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Horse Swapping Leads in Back

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  • Horse Swapping Leads in Back

    Hi there everyone. I recently bought young, unbalanced OTTB from someone to retrain for hunter/jumper and have began to work with her more. I have noticed that she wants to switch leads in the back when coming around the corner in only one direction, to the left. She will break and then continue on the lead. She usually goes about halfway around a very large arena before she will swap and then break to a trot. It is very difficult for her to keep going. She is 100% sound, as I've watched her go. She is very young, so maybe this is just a unbalanced horse? I'm not sure; that's why I'm asking your opinions. I'm a little worried about her, as I haven't seen a horse that swapped like this. I've seen ones that were nervous and frantic due to pain, but this horse doesn't buck. She'll be slowly cantering along and 'plop' lead switch. If I speed her up a little to a brisker canter and cluck at her she will not break or switch in the back. Please give me your advice and experience (: Thank you.

  • #2
    How long ago did he come off the track? Did you get xrays? I'd check the right hind. It could be a balance/strength issue. Many ottbs, aren't used to cantering slowly in an arena, and are a little strung out. They also tend to not travel "straight", and often throw out a hip or shoulder.

    Try strengthening with lots of transitions. Try cantering with a little more pace. Maybe canter long sides, and trot the corners at first. A vet ck would be good if you haven't done one.


    • #3
      This is not uncommon for an unbalanced horse. Focus on your flat work, gradually introducing lateral work such as shoulder-in. It will help strengthen her and make her straight. Straight definition: Of equal strength on both reins.
      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.


      • Original Poster

        She's off the track about 6 months I would say, and her legs are clean on an x-ray that the previous owner did. I should probably have a full soundness exam done on her just to be certain. She stretches fine in the legs and doesn't seem to feel like she's uncomfortable with stretching them. But then again I'm no vet.

        I like the idea of trotting the corners, it certainly would help her not become too strung out. I'm also very glad that it most likely a balance problem, she is a little strung out. Giving her a little more pace with the canter causes her to stay on the correct lead in the back, as I said before. So maybe this is the case?

        I need to get the flat work basics with her down more than anything. She is strung out at the canter, and maybe lunging would help? She is coming down and actually dropped her head really nicely today at the trot and relaxed. She's not crazy or anything, but she does get nervous so maybe this could be that she's in a new setting as well and nervous? I'm not sure.

        I haven't worked with her that much, as I've only had her for a couple weeks, but she is very willing and very much of a green horse. Any suggestions for exercises I could do to strengthen her back? I'm thinking of investing in hiring a dressage trainer for lessons as well. And one more question. Do you think if it is a balance issue, that it will resolve over time with constant work and exercise?


        • #5
          Transitions strengthen and teach balance. Just keep on keeping on. Longeing is fine if it is with purpose... get a trainer to evaluate your deal with this horse and craft a plan. She would be longeing in vienna reins and/or over cavaletti a good bit at a walk and trot to build her body if she were my project.


          • #6
            Ah, "cross-firing," a word I just recently became familiar with thanks to my boy. In his case, his back and hips are badly out of whack. You can actually see the point of one hip is about 1" higher than the other. I've had the chiro out twice and we're working on fixing this. As it predates my April 2012 purchase, I'm not sure what happened--either a back injury or compensation from a front leg injury, the chiro hypothesizes--but regardless, his back has "settled" in a very crooked, weak position. His cross-firing, hind leg dragging, and rear stumbling aren't due to lameness, but mechanical issues. He simply doesn't have the muscle condition to move those parts correctly.

            He'll be readjusted next month--in the meantime, I'm under orders not to canter him under saddle ("I don't want him on one leg"), no lunging, no circles, and no hills.

            Not saying her situation is any of the above, but maybe she could benefit from a chiro eval if this continues?

            (She sounds sweet, incidentally. Piccy pic pics? )
            SA Ferrana Moniet 1988-2011
            CP Trilogy 2002-2015
            My bloggity blog: Hobby Horse: Adventures of the Perpetual Newbie


            • Original Poster

              It's actually funny that you mention vienna reins because I had already planned a trip to the tack store and whipping out the Leather CPR for my surcingle. haha There's also a nice, big hill in behind the ring I use so maybe some hill work would benefit the canter. I want to get her at least ready to do some nice hacking in hunter this year. Maybe jumping next year...as she's just about to turn 4 now?

              I'm sorry to hear about your horse Lauruffian, it seems like a lot of work to manage, but I'm glad for you that it's not a lameness problem and will be fixed over time. She is very sweet and willing. Very honest to poles and such and doesn't spook if you tell her "it's okay". I will post pictures of full body and back tomorrow possibly when I go out to see her to see if anyone sees anything I don't. Will check her for soreness tomorrow..as injury is possible with track horses. I get along great with this horse, so kind and easy on the ground too.

              I know quite a few trainers, but I want a good collection of them to work on a multitude of things for her. I want her getting good on hacking basics first and get her canter well balanced. But Rome wasn't built in a day, and this too, will take time. (:


              • #8
                I have found that most unbalanced horses who canter with their heads in the air and with dropped backs will swap out on the weaker lead. If the problem goes away when you lunge them with sidereins then it is a balance issue.

                I will say that I first noticed my now retired mare having hock issues when she wouldn't hold her lead behind suddenly, even in sidereins. So make sure he's sound first.


                • #9
                  Try to encourage trotting long and low, to encourage her to relax and stretch her back. It still means you need light contact, and leg. Trot poles would be great. She probably isn't strong enough to canter slow and balanced.


                  • Original Poster

                    She will relax at the trot and bring her head down, as I got her to do so today but only really low for a few strides at a time and only semi-low for half a ring span. Then, she would pick her head back up. You are right about her not being able to bring her head down yet at the canter. I have put some contact on her at the canter as well but she is still inverted and trying to bow out to the outside.

                    Opening up the outside rein seems to help a little with her wanting to not bend. She's not a fast horse at all, just very wobbly as I like to say. To fix the canter, trot work should help, correct? I actually have trot poles and access to cavalettis, so I'll try her with the side reins tomorrow.


                    • #11
                      My OTTB did the same thing. Her hips were totally out upon a Chiro inspection. 2 adjustments later she was good to go!
                      Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.


                      • #12
                        If she's young and unbalanced, give her a chance to get fitter and more balanced at a slower gait, before you expect it at the canter. Think of yourself doing an aerobics or step class where you are expected to do all these fancy moves when you aren't fit. It's going to be hard and it's going to hurt.

                        Take it slow to make the fastest progress.


                        • #13
                          I had the dame problem with a very well balanced, more educated horse, swapped out going to the left. Did a complete vet exam thinking maybe hip, back or sacro and found out it was right hock! Injected and have had no problems since.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Keg-A-Bacchus View Post
                            My OTTB did the same thing. Her hips were totally out upon a Chiro inspection. 2 adjustments later she was good to go!
                            Keg that was supposed to be a thumbs up....sawwwwy!


                            • Original Poster

                              Since a lot of people have had issues with back problems, will get a chiro out here to look at her. Seems like a relatively easy fix if she can get diagnosed and adjusted.


                              • #16
                                My Arab swaps for one of two reasons. He is either A. unfit and gets unbalanced in the turns or he is B. out in his back or hips. The last two foxhunts I took him on resulted in a whole lot of uncharacteristic bucking and crossfiring leaving me scratching my head. Had the chiro out and the problems went away.


                                • #17
                                  The horse is young....give her time....IMHO I don't see this as a problem at all right now...


                                  • #18
                                    Sounds like a good plan, Hunter_Horse_girl. Thank you for your kind words, but honestly, it's not that bad. I knew he needed chiro when I bought him, and I bought him for an insultingly low price. I figured he was a fixer-upper, and he is one heck of a nice horse. He can be made to move correctly, but to his detriment. I'd rather go back and fix this right, so he can move correctly without causing further harm. (And when he moves correctly--WOW! )

                                    It's not a ton of work, really. I went down this path with my older girl, and it was bordlerline miraculous the changes it made in her--and she was not nearly as nice a mover as he is. So, sweet!

                                    Let us know what the chiro says! I'm always curious. As the others have repeated, it could be chiro, or it could be fitness, or perhaps a combination of both.
                                    SA Ferrana Moniet 1988-2011
                                    CP Trilogy 2002-2015
                                    My bloggity blog: Hobby Horse: Adventures of the Perpetual Newbie


                                    • Original Poster

                                      I rode her today after lunging with side reins at the trot and noticed that she is very strung out at the canter and a little fast, but if I let her have a bit more pace, she will hold the canter and did for a full circle around the ring. Right now she fights contact a little bit and needs foot work, as she's coming up on week 6/6.

                                      She's a decent mover but just needs more flex and training. I have never used a chiropractor, so I was wondering the cost per visit? I'm leaning toward it being a fitness issue, but I'll sit on having her seen for a few weeks to see if it starts to improve. Vet seemed to think she was fine in the initial screening, so I'll sit on the chiro visit a little.

                                      She's very unbalanced still, especially at the canter and wants to canter inverted and away from the leg. I feel like I don't want to pressure her too quickly to get balanced or do things she is not ready to do. I see it that jumping always comes easy for me to train with horses once all the other basics are down. And of course, it will be quite a while before we are headed there!


                                      • #20
                                        My ADD is working overtime so didn't read every post, but, going by the OP, I saw a TV show about something similar. The guy had a colt who was off balance and couldn't even trot right. So they took a video of the horse just trotting and loping around the small arena. Then they slowed it into seriously slow-motion and found the horses' hooves weren't hitting the ground at the right times, just a fraction off, which couldn't be seen in normal real-time movement. Turns out, the colt had a tweak in his spine or something similar and the guy took the time to work it out and had a correctly moving colt after that. I don't remember all details but it's something to look into.
                                        GR24's Musing #19 - Save the tatas!!