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Heavy in Front = Hock pain or rider problem?

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  • Heavy in Front = Hock pain or rider problem?

    I've a wonderful hunter, mileaged and completely schooled. When I purchased him, I was told he can get heavy in the mouth. Usually he goes in a Mullen or a D Ring was the advice when he gets heavy, and admittedly, I've yet to try the D-ring, currently in a broken pelham, have tried a Tom Thumb Pelham too (Trainer mandate, and the bit could be a problem. Why take an already naturally round horse and put him in any version of a pelham?!).

    So he's been really heavy in the mouth, over flexed, at like C-3 to 4, not 1 and 2 (the poll) and head lower than when we started, and more difficult to come forward--as his hind end is obviously not under him as he gets heavy in front.

    I'm more than accepting that this could be my problem as the rider. And as a big holistic/body work/listen-to-the-horse fan, I also worry this could be a "my hock's are bothering me problem" I need to address (or combo thereof). He's relatively new to me, so still learning him.

    So, my real question is what do you use to judge if the horses hocks are in need of attention? In his way of going, or jumping, or??? Just putting that question out there, I've my own ideas too, but don't want to taint the opinion pool!

    Thanks for any riding, training and equine health ideas.
    My treasures do not chink, nor glitter. They carry me to great heights, they gleam in the sun, and they neigh in the night. That is my life, at the end of the day.

  • #2
    A spavin test. A vet, and xrays.

    I think with most hock issues the way of going or uncomfortable lead changes should be an indicator to check things out.

    Since you are alread suspecting "something".... do a spavin test.

    Check teeth and saddle fit too.
    Live in the sunshine.
    Swim in the sea.
    Drink the wild air.


    • Original Poster

      Teeth for heavy in front?

      My treasures do not chink, nor glitter. They carry me to great heights, they gleam in the sun, and they neigh in the night. That is my life, at the end of the day.


      • #4
        It wouldn't hurt to check it out just in case, but I suspect that since he was already a little heavy on the forehand when you bought him--it may just be you. This is a good thing!! Saves you $$ on vet bills sown the road Is he having issues getting his changes?

        Also, it doesn't seem in your OP that he is lame or funny behind. He is just not wanting to engage.

        IMO, just work on getting him to go foward. Like REALLY going foward. Don't worry about his head!!!! Horses will only pull if they have something to pull against!!

        I use transitions to get mine to learn to move off the leg.

        Walk three steps
        Rising trot three strides
        Walk three steps
        Rising trot five strides. Sit in the saddle, close reins and ask for the walk
        Walk three steps.
        Halt by steadying seat, sitting deep and closing reins
        Immediately trot off. (Might require a bit of coaxing, but it should be a brisk forward trot.)
        Trot four strides
        Sit deep and close reins for the halt
        Trot off again briskly, six strides
        Sit deep, steady seat, close reins and halt

        The goal for you, as the rider, is to keep lightening/softening your aids until your horse is coming down from trot to walk just by your sitting deep in the saddle and closing your reins, then springing lightly off your leg back up to the trot. As the aids get softer and your horse gets more responsive, your riding will appear effortless.

        Now do the same for the canter:

        From the sitting trot, ask for the canter.
        Canter four strides and step down to the trot.
        Sit trot three strides and ask for the canter.
        Canter four strides and trot. Repeat.

        It's important not to yank with your hands when asking for the downward transitions. Your seat and a slight closing rein should do the trick.

        About the curling....yes, it may be his teeth. Horses evade the bit when they are uncomfortable in their mouths. That can happen for a number of reasons. You could have unsteady hands--your hands may be seesawing or pulling or constantly bumping your horses mouth and he may be looking for a way to get away from the annoyance. His bit may be too thick or too wide for his mouth or he may have a dental problem. The bit may fit the horse well but be the wrong bit in a particular rider’s hands. Do you ride him in draws?? Often times, horses that have been ridden in draw reins often go behind the bit when the draw reins are taken off.


        • #5
          Sounds exactly like my old TB (I'm even imagining your guy is a big goofy chestnut like mine!). He came with a pessoa for jumping because it helped "lighten" him in front. For all that he has a back end the size of Texas, it was never very strong, and his hocks and stifles were/are definitely sore. Transitions helped lighten him, and properly designed grids and gymnastics. I also had to learn never to lean on him when he leaned on me... easier said than done! From a training point of view, the things mentioned above helped my guy, too - transitions, getting him to respond to whisper-quiet aids, lots of correct half-halts. From a soundness point of view, we injected hocks a few times then decided it was more cost-effective to do Adequan and oral supplements and his massage lady (he LOVES her!). His hocks were only one part of his problems.

          One thing you can do: have a friend lead him down a barn aisle, straight away from you, ideally, when he's not warmed up. Watch the path of travel of his hind legs. A horse with sore hocks will often create a weird, curvy path of travel as a way to make his sore hocks more comfortable for him (he will walk a straight line but his legs/feet won't travel straight, often they'll swing a hoof in and a hock out as they move but the foot lands in a straight line with the front foot). You may see it less after he's warmed up. You might also feel that he's reluctant or stiff walking down hills, though that can be related to other things, too.


          • Original Poster


            Betsyk! He IS a big goofy chestnut! Ha! And then he gets tacked up and is Mr. Fancy Pants All Pro.

            He makes me laugh.

            Thanks all for the transition work. And teeth check is a good idea.

            I imagine the challenges are 75% mom, and 25% needs the vet. He does have some back end problems, and is narrow based. I just don't want to overreact and call the vet. $$ a consideration, but also, I worry at every little thing, so don't want to cry wolf too many times.
            My treasures do not chink, nor glitter. They carry me to great heights, they gleam in the sun, and they neigh in the night. That is my life, at the end of the day.


            • #7
              sar2008 posted great advice about transitions. Try that.

              Also, if you are finding that he is lugging through the transitions, re-evaluate your ride. Are you actually SITTING in the saddle before you ask for the downward transition? Try taking your feet out of your stirrups. It will force you to sit and ask for transitions correctly. I do this almost ever time when flatting on my own, and my horses transitions get miraculously better


              • #8
                Originally posted by horsegurl View Post

                Thanks for any riding, training and equine health ideas.
                check him for some early ringbone

                Tamara in TN
                Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


                • #9
                  There is a horse in the barn I started going to for lessons this summer who was really heavy on the front, and had pretty bad transitions, up or down. Part of it is the rider, who is fairly new to riding for an adult. But, they figured out his hocks/stifles were sore, and had them injected and the difference was almost immediate! The horse was much happier and was much better in his transitions, and didn't look so heavy all the time. This also helped the rider, because she knew that it wasn't all her, and part of it was soreness, so now she can work on the part that was her.