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Frustrated with owner

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    Frustrated with owner

    I have been providing free lessons to my BO's niece and the occasional training ride, as a favor. My BO is great, very generous and I love the care my own horses receive. Their horse's are also well cared for on the basics. They are well fed with quality hay/feed, get the vet annually and have routine farrier care. However, I can sometimes find myself frustrated when helping them out with their riding horses. I'm a dressage rider who used to frequently compete and when I see things that are off- needing chiro, saddle fitting or vet, then I thave always done them for my own horses. I end up getting a bit frustrated when the owner does not listen when I tell them what I am seeing or suggest something. The owner does not ride themselves and I feel that is part of the problem because they have lost the interest of horses, for the most part. They have a very nonchalant way of doing things and always say that as long as the horse looks happy, it's all good. I don't share that same philosophy and have witnessed horses with issues that have also gone "happily". VERY occasionally they will have chiro down or if it is bad enough then they will have the vet down, but anything that costs extra time or effort seems to be a no go for their own horses.

    The niece rides this one horse who had been diagnosed with a weak stifle a long time ago (literally fell out of socket as a yearling and apparently one other time as well) and the current vet has passed this horse for riding. Problem is that this horse still has a hitch to its trot at liberty, although when worked properly over the back, the horse does come out of it. This has gotten a bit better over the past 5 months. To me, a horse showing any hitch in their stride, even in warmup, is not sound, but I also have very limited experience with stifle issues altogether, so I am not quite sure if this is the norm for a weak stifled horse. I have expressed my concern to the owner in a polite way - maybe it would be a good idea to have a second opinion or even chiro if that is the issue(has seemed to help before) during show season, if the niece wants to do more with this horse. They have brought up showing on this horse a couple of times, looking to me for guidance and I have told them politely that this would not be a good idea with the horse's current issues. Unfortunately, the niece has picked up the "as long as they are happy" attitude and I was met with "But can't we just tell the judge the circumstances?" by the niece. NO. I explained to them why this was wrong. Truthfully, I had seen this horse being ridden by another a few years prior in a schooling show at a barn I was teaching at. The rider was unable to have this horse moving over his back and he did have a hitch in his stride. I heard through the grapevine that although the judge let it slide, the judge was not happy and I don't blame her! A horse should only be shown if there are no ongoing health problems! Obviously, I don't want to have to say this to them as I really don't want to stir the pot, especially given that I would NOT be getting the level of care for my DSLD horse anywhere else around here. This is not a situation I can just walk away from. I'm not sure if I should just give this more time and see if the horse gets better or how I should phrase it if they push to show the horse despite the issues - I don't want to be associated with a horse that looks lame at a show!

    You don't have any authority here. You're giving lessons but because they aren't paying you, they don't consider you a "real pro" or horseman. You are just another ammie with odd opinions who is dependent on them for care of your horse. In their mind, they have the power and knowledge because they own a barn and you don't.

    Is this horse in pain? How bad is the hitch? Do you have a local reputation you want to protect or are you basically invisible here?

    Basically your choices are:

    1. Quit teaching because these people will damage your reputation.

    2. Start charging an hourly rate and see if they take you more seriously.

    3. Explain *one time* that the horse may be eliminated at the show if he looks lame. Then let them go ahead and show and see where the chips fall. Since this horse has gone in local schooling shows and not been DQ'd in the past, presumably local standards are laxer than your own.

    Lots of older horses have a hitch before they warm up just like old people wake up stiff. It isn't necessarily a true unsoundness. Have you worked on finding warmup routines that would help?


      This is the problem with novice level adults and kids running around without a real trainer. They do stupid stuff like this all the time because there’s no trainer keeping them in line. “Volunteer trainer” doesn’t count. It’s great for them that you’re helping them but they probably only see it as “just giving her some pointers”. The fact is that they do not think paying someone for their professional advice is worth it. Either they don’t think they need it or they just don’t want. In any case, my rule is that I never give advice to someone about their horses unless they ask me.


        OP I think it is a fact in the horse world that no one cares for his/her horse the way you would --some people are ridiculously over protective of their horses, others are ridiculously cavalier about their horses ---all of the treatment, good or bad, is based on your own perspective. My friends in WY who have 180 horses on their 80,000 acre ranch, do not stable their horses --ever. They do move them to "low" pastures in the winter --but no barns, run ins, or shelters. Horses get good hay --water--that's it. In the spring, they are rounded up, hooves trimmed, shoes put on, and they work for 90 days (every other day) then shoes pulled and back to the winter pasture. Fly masks, blankets, chiropractors, massage therapist, are not something that ever happens for their horses. Closest vet is 100 miles away. It is normal horse care where they live.

        I keep horses on a 24/7 turnout --bring in twice a day to feed. I am the only one in my group of local horse owning friends who does this --everyone else brings their horses in at night because "it is safer." I don't use a chiropractor --never have. Not for myself and not for my horse. Some friends do, some don't. I vaccinate religiously. My horses and my kids. Amish neighbors don't. One lost 15 horses earlier this year to preventable disease. My vet (whose clients are mostly Amish) said, "You'd think after the first 5 died he'd have asked me to come out and vaccinate the rest." He didn't.

        My barn girl can't keep weight on her personal horse (she has two at her house) --she asked me what I feed --I showed her --my feed is $$ a bag. She told her mom, but then told me that her mom said it was too much $ --that oats and corn were "what her grandpa said to feed the horse."

        On the other end of the scale are folks at the hunt club who do standing wraps every night when they bring their horses in, blanket or fly sheet every day depending on weather, feed every supplement under the sun, and are doing night checks on their horses .

        My long winded point is --care for your horse the best you know how --refrain from giving advice unless you are asked. Understand the there may not be a "right way," or even a "best way." It is frustrating at times --


          Foxglove - Your friends in Wyoming sound like Bitterroot Ranch. Could it be? I was there a decade or so ago - Loved every second I was there.


            Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
            You don't have any authority here. You're giving lessons but because they aren't paying you, they don't consider you a "real pro" or horseman. You are just another ammie with odd opinions who is dependent on them for care of your horse. In their mind, they have the power and knowledge because they own a barn and you don't.

            Is this horse in pain? How bad is the hitch? Do you have a local reputation you want to protect or are you basically invisible here?

            Basically your choices are:

            1. Quit teaching because these people will damage your reputation.

            2. Start charging an hourly rate and see if they take you more seriously.

            3. Explain *one time* that the horse may be eliminated at the show if he looks lame. Then let them go ahead and show and see where the chips fall. Since this horse has gone in local schooling shows and not been DQ'd in the past, presumably local standards are laxer than your own.

            Lots of older horses have a hitch before they warm up just like old people wake up stiff. It isn't necessarily a true unsoundness. Have you worked on finding warmup routines that would help?
            "Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons"


              Sometimes you just have to detach (mentally if not also physically). Not your circus, not your monkeys. Sounds like you’ve reached the limit of your influence and business.

              Easier said than done, but a necessary skill.


                I think you've got a couple of different issues here.
                The care issue- if they are being fed well, have shelter, are seen by a vet yearly and a farrier regularly, then I don't see the issue. Not everyone does chiro, massage, etc. A lot of times, I think those things make us feel like we're an A+ owner more than they actually do anything to help the horse.
                As far as the lameness, that's hard to tell without actually seeing the lameness. But yes there are plenty of horses that start out a little stiff and need some warm up- it's not necessarily the end of the line. And I wouldn't worry about the showing thing- past or present. The past- well it's water under the bridge and there's no use bringing it up. The present- just tell yourself, not my circus not my monkeys. If they take the horse and show and the judges places (or doesn't)- those things are on them.
                Wouldst thou like the taste of butter ? A pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?


                  I showed a horse at the national level with a weak stiffle, who at warm up, often looked and felt a bit lame. If I gave him a long enough walking warm up and gave him a lap or 2 at the trot on a loose rein to loosen up he was fine. There is a major catch 22 with stiffle issues in that if you let them sit (after the initial injury is healed) they get worse and if you work them too hard they get worse. I would say without seeing this horse they fall into the category that they need to be worked to stay the most sound and comfortable.

                  As for the vet care, I'm a do the minimum within reason kinda owner. My horse's always get the basic level of care (shots, dewormed, teeth, farrier and food) that they need. If a horse needs chiropractic, acupuncture, supplements, joint injections, etc I'm happy to do so but I generally try 1 thing at a time.

                  For example my current horse is skinny after a cross country move. Not crazy skinny, just needs groceries. So far I've upped his grain and we are tossing 2-3 extra flakes of hay in front of him while he is in his stall. Next I'm thinking next time I'm at the feed store I'm going to pick up some u-guard to see if that helps and if after a month or so neither work I will be calling a vet. Does that make me a bad horse owner? Nope. I just like the slow and steady approach to getting weight on a horse.



                    2tempe --yep --beautiful horses! Two of my horses are from "out west" --one ND the other AZ near Payton. Never need shoes, don't wear blankets, no soundness issues.

                    I would go back to Bitterroot today, but no one to go with these days --kids all busy with their lives and even my horse friends think a 6-7 day pack trip on horse back is a bit much --not sure BR is still doing the long trip these days --but see they are still hosting guests, very, very safely doing their dude ranch daily rides. Great place!


                      Original Poster

                      Thanks for all the replies. I do teach professionally and am certified, thus I do have a reputation to maintain; however, I decided to teach for the BO after I was asked because I am grateful for all the care they have given my DSLD horse. In a way, it is sort of a trade because my DSLD requires more care than my other horse and this is really just a minimum care facility. I really don't mind doing so for them and I enjoy it, but I don't want to risk my reputation if there is truly more going on than just the weak stifle. I'm glad to hear that this issue seems to be normal with weak stifled horses. The only other weak stifled horse I've worked with came out of it quickly and never looked lame to me, so I wasn't sure with this one, which seems to be a more extreme case. What that horse did have is that he bucked, but this stopped as the stifle grew stronger. I guess what I am really asking is what is the norm for a weak stifled horse? The horse does seem alright and happy otherwise. Previously the chiro he had did wonders and I actually wasn't one to fully believe in Chiro until I saw it done on this particular horse.

                      Much of what was happening sounds like described. The horse warms up with a very obvious short stride in the hind right and this continues at the trot until the horse probably the second or third lap. Previously (before I was involved), the horse was leased out by a beginner rider and had been going inverted, would not bend and could not pick up the canter rarely at all. This all made the issues worse and apparent. The horse now is much better, able to move over his back and into the bit and the canter is coming along. He still warms up with a hitch and when moving on the lunge or at liberty. It seems that he mostly comes out of it when he is forward and connected. The conditioning schedule I have put together has been 2-3 days a week of schooling, a trail ride with hill work and 1-2 days a week of pole work (interchange with riding). Warm up consists of a good length of walk work interchanging between long-low and coming up to a shorter frame, riding figure 8s with some intermingled lateral work. Then, we move to trot work long-low usually in a figure 8 and a bit of canter work. Now that he is more consistent at the canter, I've been considering changing his warm-up to walk, then canter, then trot, which is what I've always done with most horses. It seems to really help those who are tighter in the hind end, so perhaps it will help this horse too.

                      But I really appreciate the advice and I will take it and keep the other advice to myself (chiro, saddle fit etc) unless otherwise asked. I appreciate all of your help.


                        It sounds like the work is really benefitting this horse...if he goes from walking hitchy to not. If he's happy enough walking around hitchy in turnout then he probably won't build/maintain the muscle to carry himself on his own time.

                        Are you sure the niece won't put in time? The things you mentioned (vet, chiro, saddle fitter) are all $$$...but she might be willing to read up on fitness programs for weak stifles if you point out some of the free papers/articles on the internet.


                          Mine has weak stifles. We are building strength back up, did mostly walking for a while, then added trot, and only recently has she finally been strong enough to canter. She feels AWFUL warming up. And if you let her go along like a school pony above the bit, she also feels awful. But after about 5 to 10 min walking, a couple minutes letting her jog to loosen up, then asking her to really move out into the connection and stretchy trot, the "lameness" goes away. She has to be in work though. If you let her go on vacation for a bit she comes back worse.

                          If you are really concerned, you can try a bute trial. Give some bute before you ride, give it enough time to kick in, then see if there is a difference. Its not perfect, but if there's no change its likely not pain related and just needs that muscle built up.


                            Would they be willing to try Estrone? I found it really helped my weak stifled horse. Weekly injection IM. Estrone is $75 a 100 ml bottle from my vet. Carson was getting 10 ml a week. So that was roughly a 2 month supply.
                            Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


                              Original Poster

                              Thanks RainWeasley that sounds very similar to what this horse has been like and it is reassuring to hear that it seems to be the norm in weak stifled horses. This horse DEFINITELY becomes worse after he sits and he gets all winter off, so it is always like a blank slate when restarting him in the spring I guess.

                              Unfortunately, the niece lives in another area, so is only at BOs place for varying months throughout the year. She definitely puts in the time when she is there though and was doing stifle exercises daily. I do most of the work when she is not around and usually fit in 2-3 rides a week or lunging over poles. I also think Estrone injections would be out as well as they would be more expensive here in Canada and BO thought previcox was too expensive as well.


                                Been there done that! Owner of a mare I leased said she was “just lazy“ when she couldn’t hold a canter for more than 4-5 strides without swapping behind. No diagnostics done. I walked away.

                                Similarly a horse I rode years ago was obviously and painfully head bobbing lame on the lunge. “Oh he does that - yeah, we don’t use that arena. Just use the other one with the soft footing and don’t lunge him.” Nope.

                                You just have to walk away if you don’t like riding lame horses. Yes weak stifles can benefit from rehab but that’s rehab and not work... thoughtful, progressive, tracked, zero expectations and vet supervised.