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Seeing lame horses out in the world

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  • Seeing lame horses out in the world

    There have been a couple of times in the last few months that I’ve been out and about horsing that I’ve seen obviously lame horses being ridden. Mostly at shows, sometimes around the barn.

    I know, not my circus, not my monkeys, but what about the horses welfare? I don’t think I could say anything at a show, but what about at the barn? Is there any tactful way to bring it up? I mean, I would want to be told. It’s like the equestrian equivalent of running around with toilet paper stuck to your shoe.

    Is this a see something, say something situation? Or do I just need to mind my business?

  • #2
    In general MYOB. Unless the person is a good friend or a total newbie you've taken under your wing.

    You don't know the situation. Horse could be old and stiff but works out of it. Horse could be rehabbing successfully. Horse could have a mechanical hitch that doesn't cause pain. Etc.

    If a horse at a show is lame the judge will ring him out of the competition.

    ​​My advice is based on the fact that noone listens to random strangers and all you will do is make people angry at you.

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    • #3
      May also seem 'lame' because of hard hands or irregularities in the rhythm. This is training related and will hopefully be fixed. If we are talking about animal abuse, a horse that is obviously in pain, then I vote for moral courage.

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't think it's possible to go to a show, clinic, or other horse event without encountering at least one unsound horse, if you have the eye for it.

        In general there may be lots of reasons that horse is being used despite being unsound. Like Scribbler said, there's many reasons -- maybe it's an old lesson pony with a healed injury that will always have a mechanical limitation, or a horse coming back from an injury. Sometimes it's a matter of the owner not having the right eye, or the trainer.

        You'll have a hard time telling people what they don't want to hear and still staying in their good graces. If you say something, you are likely to get backlash - and the horse will continue to be in work anyway. I have said something before and got quite the tongue-lashing for it. I'd say it again, too. If you have to say something, do it privately and without pointing blame.

        If you want to change it, become a professional - a judge, a TD, a vet.

        Chances are, if it is as bad as you think, the rider/horse pair won't be making it past the judge anyway. Most judges will not turn a blind eye to a lame horse.. and many judges, if they see something, will ask the rider first to get the specifics and then make a judgment call on whether to excuse the rider/horse pair.
        AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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        • #5
          Not going to be kind about the owners, they just don't care if equine is lame at shows. Seldom is animal going to warm out of it, they are probably medicated to the hilt, STILL "off", but will be ridden anyway. You folks are giving a lot more credit to those handling the equine than they deserve.

          And Judge probably won't say anything. The lame will place, it is just a choice between "how lame" places over "sorta lame", what ribbon they get. No one wants to hurt the kids feelings by pointing out animal is lame. Trust me, Trainers know, don't care, kid wants to show so Trainer makes it happen.

          We see it at all kind of places, english, western venues. We never attend the QH Congress anymore, almost every horse we saw was lame the last time. Still getting worked, seen in the ring in various disciplines. And these are the best of that breed competing!

          If things are this bad out in public, how lame are the horses being used at home?! I guess folks get desensitized to lame because it is now so common, BNTs use lame horses "so it muse be OK".

          I would not say anything, they will not appreciate you noting the lameness.

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          • #6
            Well, it depends.

            Sometimes people honestly do not know. If I think horse is in trouble I speak up. I have pointed out to kids/young adults that their mount is head bobbing, three legged lame and they need to get off and talk to their coach. The response is usually big eyeballs and astonished expressions followed with: is he, or maybe, do you think so? I stopped a young lady one day, made her dismount and sent her back to the barn via the grass. Instructions from coach to the rider (coach picking up next load of horses) had been to do a little ride in the afternoon. Kid knew (coach didn't) that horse was missing a shoe, and was riding up a gravel road to another area of show grounds. Funny, horse didn't want to move for her. She had no idea that horse was ouchy, or that what she was doing was not a good idea, or that they would be unlikely to place that weekend due to her blindly following instructions. Non horsey parent watching it all unravel, thinking only "I am paying for this, ride the darn horse".

            The dependable warrior school horse who travels a little wonky...…….always does, always will, nothing appearing to be acute: I keep my mouth shut. Those slightly broken, but know they will never put a step wrong kinda guys are the foundation of the lesson industry.

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            • #7
              I had a horse with a bad hock. He would flex lame, like broken lame, on that joint any day of the week. However it was the flexion past a certain point that made him sore, and it passed quickly. If permitted to travel with his haunches slightly to that side and in a longer outline he was serviceably sound - ie. comfortable doing his work. I could make him lame at any time simply by picking him up and asking him to step underneath himself with that hind leg.

              Depending on how you approached me I would have explained or been inclined to shut the obnoxious jerk down.

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                I hate to believe people are knowingly working lame horses, but certainly the trainers must know. I think u/goodhors probably has a fair point and I wouldn’t be illuminating anyone by saying something.

                My sense of injustice gets riled up when I see 5 different horses in the warmup ring trotting around with a hitch in their stride. But maybe my bar for serviceably sound is set higher than it needs to be.

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                • #9
                  Tell the people who are responsible at the show. A show is a figurehead for the sport and hopefully people want to see fair riding on happy athletes.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by paintedpony View Post
                    Well, it depends.

                    Sometimes people honestly do not know. If I think horse is in trouble I speak up. I have pointed out to kids/young adults that their mount is head bobbing, three legged lame and they need to get off and talk to their coach. The response is usually big eyeballs and astonished expressions followed with: is he, or maybe, do you think so? I stopped a young lady one day, made her dismount and sent her back to the barn via the grass. Instructions from coach to the rider (coach picking up next load of horses) had been to do a little ride in the afternoon. Kid knew (coach didn't) that horse was missing a shoe, and was riding up a gravel road to another area of show grounds. Funny, horse didn't want to move for her. She had no idea that horse was ouchy, or that what she was doing was not a good idea, or that they would be unlikely to place that weekend due to her blindly following instructions. Non horsey parent watching it all unravel, thinking only "I am paying for this, ride the darn horse".

                    The dependable warrior school horse who travels a little wonky...…….always does, always will, nothing appearing to be acute: I keep my mouth shut. Those slightly broken, but know they will never put a step wrong kinda guys are the foundation of the lesson industry.
                    If you have the personal authority to do this, that's wonderful. Obviously if you have the official authority (you are the parent, the coach, the judge, the ring steward) you must do it. By personal authority, I imagine a blunt talking horse lady of a certain age giving a clear feedback to a child that will listen to her. I am fairly blunt talking and definitely of a certain age, but I know that my comments in horse world IRL do not carry authority for whatever reason.

                    It's also complicated for me because I have for years been shadowing my coach and trimmer, who has a very good eye for subtle lameness. Around my own barn, I see horses going short in front 6 months before their owners finally admit they are so obese they are having chronic laminitis. I have been watching someone ride a lease horse that is getting crocked in the hocks and surly at the canter, and even after that person recognized there was an issue, continued to ride. I see horses with terrible under-run heels and contracted heels. I see people with barefoot horses who refuse the idea of hoof boots and have their horses tiptoe around the gravel trails (and loudly blame the Park's department for the footing). I see all kinds of horses with that "wooden leg" lack of hock articulation, and watch them carefully and see that they often but not always warm up in about 15 minutes. And yes, bad riding will make a horse go short behind and then eventually develop physical problems.

                    If people ask me for my opinion, I give it, but I don't really expect it to be followed (sometimes it is). Thing is, I am just another adult ammie returning rider in a big barn, and there is no reason why anyone would grant me more authority on hoof problems than themselves (or their sometimes incompetent farriers that leave hooves unbalanced and heels under-run). Lots of owners have so little foundation of knowledge that if you say "your horse has under-run and contracted heels" or "he is suffering from glyphosphate poisoning" or "he has been bewitched by Martians from the 4th dimension" or "he has a gluten allergy," it is all the same to them, they have no way of telling which of these comments is true.

                    These are well meaning usually reasonably well educated adult ammies in self board, doing a fine job of daily horse care, and a pretty good job of long term horse care (until they aren't, and they are faced with a health care issue caused by long term management).

                    Anyhow, if you have the official or personal authority in the situation, or you are asked,you should say something. But if you are just a railbird at a show, watching strangers, MYOB and just develop your eye.

                    BTW, it is important to develop your eye, but what happens is you start to be able to see things others don't. Many riders idea of lame starts and stops with an obvious head bob (and sometimes not even that). They never look at the hind end, hock articulation , stride length. Sometimes my coach will see something going on in a horse that I can't quite see. And she ends up being correct. And it took me a while to see what I am able to see. So I totally understand that many riders get used to seeing restricted movement behind, especially if they are around a lot of lesson factory horses. So that lame looks normal, just like obese looks normal at our barn.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have, on occasion, reported certain horses for being beaten for refusing a jump by a pro - repeatedly, riding a lame horse and banging a horse in the mouth by a junior after a not so good round - etc....in every case the stewards said they would look into it and then ignored the problem.
                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

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                      • #12
                        Some judges can't see it either.

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                        • #13
                          One of my horses has been not quite right behind since she was 2 years old. Multiple vets looked at her with no diagnosis. X rays clean. Told it was possible she hurt her SI and to inject. That didn't help either.

                          She gets ridden lightly and improves the more she gets worked. I'm starting to suspect pssm, but not sure. Her lameness isn't severe enough for the vets to correctly diagnose. I keep her in work because she's happier with a job and very bored and destructive if left at home. She's pretty enough and the lameness is mild enough most people aren't even going to notice. She's got quite a bit of sass in her, if something's bothering her, she will let you know. I don't push her at all, don't ask for more than she can give. Most horses do end up with physical limitations as they age - it's a matter of knowing where the line is. How much can they do without hurting themselves further? What are they comfortable with?

                          I have bad wrists- I can muck one or two stalls and be okay. If I muck 20 stalls, I will be hurting the next day.

                          But I think it is okay to point out- "did you know your horse is a little off? Do you know what is wrong?" I think it is okay to start a conversation, especially if you are concerned.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Are you being discerning? Is it an older guy with a wee gimp packing around his precious cargo at 2'? Or doing high jumpers? Is it being carefully warmed up to work out of it? Your post does not indicate a concern about these factors. So my advice is MYOB.

                            I had a modified horse that was very difficult to keep sound. He would come out of his stall with a gimp that he worked out of. I protected him to the max. Warmed up slowly, was protective about footing, and limited his jumping at home and at shows. He loved his work, he loved me, he loved showing. Under my watchful care, he almost always won his local show hacks. The only NSAID was pulsed previcoxx. We had many conversations about whether he would rather have the attention of being in work or be retired. He is retired now, but when I do give him a hack, his ears could not be any more forward. He misses the attention. He was a show horse all his life.
                            Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ToTheNines View Post
                              Are you being discerning? Is it an older guy with a wee gimp packing around his precious cargo at 2'? Or doing high jumpers? Is it being carefully warmed up to work out of it? Your post does not indicate a concern about these factors. So my advice is MYOB.

                              I had a modified horse that was very difficult to keep sound. He would come out of his stall with a gimp that he worked out of. I protected him to the max. Warmed up slowly, was protective about footing, and limited his jumping at home and at shows. He loved his work, he loved me, he loved showing. Under my watchful care, he almost always won his local show hacks. The only NSAID was pulsed previcoxx. We had many conversations about whether he would rather have the attention of being in work or be retired. He is retired now, but when I do give him a hack, his ears could not be any more forward. He misses the attention. He was a show horse all his life.


                              There are many injuries also, that leave a mechanical lameness well after they have healed. Meaning there is an abnormality in the gait, but no residual pain. Usually caused by scar-tissue, or old tendon ruptures that have since healed.

                              Is it ethical to ride those horses? Personally, I tend to think so.

                              We have a TB with ~75 starts, that in his last race bowed his tendon and injured his DDFT in the process.. which is how we got him. The resulting scarring post-healing and loss of elasticity in the tendon has changed the way he strides on that limb. He had ultrasound re-checks every couple of months to monitor healing, and has since been in work for three years.. but he will always have a mechanical difference in the length of stride for that leg. If you have an eye for lameness, you would see it as a subtle gait abnormality - the vet rates it as a .5 / 5.

                              He is in light work as an Elementary/Tadpole horse and definitely enjoys his job. He could probably do much more, but that's his career for now.

                              The degree of lameness and the reason for it matters; a horse that is in pain should not be worked until the pain is addressed. A horse that is servicably sound, well, only his owner and those privy with the details can make that call. I would rather see a horse happily in work but creaky, than a horse retired and passing hands or ending up in a bad situation because of it. I also generally think that for oldies, who may have some arthritis or complaints, that the motion is the lotion -- keeping them in light or modified work often goes a long way to keep them in good condition past their prime.

                              That's probably not the case here, but just in general. I too have seen riders at schooling shows on obviously lame horses.
                              AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I used to be more hard line but I've softened my opinion a bit as I've gotten old and broken-down.

                                For my bad hip - doctor says EXERCISE!
                                For my bad knees - doctor says EXERCISE!
                                For my bad ankles - doctor says PHYSICAL THERAPY!

                                A major difference, if course, is that I can articulate my pain and improvement levels where horses cannot, so it is harder to tell if you're doing good or harm by working an "off" horse. But the general consensus among my medical providers is that excercise is generally good as long as it the damage isn't increasing due to the exercise.

                                Some people truly have no idea when their horse is subtly lame and may be receptive to you tactfully asking about it. But if you do decide to address it, please be aware that you may run into some hostility.

                                If the lameness is severe enough that you don't think the horse should be ridden, talk to the steward or barn manager/barn owner.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by SummerRose View Post
                                  I used to be more hard line but I've softened my opinion a bit as I've gotten old and broken-down.

                                  For my bad hip - doctor says EXERCISE!
                                  For my bad knees - doctor says EXERCISE!
                                  For my bad ankles - doctor says PHYSICAL THERAPY!

                                  A major difference, if course, is that I can articulate my pain and improvement levels where horses cannot, so it is harder to tell if you're doing good or harm by working an "off" horse. But the general consensus among my medical providers is that excercise is generally good as long as it the damage isn't increasing due to the exercise.

                                  Some people truly have no idea when their horse is subtly lame and may be receptive to you tactfully asking about it. But if you do decide to address it, please be aware that you may run into some hostility.

                                  If the lameness is severe enough that you don't think the horse should be ridden, talk to the steward or barn manager/barn owner.
                                  I agree horses (and humans) who have an old injury that is being monitored by a vet/doctor need to move and work. I've seen 2 horses now at my lesson program who are visibly lame being used for light lessons. One was declining but he was happy to do walk trot lessons with light children. He had the vet's clearance to do so and was better physically and mentally on the days he had a lesson to do. His owner and our trainer was very, very careful to not push him or put too much strain on his body. I believe this period in his life was to keep him happy until the local vet school could take him as a cadaver animal.

                                  The second horse I had just stopped leasing and he injured something in his hind end with his stifle. At 22 his owner, former owner and myself thought he was done. But he was given a chance to rehab, was dead lame due to weakness at the start and he is sound now. He still gives an off step as he warms up but he is happily running around novice/training. He is much, much happier with a job and doing what he loves.

                                  I have also seen a few visibly lame horses at HT get rung out in dressage or retired by the TD. Most don't continue but one old horse (used to run advanced and was taking a client around beginner novice) was allowed to continue unscored after the show vet and show officials gave approval. He wasn't over faced by the job he was doing and his rider gained valuable experience. I saw him in stadium and cross country and he looked sound at all three gates. Dressage day was just a bad day for him.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    So yesterday I saw a lesson kid riding a lesson program pony on his day off. She was a nice little rider. At walk and trot he was going short behind, RH looked worse, and from behind you could see he didn't have full mobility on the right hip. At canter right he looked ok but didn't stick around for canter left where a bad RH would show up.

                                    Pony was alert ears up forward enough for a beginner lesson horse and a happier camper than many I've seen.

                                    Don't know kid or her mom who was watching.

                                    I know nothing about age, diagnosis, or maintenance on this pony. Our barn protocol is that complaints about the lesson program should be made in writing to the club board of directors that contracts with s lesson barn to run a small lesson program here.

                                    Am I going to? No.

                                    This is the kind of lameness we often see put in the world once our eye is good enough.

                                    If my own horse was moving like that it would be a medical emergency but I might feel differently when she is 26.

                                    I figure the folks who run the lesson program must know what they are doing well enough.


                                    .

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      I just want to say thank you all for weighing in. I’m reading the responses as they come and I appreciate getting all of these different perspectives.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I ride a lame horse. He is 19, and would not pass any sort of PPE. When we start trotwork he looks off, most people can see it. But he also loves his work more than anything. He knows when that bell rings in the jumper ring, it is his time to shine and he eats it up. Because he is NQR he gets special treatment.

                                        The thing that bothers me is when I see a horse sale ad that shows a clearly lame horse. I’m not sure if I just ‘see’ it more now, or if it is more common, but it seems like every 4th video I watch the horse has something wrong with it that isn’t mentioned in the ad!

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