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Interesting "evasion" -- has anyone ever seen this?

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  • Interesting "evasion" -- has anyone ever seen this?

    A horse, who is allegedly a dressage horse (original owner said so and there are videos of the horse competing from about a year ago), goes around completely inverted, head in the air like a llama, and then tilts its head to the side and tries (in spite of flash) to open its mouth. The ears are usually flat back when the horse does this and it's worse on one direction than the other. Teeth have been checked and okayed by the vet, but nothing else has been done (including vet check on original purchase). The horse is muscled up in a way that indicates that it has been ridden in an outline, but it was then more or less given away for a nominal sum by previous owner.

    I'm just curious, really, if anyone has seen such behaviour before and if so, what was the cause (if you ever found it)? I have worked with horses who tilted their heads due to being tight through the poll and not understanding bend or able to bend until made more supple, but this horse does it in a more exaggerated fashion, turning its whole head sideways and pinning its ears.
    Help me keep my horse in peppermints and enjoy a great read! My New York City crime novel, available on Amazon.

  • #2
    Either there is something medically wrong with the horse, or the horse is fine but the new owner has no idea how to establish and ride into contact.

    If the owner has demonstrated the ability to ride into contact on other horses, I would call vet. If they have not, I would call trainer first.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
      Either there is something medically wrong with the horse, or the horse is fine but the new owner has no idea how to establish and ride into contact.

      If the owner has demonstrated the ability to ride into contact on other horses, I would call vet. If they have not, I would call trainer first.
      This is a very common evasion to avoid the bit. Jointed bits work off tongue pressure. Many horses hate this pressure. Hands that never release pin the tongue down causing the horse to evade in many ways. When a horse sticks it head in the air, the angle of pull from the hands is in a different position; the bit has slipped back and tongue pressure is released for the horse. Opening the mouth and sticking the tongue out are also ways to avoid tongue pressure, but by forcing a horse's mouth shut with a flash you take away this evasion and force him to accept the pinch or discomfort.

      Take away the flash and whatever bit you are using and try something else. The horse is telling you he is uncomfortable. Listen to the horse and no one else.

      Comment


      • #4
        Sounds like a pissed off horse. Key words to me - tries to open its mouth despite the flash... To be less anthropomorphic the horse is not comfortable. Take all that stuff off and see how he goes.

        Paula
        He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          I'm listening to the horse, but I'm not sure the owners are. I must admit, it's not my horse and this thread is kind of academic in the sense that I'm not -- at the moment -- in any position to suggest anything for the owners (other than gently commenting that I wasn't convinced the horse was sound when it first arrived at the barn, but nevermind). In all my years of horses, I've never seen one twist its head and neck so consistently and in such an exaggerated way, so as I said, I am simply curious as to what the COTH experience of this behaviour might be.
          Help me keep my horse in peppermints and enjoy a great read! My New York City crime novel, available on Amazon.

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          • #6
            I knew a mare once who if you sat down with your seatbones without thigh she would make that posture, plus swing around and try to bite your face. She had hormonal issues that made her a bit cold backed and she didn't fully understand forward.

            When I've seen geldings take this posture they've been in extreme pain.
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            • #7
              Poor horsie. It happens rather often that we just aren't listening. My horse told me for a while, "Ow, this saddle doesn't fit. The saddle doesn't bloody fit!"

              Fortunately with help I did finally listen

              Paula
              He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

              Comment


              • #8
                OP, why hasn't the vet been called out yet?! Or failing that a physio?

                This could be contact-related but with a reaction that extreme I'd be investigating possible sources of pain further back.
                Proud COTH lurker since 2001.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Yes. I tried to rehab a horse with a bit evasion like that. Owner spent thousands on tests at the veterinary hospital. Did all the alternative medicine stuff as well (accupuncture, chiro, massage, etc. etc. etc.)

                  History was that the horse was showing at 3rd/4th level when it had had a bout of exertional rhabdomyolysis (tying up.) Although the problem was corrected by diet, the horse was mentally fried and once it had developed this evasion, the horse refused to do any collected work reliably. After the owner finally gave up and sold him, he had a very successful career in the low hunters.
                  "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Denial, possibly (it's not a river in Africa). As I said, I had tactfully suggested a vet might be in order, simply as one friendly boarder to another, but the owners assured me that the horse was just testing them, or taking the mick as they say out here.

                    My heart breaks every time I see the horse exhibiting this behaviour (which I suspected was pain-related -- guess I was just looking for COTH reassurance), but I feel as though I've done the "friendly boarder but not getting too involved in how someone else manages their horse" advice thing. Don't like seeing unhappy horses, though. Ugh.
                    Help me keep my horse in peppermints and enjoy a great read! My New York City crime novel, available on Amazon.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I feel your pain. Nobody likes seeing unhappy horses.

                      Paula
                      He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Be interesting to see ow the horse travels on the longe.

                        I have been told the" horse needs this or that because he does this or that" When the problem disappeared on the longe, or with a different rider, the owner saw the light.
                        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

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                        • #13
                          I am dealing right now with a horse that does this -- he's a horse off the track. Long racing career so i don't know whether he had his tongue tied down while there, but it's certainly a possibility.

                          The only thing I've found so far that works is to ride him bitless. He's about a million times happier in a side pull.

                          Periodically I've been trying to reintroduce a bit (I'm using a nathe mullen mouth because it's about the gentlest bit I can think of) and he's gotten better but still exhibits the behavior.

                          I also do a lot of massage up around his poll. I wonder if somehow he's jammed himself up in those vertebrae and that is causing discomfort. He's getting acupuncture tomorrow.

                          I'd personally leave him bitless but he is up for adoption and I think he'd have a better chance of finding a new "job" if he could at least tolerate a bit.

                          Just for laughs why don't you suggest they try riding the horse bitless to see if it helps? I use a Mickem bridle or an LG (which is like a sidepull with a bit of hackamore action).
                          Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                          EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Gosh I'm glad someone else suggested bitless. I don't have the bones yet to make such a recommendation I think. One thing though; hard, unyielding, blocking hands with the bit will likely be hard, unyielding, blocking hands without a bit so the horse may not be happier until the rider is addressed.

                            IMO
                            Paula
                            He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              The horse does the same thing on the lunge and it is in fact very difficult for him to go to one direction (I forget which) on the lunge. He's also an OTTB

                              What is interesting to me is that when you look at the horse, he clearly has a topline so has, at some point, been ridden on the bit enough to have the shape of a dressage horse. But as I said in the OP, he was given away by his previous owner. The reason? He had started bucking her off, usually in canter transitions (or so I was told).
                              Help me keep my horse in peppermints and enjoy a great read! My New York City crime novel, available on Amazon.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Sounds like soreness to me.

                                I know it's not your horse, so vet options are limited, but it really sounds like discomfort. Maybe the saddle doesn't fit. Maybe he was inexpensive due to issues (kissing spine? sore joints?). I don't think it's a bit issue unless they've got some extremely adversive bit in his mouth.

                                Now, if it's stemming from incorrect work (upside down neck seems to indicate that) I'd do a lot of LY or TOF to add some flexibility through the body. The neck will follow.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Caol Ila View Post
                                  The horse does the same thing on the lunge and it is in fact very difficult for him to go to one direction (I forget which) on the lunge. He's also an OTTB

                                  What is interesting to me is that when you look at the horse, he clearly has a topline so has, at some point, been ridden on the bit enough to have the shape of a dressage horse. But as I said in the OP, he was given away by his previous owner. The reason? He had started bucking her off, usually in canter transitions (or so I was told).

                                  Sounds like this horse has been shouting his discomfort for a while, poor thing. If anything your post reminds us to make sure we're listening to our own horse right?

                                  Paula
                                  He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Sure sounds like the horse objects either to the bit, or the rider's hands, or both. Have they tried changing bits? Are they experienced enough to figure out what bit is best for the horse? If not, are they using a good trainer who can help them? Some horses really object to a single jointed bit, as it pokes them in the roof of the mouth. And some horses object to a loose ring, because it pinches the sides of the mouth (esp. if it isn't long enough). Some horses object if the bit is too narrow, as it can cause bruising on the bars, esp. if the rider doesn't have an elastic, following hand. And some horses object if the bit is too thick, because it doesn't seat properly on the bars and presses or bangs on the teeth fore and/or aft.

                                    And you said the vet checked his teeth, but did he also take a good look at the rest of his mouth - looking for bruising, cuts, etc., etc.? Also, some vets aren't too sharp on teeth (no pun intended), so they may want to have a good equine dentist look him over.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      There are a lot of variables that can cause the behavior. Saddle fit, wrong bit, rider's hands, etc. I think it's interesting he does this on the lunge line because the OTTB that I'm working with is fine when he's lunged. The behavior only starts when he's ridden. It suggests to me that there is something physical going on, not just a mental aversion to bits.

                                      In addition to tilting his head, mine will also stop and refuse to move with a bit but much of this behavior disappeared when I started riding him bitless.

                                      I would go there first. No need to buy an expensive "bitless bridle." Personally, I've never had a horse that liked the Dr. Cook's bridle (and I tried it on four horses including this one!). You can start by just riding him in a halter or buy an inexpensive jumping hackamore like this one.

                                      Part of the trick of riding bitless (or actually, with a bit) is learning what the horse responds to. Some horses don't like single jointed bits . . . some like bits with a fixed ring . . . some prefer a loose ring. Bitless is the same way. The side pull approach uses direct contact for turning (use left rein to give direct rein pressure) while the cross under designs have an oblique signal that confuses me! The cross under designs also use poll pressure. Some horses (and I had one of those) don't like that at all. Others seem to do okay with it. Traditional hackamores put quite a bit of pressure on the sensitive areas of the nose and are more appropriate for disciplines where contact at all times is not desired.

                                      I think the important thing is to work with the horse and find what approach gets the best response. If you want to compete in a discipline that requires a certain type of bit (like dressage) you can work back to that but you need to get the horse moving forward and using itself correctly first (IMHO).
                                      Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                      EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I had an OTTB that started out doing exactly this. He would lift his head up and twist it to the side. I rode him with very light contact, have always been complimented on light hands. I had a chiropractor work on him and found out his pelvis was waaay out of wack and his poll was very tight. After the chiro visit the twisting went away. A few years later the twisting came back and he started bucking when picking up a canter. Had a chiro out but unfortunately he had to be retired. I did also have a regular vet out, adequan etc. His pelvis and hocks just gave out on him...he did race until he was 8 so had a lot of wear and tear. I would try to suggest having a chiro come out and look at him first it can be less expensive than a full lameness exam and the chiro should also be able to check the saddle fit to see if there is any pain there.

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