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Horse bracing and tossing his head

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  • Horse bracing and tossing his head

    Sorry about my terrible title. I have a 2nd/3rd level fjord horse who I've owned since he was 4 and worked through the levels along with him. He's always been a challenging ride but it's definitely made me the rider I am today and we've been through a lot together.

    Very recently I've had a slew of mediocre to just plain bad rides on him following a horse show where we did just ok. He's always been a fantastic and very pretty little dressage pony but the last few weeks he's been bracing, throwing his head, and opening his mouth. No tack has changed, teeth are fine, even had a chiropractic appointment. Nowadays, when I am successful getting him on the bit and moving forward, he's very very heavy. Keep in mind just 3 weeks ago this horse was schooling 3rd level movements and I was planning on moving him up to a double at the end of summer depending on how he was showing. Obviously not going to do that now.

    I've faced this problem with him before a very long time ago when he was very young but this time around we just can't figure each other out. I feel like a terrible rider. I have a lesson this week and have requested that my trainer jump on and see if the problem is replicated when she's riding or if it is just me overthinking everything I'm doing.

    Does anyone have any exercises or tips for dealing with this? The sudden onset has me concerned but also I can't think of anything obvious that would cause it, plus he's not acting unusual in any other sense.

    Thanks for the help!

    UPDATE 6/17/2019: Thanks for all the suggestions! I rode with my trainer and she rode him as well. We narrowed the behavior down to only happening when he was bending towards a particular side which I hadn't noticed in my earlier rides, but was quite clear to me from the ground. When my trainer rode him, she was able to settle him eventually and you could see the difference in his face and eyes when he was happy and settled going straight versus when he was having to bend a bit. We concluded that it appeared to be behavioral and may even have been a slow adjustment to his chiro appointment and he's re-learning his bending. Once again, thank you all for the suggestions and help!
    Last edited by dressagefjord807; Jun. 17, 2019, 08:08 PM. Reason: update

  • #2
    I would keep looking for pain and I would stop schooling him for now. Trail ride in something bitless. Give him a break until you get it diagnosed or you will start up habits that are hard to stop.

    Comment


    • #3
      Could he have bilateral hock pain or SI pain? Both would cause him to not want to sit and push from the hind end, as it's easier to put weight on the forehand and pull. If it's bilateral you wouldn't necessarily see any lameness or other obvious signs yet.
      I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted.

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by SolarFlare View Post
        Could he have bilateral hock pain or SI pain? Both would cause him to not want to sit and push from the hind end, as it's easier to put weight on the forehand and pull. If it's bilateral you wouldn't necessarily see any lameness or other obvious signs yet.
        He's reaching under pretty well for walk/canter transitions, just very inconsistently on the bit. Would I expect to see difficulty in that if it were hock pain?

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        • #5
          Check saddle fit. He may be developing.

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          • #6
            The head tossing sounds to me like something with the bit or bridle. Have you thoroughly checked his entire mouth/palate for sores or ulcers? May not be his teeth at all... sores at edges of mouth or folds at edge where bit comes out of mouth. Or maybe at his pole - pain or discomfort from the bridle?

            Anyway, it does sound like pain or discomfort related. I'd have a vet or dentist thoroughly check his entire mouth (because this is typically difficult to do solo).
            ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

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            • #7
              I know you said his teeth are fine, but I recently went through something similar, and my gelding had developed a few points since his last dental exam and were starting to rub on his cheeks. So unless you have had a full dental exam since this behavior started, I would consider having a full dental exam to be sure. (I felt awful as trainer and I both initially thought he was being resistant as we were asking for more work)
              "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham

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              • #8
                In the past I’ve seen this related to SI discomfort and/or kissing spine. Good lameness vet to palpate, x ray and watch him go would be my next move if trainer has the same problem. Definitely sounds like he’s telling you he’s uncomfortable.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by dressagefjord807 View Post

                  He's reaching under pretty well for walk/canter transitions, just very inconsistently on the bit. Would I expect to see difficulty in that if it were hock pain?
                  This is how my gelding starts telling me his hocks are wrong. He doesn't stop reaching, but throughness and contact are the first things to go.

                  I also agree with the suggestion to check saddle fit.

                  How recently was the chiro done? I've had the best results when I mix chiro and massage. If there's muscle tightness somewhere, it can pull things out of alignment.
                  Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by MyssMyst View Post

                    This is how my gelding starts telling me his hocks are wrong. He doesn't stop reaching, but throughness and contact are the first things to go.

                    I also agree with the suggestion to check saddle fit.

                    How recently was the chiro done? I've had the best results when I mix chiro and massage. If there's muscle tightness somewhere, it can pull things out of alignment.
                    The chiro was done last Saturday. A week after the show where this somewhat started and a week since today, so really nothing that I could pinpoint was created or solved by the chiro appointment.

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