs along the crest of the neck, up to and over the poll, runs between the ears, and then halfway down the face before it splits into two pieces that run down to connect to the bit. (It differs from the sidecheck - which is found on pleasure harness - which is split in two pieces, has a loop on one end that is looped over the saddle hook, each piece running along the side of the neck (left side and right side) through a brass loop hanging from each side of the bridle above the blinkers, and thence down connect to the bit.)

    The overcheck was developed as a racing aid (trotters and pacers) to keep the head up under the premise that an elevated head kept the airways open, the nostrils into the wind for greater efficiency in breathing, and also kept the horse in a trotting (or pacing) gait without breaking into a canter. Only harness racing, the Amish, and some of the draft breeds use the overcheck.

    The use of an overcheck on a pony is used to prevent said pony from diving the head and eating grass while a small child rider was astride....which is the best use of this device ever, as far as I'm concerned.



  4. #4
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    An overcheck will help the horse to balance, if it is adjusted correctly but a lame horse is still a lame horse. Overchecks actually predate harness racing by a goodly amount - they were originally used to keep a horse's head up so the lines wouldn't wrap around the shaft if the horse bobbed his head down to his knees. A correctly adjusted overcheck doesn't pull the horse's head up higher than normal head carriage, or at least it shouldn't. You want them to lean into it a bit to balance and a cranked up head is counterproductive. There are more types of overchecks than a mini bit or Speedway or Burch - there are some that have nothing at all in the mouth: chin strap/chain (the chain is a double or triple twist curb chain, lies flat), Raymond overcheck and Z-guide; the latter two, as far as I know, are illegal in the show ring, including roadsters, the strap or chain is not.
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  5. #5
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    ^^ this is why.

    She wants the horse to be able to lean on the bit to balance, essentially to help hold himself up.

    The problem I'm seeing is that my horse is presenting with a couple of bobble strides here and there on circles and in deep footing. In addition to avoiding circles and deep footing going forth, she feels the stability of an overcheck will help him negotiate better should we happen into those circumstances, he can be supported by the overcheck and be less likely to tweak his shoulder.

    Again as I said, horse was sound as a dollar for vet, and this problem has been here since day one, but our consistent work in the past few months has made it go from a few steps per year to a few steps per month and I'm concerned and need to act. I have a hunch that our one day out on the road might have brought this to the surface too. Or, perhaps my working at our dressage tests might have exasperated it. I'm so sad and frustrated, I just don't know.

    And yes, sk_pacer this horse is lame, primarily he has broken withers, and now this.... which as I mull it all over, all might be related. He has a scar on his hoof too, from what previous owner couldn't tell me, but looks like he got trapped in a fence or something. We might be dealing with a very very very old injury finally come to rear its ugly head. Heck my shoulder has started bothering me and I finally remembered that I had dislocated it before my 6th birthday. Old injuries don't go away it seems, they just lurk.

    When the vet made her diagnosis, a I said earlier I was scratching my head at it all, but turned out to really be very astute. Her diagnosis explains a ton of little quirky things I've seen about my horse over the years... the types of things that are so small you wonder if you saw it at all.

    When she mentioned the overcheck I almost offended her with my astonishment, but I trust her and will do what I can to follow through on her advice. She runs the gamut in driving, pleasure carts, carriages, etc. I believe she's gone on driving retreats/vacations, etc. I don't know her *that* well personally.

    It it really beginning to appear as if my horse is going to be sound for light work only... perhaps if that. Which is a HUGE shame as he LOVES his new job and is a bold, fun, eager little boy. My only option at this early stage is careful observation, management, rest. I'm more than a little depressed about all of this, but so glad its been caught while its still extremely minor.

    I am skeptical about an overcheck too but I am willing to give it a shot. I just am not sure where to start. I can go back to my vet, but I'd like to get a lot of opinions too, there are SO many great minds here.

    I hope I'm making sense? I'm a bit emotional about this right now.

    Thank you so much for listening.
    Last edited by buck22; Jun. 14, 2012 at 09:42 AM.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by goodhors View Post
    All I can figure is if he bobbles in an overcheck, he is going to get grabbed in the mouth. Cranking his head up tight, pulling his nose up and out in front, will make him hollow his back, so he is not going evenly or maybe not even moving comfortably.

    Your horse is QH, if I remember right. QH breed is usually built to carry head level with his withers, not up-headed at all. Is she thinking the snug overcheck will prevent horse holding head low or below wither level? Maybe your horse is more up-headed naturally, so he would lean on the overcheck?
    Her suggestion is not to crank him up, and certainly not hollow his back as she is fully aware of the long road we have had strengthening his back so he can protect his injury with strong muscles.

    The way I heard her, the purpose would be for him to lean on it for support. I envision much the same barrel racers use tie downs,so the horse can lean into it on tight turns. Basically she wants to give the horse an option to use a crutch if he wants.

    Way I see it, if its a good answer for him, he'll use it and it will help. If its a poor answer, he won't use, and I take it off and throw it in the trash.

    This is a try n see sort of thing. No cranking, no hollowing, just something to lean on should he feel he needs it. And if it doesn't work it doesn't work, its just something to try.

    I am doing a poor job of explaining all of this as as I said I am ignorant on this subject.

    Horse is a morgan but is generally not high headed, he prefers a level head.

    sk-pacer thank you so much too, I had no idea there were so many variations but I am not surprised, and thanks everyone so far too... I know its weird, I really appreciate your help and guidance and moral support.
    Worry is the biggest enemy of the present... it’s like using your imagination to create things you don’t want.
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  7. #7
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    Default

    I know very little, so take my response with a pound of salt... But, to me, isn't the best way to get your horse to get off its shoulders (aka "front end") to teach him to come back onto his haunches?

    I had a horse once that was terribly heavy on his forehand. OK, he was a total CLOD. He was part Belgian (me thinkst), and when I bought him, he was heavy in the bit, heavy on my hands, and heavy on the forehand. If you can imagine... I jumped him! lol.

    Needless to say, he needed to learn to get off the front end. He accomplished this by some cavelletti (sp?) work, but mostly through dressage - half halts, rounding, and lots of transitions.

    He went from fumbling over X-rails to clearing 3'6" in 2 years time.

    A few years back, I bought a buckskin ex-roping horse. He wore a tie down every single time he was ridden. Even on trail rides! His neck was U-shaped, and all he knew was how to brace into the tie down. There was no bend in his body, no self-carriage, just a horse that was constantly "pushed forward" through the chest, with an upright head. Again, all front end heavy.

    It took about a year to really get him moving balanced. He never got onto his hind end well, but he did even out, and not be so forehand driven.

    Just seems to me that encouraging a horse to "hold himself up" using the bit and a "brace" like an overcheck is not the way to go. Especially if it's a QH!! Someone tried using a too small running martingale on my QH to drive him on long lines - and he was quite unhappy about it! (i.e. rearing, flipping out, all over the place, because he couldn't lower his head)

    Given enough time, I would see a horse that should be long & low, with the use of a "brace", learning to raise his head, drop his shoulders and come down hard onto his forehand. In the end, he'll lose his top line, build up muscles under his neck, and hollow out in the back. All the while, hitting harder on his forehand.

    Maybe if he were a saddlebred, this wouldn't happen, since they are so naturally high headed anyway, the OC is there more as a "helping hand"... but a long & low horse can still go long & low and still learn to carry himself on his hind end more.



  8. #8
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    Thank you so much!

    Spending more time over cavaletti was also a top suggestion by her... she suggested quite a few things frankly: getting him on different surfaces, avoiding the frequent deep sandy footing we have here, shoes, cavaletti, the list goes on. I'm focusing on the OC part with you guys, and trying not to be so lengthy in my posts!

    If I'm making it seem that she felt driving in an overcheck is 100% the way to go then that is my mistake.... it was a suggestion, try it, it may help, it may not.

    I just don't know where to turn for help. The people in my social circles are not OC people either, and I'm trying to cast a wide net for the most info.

    His issue at this point in time seems to be a circumstancial tweeking, not an issue of getting him off his shoulders in general. While he is not an advanced horse, he is far from hard on his forehand either. Horse was jogged, longed and put in a round pen for the vet and her words "he looks disgustingly good, he is really driving from behind".

    Great What a way to make oneself feel like a total hypercondriac nut bag... here Dr, vet my disgustingly good looking horse, yes you heard me right I insist he is lame Gawd I feel nuts some days. But I know what I'm seeing, I've gotten some eyes on teh ground to catch it too to make sure its not my imagination. Its just I caught it so early and its so fleeting and intermittent.

    Bracing, hollow back, these things are not kosher. If this is what an OC is going to do to my horse then OC is simply not for us. Not only do I not want to go there, I *can't* go there with this horse, he has back issues. I have spent a long time strengthening his back and getting him to lift.

    But otoh, I have no experience myself, so I can't just write off the advice either. I'm going to give this a try, but I need help.

    I hope I'm making sense? I know this is weird. I really REALLY appreciate you taking the time to write and help. Thank you!
    Worry is the biggest enemy of the present... it’s like using your imagination to create things you don’t want.
    Click for the ideal stocking stuffer for anyone equine!



  9. #9
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    If you do try the overcheck, start with a chinstrap or even an old double curb chain wrapped with something and adjust the check so that it is taut, not tight enough to elevate his head beyond normal carriage but, if he tends to be 'headless' when driven, shorten it enough that you can see his head when you drive.
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  10. #10
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    Hey, my "lame" horse ran off with the vet's tech, so don't feel too stupid.

    From the show horse side, before we drive (or ride) one checked up, we often turn them loose with a bitting rig on, either in the stall or a round pen. They can get the feel of the check without being in a position to hurt anyone.

    And yes, folks outside of show horses generally have kittens at the thought of a bitting rig, or turning a horse loose with a bitting rig, but lots of people have done it for years without problems.



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by buck22 View Post
    Thank you so much!

    Spending more time over cavaletti was also a top suggestion by her... she suggested quite a few things frankly: getting him on different surfaces, avoiding the frequent deep sandy footing we have here, shoes, cavaletti, the list goes on. ... OC is simply not for us. Not only do I not want to go there, I *can't* go there with this horse, he has back issues. I have spent a long time strengthening his back and getting him to lift.

    But otoh, I have no experience myself, so I can't just write off the advice either. I'm going to give this a try, but I need help.

    I hope I'm making sense? I know this is weird. I really REALLY appreciate you taking the time to write and help. Thank you!
    If it was my horse, I would go with the other suggestions, and toss the one about the overcheck into the trash. Your horse should never "hold itself up" by its tender mouth. What a way to encourage a dead mouth. You already know that in your gut - so trust your instincts. Throw that suggestion away.

    If he isn't wearing shoes, get him in St. Croix eventers, preferably aluminum.

    And yes - get him out of the deep ring. Drive on solid ground so his front feet have a chance to use the natural rebound which means less energy expended by him to pick up his feet since the rebound is doing 90% of the work. (endurance horses do their best distances at the trot on solid ground; they have more lameness issues when ridden in mud or sand which, while soft, absorbs the natural rebound and makes it unavailable to the horse).

    These two changes might be all your horse needs to reverse the stumbling issue.

    Finally, just on the off chance it might be something hidden and not the shoulder issue...has he had all the tests to rule out Lyme and EPM? Both are cumulative that build over time. It might be good to just add these two tests to your inventory of "we've looked at that and it isn't an issue".



  12. #12
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    You guys are the best, thank you so much for the frank and thoughtful advice!

    Mostly thank you for keeping the discussion constructive and helpful. I know how interpretive these dialogues can get, I know overchecks are a sensitive topic, and I am so grateful to everyone that the discussion is staying on track and not becoming a runaway. It took a lot of nerve on my part just to ask the question here but there are so many great horsemen here who's advice I value, I'm grateful for the chance to hear the insight, the good, the bad, all the angles up and down.

    Lyme and EPM have not been checked for but that is fabulous advice, thank you.

    I am so deeply grateful to everyone, thankyou.
    Worry is the biggest enemy of the present... it’s like using your imagination to create things you don’t want.
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  13. #13
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by gothedistance View Post
    If it was my horse, I would go with the other suggestions, and toss the one about the overcheck into the trash. Your horse should never "hold itself up" by its tender mouth. What a way to encourage a dead mouth. You already know that in your gut - so trust your instincts. Throw that suggestion away.

    This, and I drive and show my horse in an overcheck, so that's not a knee jerk negative reaction.

    Honestly, based on her suggesting that, I'd get a second opinion from a different vet. I haul horses to and from equine hospitals for a living, and that's one of the odder recommendations I've heard come from a vet, and I've heard some duzies. Usually it's the duzies that have the horse going to the referral hospital for a second opinion



  15. #15
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    I do not drive, though I have been interested in it through the years. While it might be unpopular in some circles, I would suggest putting front shoes on this horse.

    The ugliest horse accident that I ever saw was one in which a trainer getting ready to enter a class decided that the overcheck needed to be tightened a bit. The horse later had to be put down because of the accident, and the injuries it sustained in the commotion. I am not a fan of overchecks.



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quelah View Post
    Honestly, based on her suggesting that, I'd get a second opinion from a different vet. I haul horses to and from equine hospitals for a living, and that's one of the odder recommendations I've heard come from a vet, and I've heard some duzies. Usually it's the duzies that have the horse going to the referral hospital for a second opinion
    I get what you're saying and I appreciate it. I'm actually extremely satisfied with the vet's take on the situation. In hindsight, his history with me and some scarring on his legs supports her theory 100%. And again, I didn't make things easier on her by presenting her with a sound horse.

    An overcheck was simply one among many suggestions, but I appreciate your frankness.

    Since you do drive a horse with an overcheck, might I ask what purpose it serves for you? I'm eager to learn as much as I can, even if the advice isn't going to serve my current situation.
    Worry is the biggest enemy of the present... it’s like using your imagination to create things you don’t want.
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  17. #17
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    The purpose it serves for me is that I show my Shire at draft horse shows, in Ladies' Cart, which is a hitch class. Before I got him, he was lead and swing in a 6 horse hitch. Hitch horses wear overchecks, non-negotiable. Kind of like if you want to show dressage, you have to wear white breeches Yes, I know, lower levels, off colors etc, but you get my point.

    I also show him in ADS pleasure driving shows, and we leave the Scotch housing show collar at home, and drive with no checks of any kind.

    I don't check my horse hard, he's of the build and the nature to go upheaded anyway (esp when there's a couple thousand screaming people in the stands!). It doesn't hold his head up, when he's moving, it's not tight. If I wanted to show and be competitive at the big Midwestern shows, it would have to be tighter, but I don't play at that level.



  18. #18
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    thank you so much for being so generous with your time! I appreciate any opportunity to learn.
    Worry is the biggest enemy of the present... it’s like using your imagination to create things you don’t want.
    Click for the ideal stocking stuffer for anyone equine!



  19. #19
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    Like Sue, I also drive in draft shows. Mine are Clydesdales. I think there is a rendancy in the draft world to check the horses too high and this has given many people the idea that overchecks are "evil devices." Personally, I set checks in the "barely there" setting. I don't need them to keep their heads up, but apparently a lot of people do. Usually the same ones who clim overchecks are a "safety device." And I also do pleasure shows with the Clydes, with no checks, and they do well there. But I think Sue and I are in the minority, and there are not many people showing drafts both hitch and pleasure.

    That said, I am still confused about why your vet recommended using an overcheck. Yes, the horse COULD balance on it, but I don't know why you would want your horse balancing itself by bracing on any bit. I hope you are able to work out your issues with the horse. I enjoy reading your posts about your driving experiences.



  20. #20
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    Isn't the overcheck bit the same device that the writer of Black beauty stated ruined horses shortened their lives and broke their spirit?
    The book referred to it as a 'check rein' or 'bearing rein' but it sounds like the same piece of tack.
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