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How would you encourage peppier hind leg action?

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  • How would you encourage peppier hind leg action?

    I have a large, 6 year old, late maturing, clinically lazy (evaluated "clean and clear - and lazy" by vets, bone scan, ultrasound, x-rays, full neurological exam) 16.3 TB gelding who has a tendency to be lazier about properly moving his right hind leg at times. He pulled a muscle way up in his right hip goofing off in the paddock a few months ago and is back to complete work - started jumping again this month over low fences. I feel as though this right leg lag could be due to muscle memory from it being injured for a long time - it went misdiagnosed for about a month during which he was completely sound. Finding the injury was a total fluke as I had a bone-scan done for piece of mind about his SI.

    He has a Hunter's Bump which has been cleared as non-reactive and is not thought to be a limiting issue for him in his current career as an Eventer. Please don't get caught up on the SI, hip, etc - he is sound, he works straight (most of the time- he is 6 and lanky), he has wonderful gaits and an excellent jump. He is seen regularly by a chiropractor and massage therapist to ensure that he is happy and healthy and that I am not hurting him in any way. His hind end is STRONG and getting stronger. He does pole work and hills and he does them properly (99% of the time! ). He is pretty fit right now and even muscled behind.

    The issue that I notice is that he swings his right hind through the middle towards the left side and out to normal track again at the trot - lets even say for giggles that sometimes he doesn't step into the track of his front hoof with that right hind, although I'm not sure he ever does it that badly- he does not interfere, although once in a while if he's not paying attention he will trip a bit behind over it. It is not a stifle catching or even a knuckling over, just a "catching a toe in the dirt" moment that is over in a second. He does not go down or truly trip. He does NOT swing his leg in this motion over poles and he does not take weird steps when he is working well off my leg and listening. The many vets I have seen are not concerned about it and say it's just his way of moving. He does not do this trip-ish thing behind when out hacking.

    I'm assuming it's connected to the other thing I notice which is that when you ask him to do a turn on the forehand to the right, he leaves that right hind on the ground and twists around it until the last second when he actually picks it up and crosses it in front of his left to end the exercise correctly. To the left he moves his left hind right away, no lag or delay.

    What would you all recommend for a horse that is pokier with one limb? I feel as though I need to remind him that the leg is pain free and re-teach his mind and body how to use it properly. I think he'll always have a tendency to cross it under his body and out but I would like to get him a bit more reactive to stimulus to that leg.

    Thank you in advance for reading!! Sorry for the essay...

    Serious Worrier, Over-Thinker

  • #2
    Have you looked at his quarters/gaskins from behind and are his hips even? I had a horse with remarkably similar issues as yours--including the non-reactive hunters bump. When I lifted his tail and compared his hind legs they were really asymmetrical--for whatever reason, he was in good health but was given to me as a freebie. His one hind leg looked like a chicken leg relative to the other that was well muscled relative to his size frame. On the hip on the same side there was a vaguely noticible difference in the muscling over that hip--it wasnt much and could have been easily missed--but the gaskin/quarter--OH MY.

    What I did with my guy was a lot of hill work--he did best when he was ridden 'daily'. He did not like to bend his hocks--but as he progressed he did wonderfully. What seemed the most important thing for him was consistency --even if it was only 15m hack around the yard--he really needed to work everyday.
    Redbud Ranch
    Check us out on FB


    • #3
      my recommendation would be to find a real, honest to goodness well trained/educated dressage trainer to help you... one that understands that the exercises are physical therapy and that they can ride the horse to wellness.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks for the quick responses! His hips are uneven, his left is higher than his right but he ultrasounds equal muscle mass over his quarters. He has good muscling all over and looks even everywhere except that bump - his hips are tilted but the vets, chiro, etc are not concerned that it is a limiting, inhibiting or straining issue. If you looked at him from either side you wouldn't see anything. When you looked at him from behind you would notice his hunter's bump and his hip tilt but nothing huge. He is a big boned, tall, lanky boy with serious legs. His legs are even in length.

        I do have a great trainer who events herself and is an excellent dressage coach, although my dressage level is very very low! We haven't done any serious dressage training recently due to the injury but I asked her to ride him twice a week over poles to encourage the straightness and equal loading and striding of the hind legs. The only thing we have disagreed on in the past was the importance of the uneven SI and his tendency towards laziness but now that he has been checked from hoof to tail she has begun to side with me in the belief that the bump is just a bump.


        • #5
          My guys bump was not an issue for him either and he evented up to Training Level just before I sold him. My guy was also big (16.3HH) big boned sort of guy. It really seemed to me that he did not want to 'bend' his hocks at first--but the more we did the better he got. In the end I feel he was completely even and well muscled over the hips and both hinds--he is still eventing with a new young rider at 18
          Redbud Ranch
          Check us out on FB


          • Original Poster

            Awesome for you and him ! I'm always so happy to hear about older horses competing successfully! I hope to keep this guy sound and happy for many years to come.

            How did you get him to bend his hocks? I was going to try to tap at his leg when I'm working but I'm not that coordinated yet... I'm not used to holding the crop so I tighten my rein too much. Did you use lots of lateral work or were there any special tricks to getting him to use his hocks? Was thinking of carrying a crop on the ground every once in a while and gently flicking his leg while walking around the barn to encourage him to lift it as nicely as the left one. Not intending to torture him Just an extra thing I thought I could throw in there.


            • #7
              Like I mentioned--going up and more importantly working down hill. I started at the walk and focused keeping him really straight between my aides--so that he did not weasel out of bending his hind legs. Going down hill pretty much requires they bend/flex the hind legs--step more under and sit down more especially if you hold a correct line and they are not allowed to drift out and wonder about. I did not work on anything very steep till he seemed better balanced and using himself well. I worked up to trot and canter always being careful to work both sides evenly. The trick with him really seemed to be careful, consistent work--the more often he was ridden the better (more functional) he got.
              Redbud Ranch
              Check us out on FB


              • #8
                Lots of transitions. Trot 10 meters, walk 4 steps, trot, walk 4 steps, trot. Medium trot, collected trot, medium trot, collected trot. Keep the transitions quick and clear - it will get them quicker behind and quicker to your aids. But - you have to be firm in requiring those quick transitions.

                You can also use LY - but keep it sharp and quick. Sideways 10 steps, sideways the other way, always quick. And keep your own ads sharp and quick - don't bury your leg in his side, tap, tap, tap over.

                If your horse has worked piaffe or half steps, those can also help improve a hind leg.


                • #9
                  Agree w/ above. I have a lazy otsb who has a lazier left hind. He too vetted clear.

                  He's only 4, and was started under saddle in February, so we're very new to the game.

                  But the things that have worked for him are really focused on loosening/softening/engaging the back - so transitions, trot poles and baby leg yields. Those things, especially the first two, are magic for him.

                  I'm just learning the importance of this - I have my own learning curve, haha. Its futile effort to try to fix him when he's plodding along, it is way too taxing on my body, with very little result on the horse - and if anything he gets resentful about it. However, if I ride transitions the stuff in-between is of much higher quality, and also easier to correct.
                  My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage


                  • #10
                    I'm sorry to be Debbie Downer here, but I think you may end up investing a lot of time (and money) and end of with problems still.

                    The absence of finding something with diagnostics (US, Nuc Scint, Xrays, etc) does not mean he is sound & not experiencing pain or has an issue.

                    The patterns he has raise a lot of red flags to me personally. I'm not sure a life as a dressage horse would be fair to him.

                    My personal experiences bias me towards that opinion though. I have one that many other people would think is fine - just needs to be stronger & quicker, or a stifle issue. The horse had a lot of talent & many people would spend a lot of time & $ trying to work on this, get her stronger, etc. But, in reality it would all be for naught.

                    Also - your horse may truly not have a neurological issue, however many horses are cleared by many vets, only to find later on they do have neurological problems. It is something that is missed a lot, until the horse becomes more obvious, or is falling/tripping, etc. I'm not saying your horse is, but there's a lot that of issues that even the modern diagnostics cannot find/see.

                    Again, sorry to be a downer, but I think you should go into this eyes open. Maybe a life as a trail/pleasure horse would be more suited to him. It just all depends on what your goals are, if you want to keep him forever, if you're fine with him not making it to be a dressage horse, etc.


                    • #11

                      Um, that's a bit extreme. This sound, nice moving youngster should be a trail horse because of a lazy hind leg? Lots of horses have a lazy hind leg, especially if they are young and early in their dressage training. Horses, like people, are left and right handed. Gloom and doom will only prevent the OP from doing the strength training this horse sounds like he needs. I get that some horses do have undiagnosed lamenesses, etc, but any training thread can be derailed by talk of vets, diagnoses, etc etc. The way your post sounds, any horse may have physical issues that no vet can find. Okay, then, so do we retire all our dressage horses the minute they show any weakness or training issues? I'm sorry you've had/seen bad experiences with horses in pain, but I think your post is unnecessarily grim.

                      Back to the OP:
                      Hills, poles, and get the book Equine Fitness.
                      2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
                      Our training journal.
                      1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
                      I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SisterToSoreFoot View Post

                        Um, that's a bit extreme. This sound, nice moving youngster should be a trail horse because of a lazy hind leg? Lots of horses have a lazy hind leg, especially if they are young and early in their dressage training. Horses, like people, are left and right handed. Gloom and doom will only prevent the OP from doing the strength training this horse sounds like he needs. I get that some horses do have undiagnosed lamenesses, etc, but any training thread can be derailed by talk of vets, diagnoses, etc etc. The way your post sounds, any horse may have physical issues that no vet can find. Okay, then, so do we retire all our dressage horses the minute they show any weakness or training issues? I'm sorry you've had/seen bad experiences with horses in pain, but I think your post is unnecessarily grim.

                        Back to the OP:
                        Hills, poles, and get the book Equine Fitness.
                        once in a while if he's not paying attention he will trip a bit behind over it

                        His hips are uneven, his left is higher than his right

                        Those are observations from the OP that bothered me.

                        Yes, a lot of horses have a stronger & weak side however it does not present as strongly as the impression I'm getting from the OP. When it's that case, it's something very very subtle. And it improves over time.

                        Asymetrical hips, sticking and twisting a hind foot on a TOF, a swinging in & out movement in flight of the hind leg, catching the toe in the dirt - those are the thing that were more alarming to me.

                        That is why I said go into this eyes open & just because a vet can't find something diagnostically, doesn't mean he is pain free & without issue & just needs to get stronger. If he improves over the next few months - okay great! But if not, time to rethink things.

                        STSF - when people post about vet related issues, soundness problems, etc - it's to prevent the rider/owner from spending countless time & money on something that is not going to get better, or chasing other symptoms that are not the root of the problem.


                        • #13
                          JME w/ my n=1 horse.

                          I ended up w/ a horse who had previously broken/dislocated his hip. His one hip bone stuck out. He would not stay sound for work.

                          I started w/ lunging in side reins to build his strength and did a lot of hill work and general conditioning. He started staying sound and ended up being an event horse and ultimately a mid level dressage horse, completely sound. Keeping him from getting sore in the beginning of his strengthening work was key -read as long slow progression.

                          He is still sound, BUT if I work him too hard and over fatigue his muscles, he'll get a "flat tire" behind and will need a bit of "physical therapy" - long and low, lunge work and cavaletti just to make sure he is not muscle sore.

                          FWIW, I also knew a horse with his pelvis "put on crooked" - the whole thing was crooked, and he just could not do the work and stay sound at anything above training level.

                          Bottom line - it probably depends on the horse and the injury for the long term prognosis.


                          • #14
                            My horse has a hunters bump from EPSM. Just something to consider. He has hind end stiffness with that EPSM and this is not something that will show up on a lameness exam (x-rays, u/s, etc..). You would have to do a muscle biopsy to determine this. The hunters bump is caused by soreness and/or weakness in the hind end or back of some sort.
                            Derby Lyn Farms Website

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                            • Original Poster

                              I think I was overreacting. Spoke with my trainer today and she watched him carefully during lesson at trot and she says he is straightening out all on his own- the arc of that hind is not as noticeable as it was and she is really impressed with him. Took out a dressage crop and a peppermint and had him snapping that leg up during the turn on forehand no problem. We still have a ways to go to get him to fill out but I'm confident he is on the right track. My trainer is a no bull sh@t and would tell me if she thought I was being unfair to the horse. He flexes great and I doubt he's in any pain- massage therapist says his muscles are pliable and building. If he was in pain his muscles would reflect it. He has normal work tightness but no soreness. Still interested in everyone's input though-- I think it really helps to have all the opinions!


                              • Original Poster

                                Not a ways to go on filling him out, he is fine, but will keep building topline and etc!


                                • #17
                                  What I do is when the "lazy leg" (LL) starts forward I use my spur on that side to "activate" that leg and encourage more activity.

                                  For TOF that means when LL hip starts forward you take your spur on that side and stick it so he raises that leg (for TOH I always keep the tempo by using both calves in time with desired steps). Also - if he's sticking TOH make the turns bigger until you get that fixed.
                                  Now in Kentucky


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Will practice that! I've been nudging him gently at the trot as that leg goes forward in the beginning of rides and a few minutes in he understands and moves it more elaborately on his own.

                                    It took one in hand practice of TOF (as close to true TOF as you can get in hand...) with the dressage whip tickling his hock and he now moves it well. I'm pretty sure it's a learned behavior- a muscle memory issue from the attachment injury because my farrier doesn't recall him ever scuffing that hind toe.

                                    As far as keeping the tempo, do you mean you bump with hitch ever calf corresponds to whichever leg you are controlling at the time?


                                    • #19
                                      I had a mare many years ago that dragged her toes on both hind feet. I tried cavaletti and it did not help. The farrier tried to change her breakover and that did not help either. The vet just told me that is the way she walked. So she was a trail horse after that. My Arabian had a tendency to drag his toes too but I tried the cavaletti with him and it did work to get him to pick up his feet. He finally figured it out that he had to pick up his feet or knock them on the rails. He finally got it down pretty well. He liked the cavaletti. He had to pick up his feet, so he did. The more we did the work over the rails the better he got . Try it with your horse and see if it helps.
                                      Other than that, sounds like you have a good teacher so go with her. Also if he is 6 he had lots more growing to do. He may get over this and be a fine horse.


                                      • #20
                                        I did (and still do) a lot of walking on rocky/uneven trails with my mare, after her rehab from suspensory surgery. She'd become quite spoiled by spending over a year working only on level footing, and was tending to get a bit lazy about picking up her feet. Riding her somewhere where she had to pay attention to where she was putting her feet helped. She's still not 100% but so much better.

                                        Hill work is good too... especially when you insist that the horse stay straight!
                                        You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                                        1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"