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Feeling awful...horse flipped over in side reins

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  • Feeling awful...horse flipped over in side reins

    I have a very quiet and laid back 6 year old who is green but going well w-t-c and learning his dressage basics. I'm an experienced rider working with an instructor. I have lunged him in side reins before, starting very loose and gradually progressing to a light contact.

    Today in a lesson my instructor increased the contact a little more than before. Not cranking him in by any means, just a steady contact with a bit of bend to the inside. He was going well like this trotting and cantering, but at one point stopped and wouldn't go forward. With little warning, he went over backwards. When my instructor was trying to adjust the side reins after this, he went over again, almost like he was throwing himself over. He was not visibly hurt and was sound (thank god) but was shaken. She decreased the contact to almost none and he finished the session well like this. We gave him a bute and checked him over, and he seemed just fine.

    I am feeling horrible about this. He is an incredibly sweet horse who has never resisted going forward under saddle, much less to rear. Obviously the contact was too much for him at this stage, which my instructor freely admitted - she was just as shocked and horrified as I was.

    Has this ever happened to anyone out there before? If so, did it cause long term training damage? Does anyone have suggestions on how to minimize the trauma from this unfortunate event? My instructor told me to just longe him for 5 minutes a few times this week with very light side rein contact to let him know that it is OK.

    Any advice would be helpful, but I ask that you please do not attack me or my instructor. I am sincerely asking for constructive ideas for the best of this sweet horse. Thanks.

  • #2
    How much contact do you ride with under saddle? I assume you have had his teeth checked?
    *** 4 More Years ***
    *** 4 More Years ***


    • #3
      I don't really have anything to offer other than to say that I am sorry this happened to you and am sending jingles for your horse so that he feels better. If it were me, I would have my vet out to look at the horse just for my peace of mind, because sometimes they can really hurt themselves when they flip over, and it is not always readily apparent to a non-vet. I would rather find out that I was being overcautious than to risk overlooking a problem that becomes a big issue later.
      Last edited by YankeeLawyer; Dec. 17, 2006, 07:27 PM.
      Roseknoll Sporthorses


      • #4
        Is it really necessary to keep working him in side reins at all? I think a better way to "let him know that it is OK" is to stop using whatever's freaking him out so much.


        • #5
          There's nothing wrong with using side reins while lunging. I think this was a freak accident, and it sounds like your trainer did the right thing. I would definately get a vet out though to make sure he is ok.


          • #6
            Second that. Call the vet.

            When you say "he went over again when she was adjusting the side reins" do you mean "when she was taking them off" or do you mean "when she was loosening them"?

            In this situation I would have removed them completely, because now you have an issue where he is associating them with bad things. It doesn't matter how loose they are, you now have lost them as an option. I would not take that risk again, no matter how much remedial training you do. It is simply not worth it.

            Lark B


            • Original Poster

              Yes, his teeth have been checked and done. I ride with a light contact, trying to progress to more as he develops. I would be fine with the idea of not working him with side reins again - I just want to make sure I don't leave him with a permanent issue if I never again used them.

              And yes, he did it again when she was loosening them. I appreciate that the comments have been helpful and not accusatory so far.


              • #8
                With an event like that, you may want to have him checked out by a chiropractor. That kind of event can throw things out of wack.

                Since you'd been lunging him in the side reins for a while, the reaction sounds extreme. It may be a pain reaction but it could just as easily be a mental freak out - sense of claustrophobia. If it were me, I just wouldn't use side reins (not key on them anyway). Taking up contact while riding is safer since you can give and take, reacting to the horse.

                Do you lunge for a reason or is this just part of your regular training? I don't use lunging except to teach discipline and verbal cues. Once I can ride, I just don't lunge unless I haven't ridden a horse for a while and want to gauge his mental state.

                Good luck! Hope your boy is ok and don't go down the guilt path. Stuff happens and all we can do is find a way to recover.


                • #9
                  I've seen this happen before and the horse was in pain, hence the refusal to go forward.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Alter-size Me View Post
                    Yes, his teeth have been checked and done. I ride with a light contact, trying to progress to more as he develops. I would be fine with the idea of not working him with side reins again - I just want to make sure I don't leave him with a permanent issue if I never again used them.

                    And yes, he did it again when she was loosening them. I appreciate that the comments have been helpful and not accusatory so far.
                    If he had just done it once, I might try to work in a few good experiences with side reins before retiring them. It's the fact that he flipped over again, in the same session, that makes me think you already *do* have an issue.

                    Some issues you can work through, with some it's best just to avoid the confrontation if you can. Because flipping over can be so dangerous, and side reins aren't absolutely necessary to training, I would say just can them now. The potential risks (serious bodily injury, fear of contact, claustrophobia) seriously outweigh whatever benefits there might be to trying to "fix" the problem. IMO, of course.

                    No flames here -- they're horses, things happen.


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks, all. I agree with you mazu and I'm going to ditch the side reins. They are certainly not necessary for training and not worth the risk to this horse. I think you hit the nail on the head about it happening twice. To me, it really looked like a panic/claustraphobia reaction.

                      Now a question - would it be likely that this could ever translate to under saddle, or does it sound more like a reaction specific to side reins which do not give like hands?

                      Also, does anybody know what kinds of things the vet might look for? It's Sunday and I'm not going to be able to get them out until at least tomorrow and I'd like to double check him myself tonight.


                      • #12
                        It probably won't happen under saddle. You may want the vet to check his neck and back.


                        • #13
                          That happen to me 20 years ago and I had the fear of my life. It was a very laid back TB mare.

                          You don't adjust side reins to increase the contact because doing this is just getting your horse feeling caught in something he does not understand. If you want to make your horse feel the contact I place the side reins on the top of the surcincle so he has, the feeling of the reins. Don't tight them since your horse has to reach the contact and not the opposite.

                          Fighting ovarian cancer ! 2013 huge turnaround as I am winning the battle !..


                          • #14
                            Sorry, this happened and forgive me if I am echoing any above post as I didn't read them all.
                            The first thing I think of is yeas give the vet a call and have your horse checked out. A few things that come to mind. First, there may be something pinching him in his neck that causes pain when flexed and he is resisting the steady consistant pressure put on by the side rein being shorter than normal. Perhaps they would have to x ray his neck for any abnormalities. The second thing is teeth but you have had that addressed. Then I would have a chiropractor check him after the vet examination or if you are lucky to have a vet that does chiro work then you can have both things shecked out with one visit. In any case I also would think about trying him in sliding or Vienna side reins rather than the old fashioned type. They will allow him a bit of freedom to move his neck where he is comfortable rather than being in a fixed frame. I usually seek out any pain issues before thinking about behavior problems. Good Luck and I hope he is easy to figure out.
                            "The well being of a horse should never be compromised for the ego of a human" dlg 06



                            • #15
                              It was probably the inside rein being shorter that provoked it. If he's not ready for that, it can really freak them out. Stepping into two even side reins is one thing; dealing with the idea of following them on an arc is another.

                              You need to do a lot of exercises where you ask him to follow your inside rein and allow with the outside at first. I know, I know.. doesn't sound very dressagey does it? BUT it's real life.. your horse may have not truly learned that very baby step.. or you've moved on past it without reminding him enough. Why is this so important? Because if he freaks at something undersaddle and you need to stop him or slow him or change him by taking your inside rein, HE NEEDS TO FOLLOW IT and not rear from it. A horse that follows your inside rein when things go wrong is a safe horse. Stay safe.

                              Ditto everyone on the teeth and chiro.
                              "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                              • Original Poster

                                Eq Trainer, that is really interesting and I did not think of it. However, I think he does follow my inside rein undersaddle unless I am misunderstanding what you mean. Could you give an example of what you mean to clarify? As I mentioned in my original post, he has never even given the slightest indication of a thought of rearing or not going forward under saddle.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Alter-size Me View Post
                                  Eq Trainer, that is really interesting and I did not think of it. However, I think he does follow my inside rein undersaddle unless I am misunderstanding what you mean. Could you give an example of what you mean to clarify? As I mentioned in my original post, he has never even given the slightest indication of a thought of rearing or not going forward under saddle.
                                  He needs to follow it around with his entire body, not just his head or neck.. he needs to relax his jaw and quiet when this happens.. he needs to feel good about it. Of course it's not just the rein, he needs to move from your leg at the same time.

                                  This is a baby thing, not a grown-up dressage horse thing.. although I will say that when you start trail riding an advanced horse you find out soon enough if they remember this <LOL>

                                  I ride a lot of babies and it's the first thing I check when I get on them.. hey little one, will you follow my inside rein without flipping out? As they move on/grow up, you can redirect their fear or uncertaintity by just taking a little bit of feel on it, rather than it being the passive rein it is intended to be.

                                  People will want to say this is a forward thing; and in a way, it is.. but it can be more about the horse knowing what to do w/his energy rather than making more of it. Energy has to have somewhere to GO. His, at that moment, wasn't going thru his body.

                                  I recently sent a horse off to get started; it was the first time in a long time that I did not do it myself. I was happy to see he did the same thing with him.

                                  I guess to me it's like anything.. back up until you get to where the issue is. I don't think it's just about sidereins if he's been going in them, and if he's been truly relaxed and forward before, it's not that simple, either. But it really is simple, if it is indeed just that he forgot to follow his inside rein!

                                  BTW, I have seen the second rear thingie happen before, under much the same circumstances. For future reference, it is a better idea at that point to go back to ONE siderein AFTER you send the horse forward with NO side reins.
                                  Last edited by EqTrainer; Dec. 17, 2006, 07:38 PM.
                                  "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                                  • #18
                                    Are you quite positive that the horse did not put his tongue over the bit? Some horses will react quite badly the first time they happen to do this.

                                    I agree with all of the checking for medical reasons listed, but this also emphasizes the need to ALWAYS carry a lunge whip when lungeing. If a horse is refusing to go forward/getting ready to run back or rear and flip he needs a sharp snap to get that thought out of his head so you have time to unhook the side reins and figure out what is wrong. A crack of the whip in the air or even on his bum is a much kinder thing then him flipping over and possibly really hurting himself.

                                    I would not stop working this horse in side reins. I would want to find the cause of this issue and fix it in ground work before I ever got on this horse's back. It is one thing to flip over on a lunge line and quite another to flip over with you on his back. It is very possible that this incident could be indicative of a variety of physical problems, mental problems or training problems- in fact I would weigh more on this incident being the tip of the iceberg of a problem than being a random freak thing.

                                    All of my horses learn to lunge in side reins and long line before I ever ride them. None of them have ever flipped over. When I was an assistant trainer I watched 1 incident of a horse flipping over in long lines and that problem was fixed in long lines before the horse (a 3 year old) was ever saddled and he never again repeated it.


                                    • #19
                                      I am no fan of side reins and I use them only with experienced older horses...never with green horses. I watched a friend's horse flip over, crack his skull and die. He is only one a couple I've heard of that died that way or were injured badly. You were very lucky if your horse is not injured. I know I sure wouldn't be putting them back on anytime soon if he were mine.

                                      Definitely call the vet and have him looked over. It is much much safer to ride him into a contact and teach him from his back.


                                      • #20
                                        sliding sidereins!

                                        I have had that experience , it is not a positive one. if you're trying to teach him to accept contact, I would use sliding sidereins, they allow the horse to adjust his head and neck to a comfortable position, even stretching down, The regular sidereins "stop" the horse from going forward no matter how much you "chase " him, trying to move forward is difficult, and uncomfortable. Since they can't go forward they go up, horses under saddle also do this on occassion, or, at least throw their heads up violently as for your horse have a chiropractic vet look him over also, a massage therapist
                                        breeder of Mercury!

                                        remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans