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My OTTB has issue's going down hills.

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  • My OTTB has issue's going down hills.

    I have a OTTB that is 7 yrs old, I am training for Eventing. He is a really great horse, but the only flaw I can find with him is that going down hill he can be so unbalanced. He is usually fine at the walk, but you honestly don't want to do anything more then that when you come to the downward hill. He is worked 6 days a week for about an hour a day, he is very fit. I was just wondering if anyone had any training idea's that I can use to help with this. Thanks.

  • #2
    First. I would have a thorough evaluation by your veterinarian. If your horse can barely walk down a hill, I would suspect EPM or another neurological problem...

    With training issues- always go to the vet first to make sure there is no medical explanation for the issue.

    If all is well with the horse.. Then just work the hills and practice on different kinds of terrain.


    • #3
      Practice, practice, practice.

      Lack of balance is lack of experience. He needs to learn to carry himself properly in all sorts of terrain, and he certainly wasn't born knowing how nor did his previous life prepare him in any way to deal with it.

      First make sure he is responsive to your balancing aids (half halts) on flat surfaces, and that he confidently can walk down a gentle slope without your having to hold him. Then get your nice, balanced trot and head down a gentle slope, nice and easy. Half halt, half halt, ask him to deal with it and keep your weight balanced and be responsive with more half halts. Don't let him flounder, don't let him peter out, allow him to HANDLE IT. Just a dozen or so steps at first, then walk. Repeat, regularly, until he begins to learn what he has to do with his weight and his body.

      When he can confidently do this at trot, try canter. Same principle. Balance, balance, half halt, be there for him, let him figure it out.

      For the record, by "hill" I mean "gentle slope" at this stage of the game. One where a horse could very easily descend without having to change the quality of their gait. Steep hills that require real effort are for later.
      Click here before you buy.


      • #4
        I agree with dw. Practice makes balanced. And just to be clear, don't hold him up! Remind him to balance himself with half halts, but then leave him alone. This is his job. Not yours. I also like to do lots of halts (STRAIGHT halts) going down hills, then walking STRAIGHT off. Good for their bodies, but also keeps them balanced and listening.

        I also want to add that a lot of people get really nervous going downhill. I think people feel like their horse should feel exactly the same...they don't...they're going downhill! It is a different feeling and one that I think takes people awhile to get used to, and why I see a lot of people whoa-whoa-whoaing unnecessarily down hills on xc (and why time can be hard to get at places like the VA Horse Trials). Make sure YOU are comfortable with the feeling, too!


        • #5
          Agreed with everything said so far. Also, though, fit does not = properly conditioned. It takes proper muscling to be able to go down hills well, and if your horse is allowed to go around on his forehand he won't have the needed muscular condition to go down hills well.
          If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


          • #6
            If no vet issues....I'd pony him off another horse out on hills as much as possible.

            Walk and trot leading him off the other horse. Let him figure out hills first without a rider---usually this is just for a the first week or so exclusively but I often keep doing it for long after they get good at hills. After you have ponied them out on hills and they seem comfortable with that, then start adding in riding him up and down the hills as well. First focusing on keeping him straight but otherwise, as long as he doesn't run or get quicker or lean on you...leave him alone. They have to sort out how to do this by doing it.

            I've had a number of horses (including OTTBs) with this issue. I would just go out walking and trotting hills on a regular basis...not really changing how I rode them and just let them figure out their foot work. It usually doesn't take very long at all for them to sort it out...but you do have to get out of the ring and do it consistently.
            Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Jul. 27, 2011, 11:42 AM.
            ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


            • #7
              I agree with everything that's been said. My 3 Ottbs took some time getting comfortable going downhill. It helps if you can regularly practice on hills!

              With one of them, I had easy access to a hilly field, so I would ride her in that field, but also longe her 1x or 2x a week on the side of a (gentle) hill. Not a regular longeing circle tho, more like long-lining her, since I was having her go straight up the hill and again straight down the hill (running next to her if necessary). It did wonders for her natural balance, and was also great exercise for me.
              Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!


              • #8
                We had one that couldn't/wouldn't go down hill, even at a walk while leading him - and I live in the hills of eastern Kentucky. Big issue!! But with training, maturity, and muscling, he ended up an Advanced horse with a top 5 finish in the yearend Advanced Gold Cup standings. Persevere!

                One suggestion which may seem backwards - do a lot of hill work, but UPHILL, at the trot. Then walk (saunter is OK) back down, & do it again - a little at first, then build as the horse's fitness builds. The concept is to strengthen the back and the rear end, so that the horse routinely carries more and more weight behind.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by secretariat View Post
                  One suggestion which may seem backwards - do a lot of hill work, but UPHILL, at the trot. Then walk (saunter is OK) back down, & do it again - a little at first, then build as the horse's fitness builds. The concept is to strengthen the back and the rear end, so that the horse routinely carries more and more weight behind.

                  This is a good suggestion...and one that I do. You build up going up hill more...trotting then cantering long before they are ready to trot down hill. But it is funny how they do just eventually get better at it. I remember doing canter sets with a friend out on some rolling hills. We had brought our two OTTBs along together...and both were moving up to Prelim. She turned to me while we were cantering easily down a little hill and said...remember when we didn't even want trot down this hill!

                  Just stick with it...they do get better at it!
                  ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks everyone, I will do more hill work, we already do two days a week, but I will increase that to see if it helps. He is on a schedule of 2 days Flat, 2 days of Jumping and then hill work the other 2 days, I will switch things around so we do some more hill work.
                    I also liked the idea of the lunging on a slope so he can find his own balance, that seemed like a really good idea to me.
                    I appreciate everyone's input.


                    • #11
                      I just had the same issue w/ my youngster. We did our first "real" gallop set. At the trot he managed to balance ok down the gentle slope. At the canter, he had no idea how to keep his hind end underneath... It felt like his hind end got "stuck" out behind and we just started to spill down the hill. So we broke to the trot, I pushed him back together (hiney under, please) and asked again. Time, practice, hill work and half halts down the little slope is the prescription, I guess.

                      Thanks OP for the timely question


                      • #12
                        All good advice. One more suggestion would be to remember to do transitions on the hills. Up or down, he needs to find his frame to be responsive. So start at that walk he manages, make him trot, before the trots gets unbalanced transition back to a walk. Start at a trot, smooth into a walk like it's a dressage test, smooth back into a trot. Uphill and down. Repeat. transition trot-canter and canter-trot.
                        This'll be good. Have fun. Be proud of him. And of you for your hard work and great effort at hellping him find his power.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TheAveJoe View Post
                          Thanks everyone, I will do more hill work, we already do two days a week, but I will increase that to see if it helps. He is on a schedule of 2 days Flat, 2 days of Jumping and then hill work the other 2 days, I will switch things around so we do some more hill work.
                          I also liked the idea of the lunging on a slope so he can find his own balance, that seemed like a really good idea to me.
                          I appreciate everyone's input.
                          Seriously, get a simple neurological evaluation done by a good vet. A neuro workup is a simple series of physical tests done by the vet. There are no drugs or X-rays or anything like that, it is a simple physical exam. It should not be too expensive and they should be able to quote up front for it.

                          But if there is anything brewing, you could catch it early when it may be very easy to treat, or you can eliminate that as an issue and go ahead with your training plan. Either way, it would be a good investment.

                          The above post is an opinion, just an opinion. If it were a real live fact it would include supporting links to websites full of people who already agreed with me.



                          • #14
                            Not to alarm you, or usurp other good posts on this thread, but being problematic going downhill is a serious sign of navicular. It can be as small as some tail-switching, hitching, head bobbing, slow, one foot at a time placement, or being almost uncoordinated between front and back legs.
                            Best get a couple xrays if it keeps up.
                            Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                            Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


                            • #15
                              Check saddle fit. I have a friend whose horse refused to go down hills because of saddle fit. Until she got a new saddle the horse was fine bareback.


                              • #16
                                Also think you should have the vet look at him. I rode a horse for a friend and the first sign he was wrong behind was the way he went down hills. For him, it was hock problems. For the simple hacking we were doing he was fine on level ground or going up a hill but going down the hills was noticeably different.