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overreaction or legitimate concern?

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  • overreaction or legitimate concern?

    Hi everyone,
    I've been reading this forum as a way to stay in touch with horse life over the past few years when riding wasn't feasible. So this will be my first time posting and I'm hoping you all can help me figure out if I have a legitimate concern or if I am overreacting.

    I started riding again a couple of months ago after some years off (career, kids, etc). I found a nice stable where they seem to take excellent care of the horses and I like the trainer a lot. However I have noticed that since I started riding again, the fear of falling and getting injured is in the back of my mind. It's not so much that it stops me from riding, but it is definitely a concern since I have young children.

    The main horse I have been riding is a saint. He is a kind horse, does not spook, very calm. However I've noticed from my first ride that he is not the most sure footed. I'd say almost every ride he trips. Some days they are on the small side, some days they are larger. Today we almost both went down. He tripped, fell down to his knees, skidded forward and then was able to pull himself up at the last moment before we both hit the ground.

    Right now I feel like I don't want to ride this saintly horse anymore. I feel like it is just a matter of time before we both hit the ground together. But am I overreacting? I know no horse is perfect, they are not robots and things happen. But maybe I've had enough warnings and should listen to them? My gut says I should stay off, but I don't quite trust my gut since I definitely have a greater fear of falling off now than I used to as a teen. What do you all think?

    Thanks so much for your advice!

  • #2
    You're not unreasonable to be concerned. I've had 2 fall with me and it's not an easy experience to move on from, not to mention how dangerous it can be. I would very politely share your concern and ask if there's a different horse you can ride. It could just have to do with his balance, needing a different type ride than what you're able to give at this point. I think this you'll gain some good info on the way this trainer handles concerns/confidence issues. If she/he is anything other than supportive it's time to find a new one.


    • #3
      I would insist on another horse, and move on to another barn if no other is available.
      Patience pays.


      • #4
        I think that if he is really tripping all the time and that he went to his knees this last time, it's totally reasonable to say that you're not comfortable riding this horse any more.

        It may be something that will resolve for the horse in time, it may be related to your weight or balance, it may be that in six months you'd be fine on that horse again. But an accident where the horse falls is not good for horse or rider.

        A typical issue for a horse tripping like that is some sort of navicular or even arthritis. Shoeing or other therapies can help. In the meantime, totally fair for you to say you don't want to ride him.
        If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


        • #5
          I'm surprised that they still have you riding him.

          So, Yes, you have a legitimate concern.
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


          • #6
            Tripping bad enough to go to his knees? My guess would either be unsafe footing or lame horse...or drugged horse, but that seems less likely.

            Legitimate concern for sure!

            Have you been able to watch any of the other horses in their program?
            Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


            • #7
              I don't think you're overreacting. I wouldn't want to be riding one that doesn't know where his feet are consistently. If it was just a 1 time thing it would be less concerning but if it happens all the time I'd be worried. Talk to your trainer about other options and see how she feels about his tripping. Has she mentioned that she knows its an issue and he only does in x,y,z: situations, footing, etc?

              Also, consider investing in a safety vest. There was a post a few weeks ago and it seemed the consensus was that it made the people a bit more comfortable regarding fears of falling/getting hurt.


              • #8
                How old is this poor creature? Sounds like he has some issues that need attention before he is ready to serve as a saint/attendant to a returning-to-the-sport adult.

                Your trainer should already have this on her/his radar, but if this isn't the case, bring it up.

                A horse that is prone to stumbling is an accident waiting to happen, and it could result in injury to horse, rider or both.


                • #9
                  My very sure-footed horse fell and landed on me in a freak accident (cantering in an indoor ring). I had 32 identified fractures (mostly comminuted) from my lower tibia to the base of my toes. Concerns of amputation due to restricted blood flow. This was in 2009, and I still walk with a limp, and I will forever.

                  Would I knowingly get on a clumsy or otherwise un-surefooted horse? No. You shouldn't either.
                  "I'd rather have a horse. A horse is at least human, for god's sake." - J.D. Salinger


                  • Original Poster

                    Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your responses. I really appreciate them.
                    The trainer did not see the fall today, she's at a horse show and I was just hacking. I plan on letting her know this evening so she is aware of the trip/fall and then discussing it with her in person this week. From what I know of her thus far, I think she will be supportive and understanding. Maybe if I'm the one promoting the tripping she doesn't see it yet as an ongoing issue since it hasn't happened with other riders. At any rate, thanks again for your input. I just want to be sure im making smart decisions and not fear based decisions. You helped me confirm that what my gut was telling me was right.


                    • #11
                      As others have said, it could be happening for a variety of reasons, but among them are the onset of arthritis in the neck, which is pretty hard to detect until the horse starts tripping. At that point it can definitely be unsafe to ride them! You are right to be worried and you won't enjoy OR progress if you are so worried you'll both hit the deck...
                      The big man -- my lost prince

                      The little brother, now my main man


                      • #12
                        You said he was saintly, is he on the lazy side of saintly? I've ridden lazy luggy horses that trip when working because they can't muster up the engery to get their own feet out of the way.

                        I wouldn't jump to him being drugged or having a neck injury right away, but I would speak with your trainer. It's possible that you need to put some more leg on him to keep him more forward, does he trip with other riders? If you feel unsafe on him then I wouldn't get back on, but you might need to have a talk with your trainer and some observant friends. Sometimes as fearful adults we make mountains out of molehills and what you might view as excessive tripping might not be much at all to everyone else, in that case you would experience some sort of issue on every horse you ride as horses are big unpredictable animals.

                        So, in short, I would certainly not ride a horse that was unsafe but I would make sure it wasn't my own fear issues that was making the horse seem unsafe.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post

                          So, in short, I would certainly not ride a horse that was unsafe but I would make sure it wasn't my own fear issues that was making the horse seem unsafe.
                          While this is true, I also think there's no reason to keep riding a horse you're scared to ride. Yeah, all horses have issues and are unpredictable, but some issues just push our fear buttons while others don't - for example, I'm having my own issues with fear riding a spooky horse. For some reason, that just freaks me the heck out! Give me a bucker or bolter! (of course, I'd rather have neither - just saying that we all have our own very personal triggers of fear.)

                          If you're scared to ride this horse, there's no reason you need to - you won't progress and learn if you're scared, and the fear will keep building and you could end up scared of riding in general, not just of this horse. And it's not like he's your horse and you HAVE to get past this fear right this second. There's no reason to not ride someone else and maybe come back to this guy in a few months. Or not. Riding is supposed to be fun - if you're not gunning to ride in the Olympics, there's absolutely no reason to not do things at your own pace.

                          Good luck!


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post
                            I wouldn't jump to him being drugged or having a neck injury right away, but I would speak with your trainer. It's possible that you need to put some more leg on him to keep him more forward, does he trip with other riders? If you feel unsafe on him then I wouldn't get back on, but you might need to have a talk with your trainer and some observant friends.

                            So, in short, I would certainly not ride a horse that was unsafe but I would make sure it wasn't my own fear issues that was making the horse seem unsafe.
                            I'll reiterate this post. Completely agree with enjoytheride.

                            There are a multitude of reasons that horses can trip. I have a gelding who moves close behind and trips probably once a ride (hind end, not front end). I have a mare who I don't think has ever tripped with me, but she's a lazy bugger and I have an adult amateur who comes out to ride her every now and again and she occasionally trips with her. In that case it's because she's not up to her leg and ends up just sort of dragging her feet around. She went to her knees once last summer as a result. It was odd to watch, and she's a horse that I trust more than any other horse I have to not take a funny step or trip.

                            I also agree that if it's really scaring you, you should not continue riding the horse and that you should to talk to the trainer to see if it's a concern she shares, or if she feels that there's a reason for it. I do agree that it's possible it could be a physical issue (arthritis, feet, etc.), but it's equally as probable that it's because you're letting him carry himself strung out and a bit behind the leg...especially if he's a bit of a luggy/sluggy guy.
                            Flying F Sport Horses
                            Horses in the NW


                            • Original Poster

                              enjoytheride- yes, this horse is on the lazy side of saintly. It could absolutely be that he isn't mustering up enough energy to get his own feet out of the way. I try to keep him engaged. He felt like he had a nice canter going when he tripped, not a backwards canter. But who knows? What I was feeling may have been different than what he was actually giving me. It would have been helpful if someone had seen it happen.

                              I'll have to talk to the trainer to get a sense as to whether this is happening because of something I'm doing (or not doing) or whether it is a problem this horse is having independent of me. In either case, I feel like it's best for me to not ride him right now. One random trip would not bother me. It actually happened once with my first mare. We both went down, she landed right next to me and looked at me like "WHat just happened?" But it never happened again and quite frankly I didn't worry about it because it was such a freak one time thing. But I feel like ignoring this consistent tripping is just asking for trouble.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by starhorse View Post
                                My very sure-footed horse fell and landed on me in a freak accident (cantering in an indoor ring). I had 32 identified fractures (mostly comminuted) from my lower tibia to the base of my toes. Concerns of amputation due to restricted blood flow. This was in 2009, and I still walk with a limp, and I will forever.
                                OK, I had to look up comminuted! Whew, Starhorse, that sounds horrible! So glad you didn't lose your leg!

                                OP - I had a horse that when I first got him, he tripped. A lot. Went down to his knees several times and scared the heck out of me. As time went by, he got into better shape and that pretty much ended. However, a horse that's in a lesson program doing this would scare me to death! Legitimate concern, in my opinion.


                                • #17
                                  Like JumpQH I had a horse that tripped a lot until he learned to use his hind-end and then the tripping ended.

                                  That said, like the OP, I returned to the sport as an adult and brought with me a significant dose of fear. Through reading and time, I've realized it's all about "self-talk" and getting more and more comfortable and confident. There are a couple of great videos aimed at overcoming fear as an adult rider ...
                                  Bay Area Equestrian Network (free) - 4 videos

                                  Equestriancoach.com (requires membership) - Tonya Johnston, sports psychologist video

                                  I really recommend reading/watching as much as you can about overcoming your fear and staying completely away from any of the shock or accident videos/articles. This strategy has helped me tons, despite going through a period in the beginning where I came off - a lot.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post
                                    You said he was saintly, is he on the lazy side of saintly? I've ridden lazy luggy horses that trip when working because they can't muster up the engery to get their own feet out of the way.

                                    I wouldn't jump to him being drugged or having a neck injury right away, but I would speak with your trainer.
                                    This. I am surprised to see everyone so immediately jump to worst case scenarios. Laziness, a rut in the ring or uneven footing, a rider who might be unbalanced, a horse who getting more and more on his forehand...not to mention some horses are just less sure footed than others. Its one thing if he's going to down to his knees every lesson, but it sounds like the one really bad trip was an anomaly among smaller ones.

                                    OP, you 100% have a legitimate concern and I would talk to your trainer about riding a different mount. You should be on something you feel comfortable and safe on. I totally sympathize because tripping in horses is one of my pet peeves. But I would not let this one horse scare or worry you away from a barn that you otherwise enjoy riding at.


                                    • #19
                                      Definitely a legitimate concern. Last fall I had a horse fall with me - he's very sure footed and had never tripped or anything of the like while working. Cantering on the riding field his hind end slid out from under him and he went down on his side - with me still on him. I ha no reaction time to try and throw myself clear it happened so fast. Since then, I still get a little nervous cantering on the grass. Maybe I always will. Horses falling is a scary thing.

                                      Along with things other posters have mentioned, it could be neurological. In the past two years, we've had two habitual trippers come through the barn - one was diagnosed with EPM and the other with some sort of compression issues in the vertebrae in his neck.


                                      • #20
                                        I noticed you were cantering when he fell. Do you know if you are on the correct lead? If not, it's easy for a horse on the wrong lead to trip when turning. If you don't know your leads (and I'm not patronizing, I just don't know what level you are), then you probably shouldn't be cantering without a trainer there.

                                        Yes, a horse on the forehand can trip, but the consistency of the tripping is worrisome. If he landed on his head and knees when he fell, if his neck was compromised in any way, he should be checked over by a vet for neurological issues, as he might have sustained an injury in the fall itself.