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Swapping to Cross Canter

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  • Swapping to Cross Canter

    One of my good friends horse (6 years old) swaps out her canter leads to cross canter behind instead of staying in true canter. She swaps out going both directions. She is worse after a few days work.

    A chiro has worked on her twice, with really no benefits.

    I would like to know if any of you all have had any experience with this, and have any ideas what might be the root cause.

    *Not my horse, not my decision to call the vet or not, but I am trying to convince her to.

  • #2
    My horse started doing this.
    After getting cast in his stall and being obviously sore, I had his back injected and the swapping behind stopped. So, I assume he was sore in the back before getting cast.


    • #3


      • #4
        For my horse, it was simply a fitness issue. Once he was properly muscled through proper riding, he properly cantered.


        • #5
          Ditto the hocks. Mine was bad arthritis Dx'd via Xrays - cantered correctly after injections and good joint supplement.


          • #6
            For my guy it was the Sacroiliac Injury up in the hip. A good adjustment and rehab to build strength will help that issue.
            Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
            Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
            Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
            Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook


            • #7
              My guy does this ONLY when free. In turn out, free longing in the arena but never when anyone is riding him. It definitely lessons and sometimes goes away as he gets fit and does more work encouraging hind end muscling. The vet didn't find anything wrong with him in terms of skeletal. No arthritis, no SI issue or anything found via X-ray or ultrasound. He just thinks that his hind end gets weak without consistent work. That makes sense to me.

              However, in the past, his pelvis has been a little out of whack when the chiropractor takes a look. Although, having him adjusted every 4-6 months has lessened that issue.

              It could just be a strength issue. Does the horse seem back sore at all? Particularly in the lower back.


              • #8
                One of mine it was fittness related, another was sore back, another was hocks. She really needs to have the vet out to narrow it down.

                Facebook: Hilltop Farm VA


                • #9
                  It was sore stifles in two horses I had in training....a month of surpass and the owner handwalking through raised cavaletties 3x's a week (per a practical horseman article about strengthening stifles) worked wonders!


                  • #10
                    In my experience - stifles, however any hind end lameness (including back) could cause this. Radiographs of hocks and stifles would be helpful in narrowing the problem down.


                    • #11
                      Assuming the horse cross canters in the pasture and on the lunge line there's probably a physical issue.

                      A lameness workup might reveal a cause. Intra-articular injections may help.


                      • #12
                        Work with your vet to identify the problem. Once you know what you are dealing with, you can fix it. Straight line hill work at the walk and trot does wonders for the hind end.
                        Man plans. God laughs.


                        • #13
                          My horse is like Thoroughbred Fancy's horse. She does the swapping only when loose in the pasture--not on lunge, not under saddle. Since she is insured, I had a very complete, thorough work-up done--radiographed, ultrasounded everywhere. Vet could find absolutely nothing. I think it could be fitness related--she does it less when she is fit, but it never completely goes away. She's 8--I've had her since she was 1--she's always done it.


                          • #14
                            It'll be near impossible to figure out the cause without a vet. My girlfriend had a horse that would swap to the cross canter within about 5-10 strides, flexed out fine, seemed sound. Tried Lyme treatment, SI injections, vit E, time off, etc.. ultrasound revealed a fractured tuber ishii (point of buttock).


                            • #15
                              My horse had a stifle problem. She's had them injected and it has helped significantly. Sometimes she just loses her balance in the corners and swaps off. The more fit she gets and the stronger that stifle gets the less it happens even when she loses her balance.

                              I have done a lot of work over raised cavalettis, a lot of transitions, and a lot of just straight lines.


                              • #16
                                My 17 year old does this when it's time to get his hocks done.


                                • #17
                                  A horse will cross-fire when they cannot spread their hind legs into a wide stance that distributes the weight, so anything that impairs them from maintaining that wide stance in the hind end will cause cross-firing, whether it be hocks, stifles, back, injury to a leg, lack of balance in a young/insufficiently conditioned horse, or whatnot. I have had horses cross-fire due to their backs/hips being out of alignment, and one mare that cross-fired when she had a very minor injury (no lameness, but 'off' to my eye, and obviously she was compensating and did not have that wide stance, because she would switch to cross-fire after only seconds of canter - as soon as she healed completely, she quite cross-firing). Because the horse is worse after a few days work, I would venture to guess injury (etc) to some area that worsens with work, but it could also (less likely perhaps) be a horse who is not sufficiently in condition to balance itself, and thus the issue worsens as it is worked because she's now sore and tired from the previous works. A 6yo might still just be out of balance or condition yet.

                                  Does she cross-fire on a straight line or on corners/circles? With a rider on her? How is she on the longe without a rider, on a large circle (say 20m at least)? If she is fine on the straightaway and is fine without a rider aboard, I would lean more to the lack of balance/condition side of things (or rider interference). In that case, the answer would be hillshillshills (walk/trot/canter) and teaching her to hold herself up properly and to balance on the longe (canter her on the longe on a large circle and slowly decrease the circle over time to increase the workout, side reins not necessary). Never canter her for long periods - say over 4 laps in either direction, particularly on a smaller circle. Just tackle it a little at a time, re-asking for a canter whenever she cross-fires and asking her to hold the canter when she does have it proper (even if just for a stride or two, if that is all she can manage at first), then asking her to transition down before she drops it, and allowing her to stand and relax/rest for a moment as a reward. Like I said, a little at a time, maybe 2-5 minutes (10 at the most) before you ride, to help her learn how to handle herself. It will transfer up into the saddle with the weight of the rider (though the weight of the rider is an additional adjustment).

                                  If the problem does not seem to be rider-related (either through rider error/interference or through lack of balance/condition under-saddle), then maybe have her checked out by another (different) chiropractor and/or massage therapist. If professionals cannot find the answer, then definitely suggest she seek out a vet. Does she do it in one direction more than the other? That to me would suggest an injury (etc) to one side (though it still could be an injury/discomfort to a medial area such as the back or pelvis) and thus compensation. If she does it equally in either direction, it could either be injury/discomfort in an area such as the back or pelvis, or a balance/condition issue.

                                  Oh, and also, does she travel straight? I took a look at an OTTB filly who cross-fired in the turns, thinking it was simply a balance issue. Turns out when I watched her move from behind, she did not travel straight! Her right hind swung in for a very narrow hind stance. Since she was in top condition and was athletic, she could hold her leads on the straightaway, but without being able to place those hind legs wide apart, she had to cross-fire in the turns, where more balance was required of her.

                                  If she travels straight, cross-fires equally in either direction, cross-fires at liberty (especially important), on the longe, and under-saddle on the straightaway (important) and on circles (less important, because being unable to hold a correct canter on a circle could be a balance issue), and chiro's/massage therapists find nothing, then definitely have her checked by a vet. I would venture a vet should be able to watch her move and see where she is possibly out, see where the problem lies.
                                  ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                                  ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


                                  • #18
                                    Totally agree with others that you need to work with your vet on this.

                                    One horse I have doesn't swap due to hock issues. After injections, he's fine.

                                    Second horse swaps out behind when loose and on the lunge. Under saddle, he'll change in front, but not behind. We've had some issues with soreness in the lower back and sacrum/pelvis. We had the chiro out and he found him to be lower in the left hip and very sore in the SI region. So he did an ultrasound of the SI/pelvis/sacrum and L5/L6 which was normal. However, my horse has a divit in the left gluteal muscle with hardness around it. U/S reveals fibrostic muscle tissue that runs from the surface to the bone that limits his hip mobility.

                                    Prescription for my horse is lots of straight hill work - trotting up and walking down - to help break up the fibrostic tissue and strengthen the hind end.