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Nerve issues caused by girth?

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  • Nerve issues caused by girth?

    *Will be speaking with Chiropractor Vet who treats horse on Monday. Just looking to see if anyone else has dealt with this.

    Horse is an 11yo OTTB gelding whom I've had 5 years and previously just hacked around on. The horse is now being ridden regularly and started jumping consistently in the last few weeks. During a lesson today the horse was jumping 2-2'6 with nothing more than green horse issues like straightness, balancing in turns etc. Horse comes up to a jump, jumps great but literally DOES NOT put down his landing gear aka front legs. Horse hits the sand on his knees, face, head and stops in a sternal position and gets up but stands still. Horse is pretty bloody but everything is superficial. I got back on to just jump the same jump as a cross rail to make sure he keeps his confidence. Horse jumps it with no issue. Instructor and everyone else present thinks it's just something that happened and wait to see if it happens again.

    This horse has laid down before when I went to stretch his legs after starting to girth up. I have to be aware of how much and how I stretch him. Occasionally horse will stay stretched out after I have stretched his front end until I walk him forward. HOWEVER, today I no issues. I currently use a leather Total Saddle Fit short girth and have used a standard synthetic fleece short girth in the past.

    Things happen for a when I reach over and smack you upside the head, just gave me a reason!

  • #2
    The last horse I knew that didn't put it's landing gear down had a neurologic defect found. I think neck arthritis. It was a few years ago and it was a friend of mine's so not a direct experience.

    The horse I worked with that had girth related issues was affected by one of the Pro's choice neoprene girths. The vet suggested that leather and fuzzy girths work better at holding the saddle tight enough but allowing for the girth itself to have some movement, thus not overly gripping the nerves at the bottom of the barrel area. The neoprene girths, especially when sweaty, caused everything to just stick too much. And the horse had issues with falling down or flipping over.

    Fwiw, Gin would start to crumble in the cross ties if I tightened his dressage girth too quickly. He too ended up having cervical spine neck arthritis and is mildly neuro.

    Good luck but it might not hurt to have a vet do a basic neuro exam.


    "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries


    • #3
      this would concern me greatly.
      my understanding is that girths should be on the longer side (if its a short point saddle) to avoid that whole nerve area.
      However girth tightening reactions can just be a symptom of pressure anywhere there through the spine too, so kissing spines, neck injuries, CA.

      Golly that must have been scary for horse and rider


      • #4
        I've dealt with a number of horses with the girth issue, including my old Prelim horse, but it's always been an issue when tacking up and the first minute or two after getting on. Generally if you survive that (and hopefully learn to manage it) they are fine. I agree with Xcountrygirl about considering a neuro exam.


        • #5
          Pressure from the girth would not directly press on the nerves responsible for sensation and control of the front legs. However, the girth can affect the position of the saddle and potentially exacerbate back pain- so maybe?? I bought a total saddle fit girth for my TB and found it did not apply even pressure under the chest- the front gapped a bit. I asked my saddle fitter about it and she said that girth worked well for horses with a round shaped barrel but not so well for a deep narrow chest like my horse had.

          Good luck- hopefully just a one off!


          • #6
            WOW. SCARY. DANGEROUS.

            Obviously, there is something major going on --- more major than a chiropractor can help you with. But he/she can point you to an area that a vet can focus on.

            I have a horse who is girthy. He always has been, from day 1. If he has had time off (say 1 month) I need to start doing the girth up very slowly. One hole at a time, alternating sides, walking/jogging in between.

            His response was "bronc bucking" -- and I got several concussions and broken ribs early on.

            1. He HATES neoprine. No, none, never. Only fleece girths. I used to have to use tube socks, cut the toes off and slide one sock up each side, over the elastic on the girth, so nothing touched his sides.
            2. Stretching (especially the carrot stretches --- behind the saddle on both sides and also between the legs.
            3. The vets decided that, probably as a weanling/yearling, he had broken a rib, but no one had noticed because he was turned out in a big field with other babies.

            Do you have access to a round pen? Or can you lunge him over a tiny X? Do it on successive days to see if you can reproduce the problem without a rider. Get as much information as you can before letting the vet examine him. And be prepared to take him to a major vet clinic for standing x-rays.

            Until you have an answer, treat him like a dangerous horse (because he is) and be very cautious around him.
            "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

            Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump


            • Original Poster


              I recently was informed by a person who worked on the farm the horse was bred and raised that he had a history of laying down when saddled as a young horse. The horse made his 1st start at 4 due to maturity issues and went on to race 2 1/2 years straight before I got him. My vet did a basic neuro exam at my farm with nothing conclusive. It will take a more in depth in clinic exam to dig deeper into what potentially caused this to happen. The horse has had zero issues on the flat,trail riding, or turned out in the field, etc. The horse will not be jumping again, too much risk for myself and the horse.
              Things happen for a when I reach over and smack you upside the head, just gave me a reason!


              • #8
                I wouldn't jump this horse until you have a diagnosis. It's sounds like neuro or possibly kissing spine? Would you be able to do a body scan?

                Sorry you are going through this.
                Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                • #9
                  I don't know that I would be quite so doom and gloom. I've known more than one green horse who did this. And laying down when first being tacked or started undersaddle is not unusual either.

                  I had a horse who is who is a solid 3* horse almost have a rotational fall over a tiny fence as a young horse because he got distracted. Forgetting body parts while jumping is really common. I would have my vet really look at Back, neck and ribs but otherwise just keep jumps small and work on foot work.
                  ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                  • #10
                    Just to add to the discussion, many horses have a vagal response to having a girth tightened too quickly. This explains girthiness and posturing after being girthed in many cases, and also explains why some young horses try to lay down after being girthed. It's not a neurologic problem, it's just a temporary physical reaction to pressure around the chest. The solution is to girth the horse up very slowly and walk them a little before getting the girth fully tight.

                    IME, neoprene girths and certain types of elastic girths can also cause soft tissue soreness underneath the chest where the girth runs, and this can be a culprit in horses who suddenly become girthy or irritable about being mounted. I don't know why this happens, but switching to a fleece lined or even leather girth seems to fix this problem. In this case, since there seems to be an element of girthiness, I would consider switching to a plain fleece girth.

                    I'm often quick to be "doom and gloom," but I'm not in this case. If the horse has had zero other symptoms, I would chalk this up to greenness and momentary clumsiness. I don't see anything wrong with having a vet check the horse closely to rule out neuro symptoms to be sure, but I'm guessing they won't find anything. I would continue to work on strengthening and fitness exercises, and work on agility exercises including jumps and cavaletti on the longe until you feel comfortable that the horse is fine.

                    That having been said, if you aren't comfortable riding this horse, then don't.


                    • #11
                      I changed to mohair string girths during the past year.

                      The horses seem to prefer this type girth to leather and synthetic girths. The girthy horse was not as girthy, all the horses I ride with them seem to relax a little bit when I put the girth on. I've gotten sighs and one horse even started nuzzling me after I tightened the girth.

                      I think the horses like how the string girth stretches just enough, and how it adjusts to their movements.

                      The string girths from Dover are not that expensive, cheaper than the leather girths and cheaper than most of the synthetic girths.

                      Good luck in finding a solution!


                      • #12
                        I also put a good breastplate on these horses and do not tighten the girth quickly or even as tight as I might on other horses.
                        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                        • #13
                          RedRyderKy any update?


                          • #14
                            Just a thought... I've known 2 horses that got their front legs hung up on the strap of their breastplate that runs between their front legs when jumping. Their legs never unfolded and they crashed on their face. In one case the rider had no idea what happened until they slow mo-ed the video. FWIW, watching that video in slo-mo made me switch to the old school polo breastplate.


                            • #15
                              I had an OTTB that "hopped" after girthing, clearly very uncomfortable, but rode fine. Vet felt that the girth was impinging on a nerve behind the elbow. Strangely -- over the years I found that this behavior was tied to the change in seasons (would appear in april and oct like clockwork). I did keep the girth fairly loose on him, he had a great shoulder and the saddle stayed put.

                              What you are describing sounds serious. I would find a good lameness vet and do a thorough neuro.
                              Dressage, riding, sport horse blog
                              Unique browbands for dressage and hunter riders


                              • #16
                                I have never seen this in my life. There is something terribly wrong. I would not ask this horse to jump again. You are lucky that the rider was not hurt.
                                It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by staceyk View Post
                                  I had an OTTB that "hopped" after girthing, clearly very uncomfortable, but rode fine. Vet felt that the girth was impinging on a nerve behind the elbow. Strangely -- over the years I found that this behavior was tied to the change in seasons (would appear in april and oct like clockwork).
                                  I always noticed a worsening in my gelding's girth issues around those times too - it was always a problem but seemed to get worse then, and I wondered if some just get super sensitive around shedding season or something.

                                  One of the things I wanted to try and never did was one of those elbow relief type girths with the elastic panel under the belly instead of at the buckles.

                                  "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

                                  My CANTER blog.