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Why has my horse started falling in through his shoulder?!

28 replies

ShadyMeLady · 04/08/2019 13:05

Bit of background, 7yo cob only broken in last year. I’ve owned him 11 months. Coming on nicely over winter in walk, trot and canter and could do a nice intro dressage. Canter transitions were just starting to be good and we were getting on well.

Had a few issues a few months ago with bolting, bucking and rearing (long story short but it wasn’t pain related... just idiot people I was hacking out with not being respectful and bombing off without prior warning sending him over the edge).

Anyway, due to all this knocking my confidence I gave us both a month off ridden work, he had two weeks in the field then I started a bit of ground work and long reining him etc. Ridden work started again a month ago. But he’s gone completely backwards in the school! He can’t/won’t go in a straight line, he falls in massively on corners and when trying to get the correct bend his head pokes the outside of the school and his shoulders fall in and goes sideways and drifts Hmm

It’s driving me insane. I do circles, slowly spiral in and then out, I do lots of 3/4 line stuff, going straight and doing 10 meter circles off the line then join back down the 3/4. Walk is just about ok but trot is so frustrating. He just won’t bend round my inside leg at all. Even on circles he drifts and leads with his shoulders.

He’s very good at lateral work, but he’s almost using this as a get out (if that makes sense)... struggles on a circle so just let yields himself out. Can’t go in a straight line so does his own shoulder in Confused

We have weekly lessons, his back was done last week because of this but there’s not been much improvement, saddle has been checked, teeth are up to date etc.

I do carrot like stretches with him after exercise whilst his muscles are warm.

I generally school 3 times a week, lunge twice and hack once. Or if I’m lazy school twice, lunge twice and hack twice Grin

Help! What can I do to improve this?

I’m on a big yard with a few riders by trade, I asked one to get on him to see if it was me, and he did exactly the same. So whilst it could be me, he does it with someone else on him as well.

I’m starting to get frustrated, what am I doing wrong Sad

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ShadyMeLady · 04/08/2019 13:06

He’s the same on both reins as well, he used to only do it on one slightly (he always has but it was manageable and getting better) but now this is both ways.

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Belenus · 04/08/2019 18:24

Well generally I'd say physical but if you trust your back person maybe not. So I'd say boredom. For a horse broken in for under a year that's a lot of time in the school. Five days a week in the school and one hack? And lateral work for a horse not in work that long?

Go out hacking a lot. Find hills. Go off road on rutted, boggy and rocky tracks where he is continually finding his feet. Let him be a horse and use his mind in a way that is less pressured than a school. He will muscle up like this. Walk up hills on a long rein, asking him to power up. Once he is muscled he'll find the school work easier so he'll be less likely to evade and he'll be less bored. Honestly, I don't think Valegro spent that much time in the school. He certainly hacked out more.

ShadyMeLady · 04/08/2019 20:09

Yes I get what you’re saying, lunging isn’t technically in the school but it’s still work yes. This work load is fairly new, we used to hack out about 4 times a week and school twice, but I moved yards and now don’t have anyone to hack with (well it’s a big yard but I go at different times to everyone one else and also they like to canter through the fields which I’m not ready for yet) and he’s dangerous on his own (naps badly, spins and rears in the road).

I probably should have said as well that I take him out in hand for walks down the lane and around the fields after I’ve ridden as well.

And looking at that I don’t think I do ride him that much, I keep a diary and in the last 14 days I’ve lunged him twice, ridden him 4 times, hacked 3 times and the rest have been days off. So maybe I have over estimated what I actually do with him!

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ShadyMeLady · 04/08/2019 20:10

I probably should have also said that he drove from the age of 3 to 6 until he was broken in to ride.

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Belenus · 04/08/2019 20:59

Ah, yes. I'm no expert on driving but I have a feeling leading through the shoulders may stem from that. Maybe speak to someone who schools ride-drive horses or who has reschooled driving horses? Could just be that he feels that's how he's meant to go or it's just easier for him and after a break it's what he's gone back to.

ShadyMeLady · 04/08/2019 21:17

Yes I think that may be it. I might go back to long reining him and getting him to move properly from the ground first.

I know some horses can go between riding and driving with ease, I just think he struggles.

When I first got him I spent a lot of time trying to get him to realise he had to hack next to the curb and not in the middle of the road! And then he’s just so forward he literally ploughs in trot, but I’ve done a lot of work getting him in a more respectable pace.

I’ve been so patient with him, and I think this week has just been a bit frustrating! I feel like I’m putting so much work in, but not getting anything out.

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ShadyMeLady · 04/08/2019 21:18

Sorry missed the point of your post! Yes I may have to have a look and see if there’s anyone in my area who specialises in re training driving horses.

Thank you

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maxelly · 05/08/2019 13:01

Excluding anything physical going on, it's almost certainly either confusion about what you are asking for or an evasion because he finds working correctly hard work due to him not being muscled/built in the right way yet - particularly as he's had a month off and hasn't done much in the school. The very best thing you can do is get some lessons with a good instructor who can help you work out exactly what's going on, it would be interesting to get him/her to ride him as they may well be able to get a better feel on board rather than on the ground.

Couple of ideas, is he truly working forward over his back in a good regular rhythm and relaxed in the contact, or is he rushing or hollowing? When he gives you the unasked for lateral movement/falls in, does he keep moving forward at the same tempo or does he speed up/slow down? According to the scales of training rhythm and relaxation are the things you should be working on before worrying about straightness, lateral movement and flexion (although I have found with cobs sometimes doing more advanced exercises particularly straightness work can help with the other things).

One thing that I find can help when trying to teach green/stiff horses bend (probably not a classically correct way of doing things before anyone shouts at me!) is to work on an outside bend first, so I go up the long side first and ask for an outside bend by opening (not pulling) the outside hand, outside leg on. Seat remains straight and even to tell the horse to keep moving forward and straight. The wall/fence stops them falling through the shoulder which is why it's easier than doing inside bend. They may try and swing quarters in so you need to be quick with the inside leg to correct that. Once they give a good bend (for them, it doesn't have to be huge at first) I release, reward and straighten them up again for the short side, then ask for the same thing again on the next long side. It's important they keep moving forwards in the same tempo, if they find it hard or confusing they will usually try and either slow down or rush off depending on temperament, if this happens quietly correct and then return to the exercise. After a few repetitions then change the rein and do the same thing going the other way. Only once they get what's being asked for do I try the same thing with an inside bend. On my mare I now use this as a warm up alternating long sides with inside and outside bend...

When you ask for an inside bend or for him to spiral in on the circle, are you mainly asking from the hand or from the seat and leg? How is your leg positioning and seatbone/weight distribution? I would suspect you are probably slightly overusing the hand and pulling a little rather than just opening it, and/or overcompensating with the seat to try and get him moving in the right direction, which will be why he's following the bend in with his shoulders rather than keeping straight and flexing. This isn't a criticism, most of us do it especially when it's not happening and you get a little frustrated! My instructor was kind enough to let me have a go on her horse who she competes up to advanced at the weekend and I was getting unasked for half passes and all sorts due to my unstable lower leg shooting backwards, but also when I actually wanted lateral movement I kept unconsciously blocking him with the seat so nothing happened - I must be doing the same on my mare, just she's learnt to ignore it - your cob may be responding to the these subtle positional shifts in the same way so another good reason to get an instructor on the case!

Coffeeandchocolate9 · 05/08/2019 13:31

You're asking quite a lot of him.

Get an instructor and have half hour lessons once a week. School once or twice in between.

Your yard situation does not sound like it's right for you. Can you go somewhere where there are happy chilled out hackers you can ride with?

It makes total sense to me that a young horse, especially one who hasn't been ridden long, has had time off work and used to drive, would fall in. A bit of regression in education is fairly common in their "teenager" stage, and he's gone from mainly hacking to time off to mainly schooling, his muscles and fitness have had quite the set of challenges there! And then you add in that actually the first 3 years of his life he was driven not ridden, completely different skills and muscles and yes, they need to turn shoulder first in driving to avoid the shafts poking them in the neck, so no wonder!

My advice is to slow down. Find an instructor you get on well with. Ring the changes in schooling and keep it interesting. Short sessions, 20-30 minutes. Have a go at something like clicker training to have a nice activity you two can do together that's different. Preferably sort hacking. Stop lunging if you're not 100% , confident that you're working him correctly on the lunge, as that takes skill (not gadgets) and it would be very easy for it to be counter-productive. Even if you are confident he's working well on the lunge, reduce it right down, it's hard and boring. I suggest don't long rein, it's too easy for him to go to driving posture on the forehand. Keep going with stretches and have a go at some in-hand work. In hand hacks are a nice idea, keep doing them!

1 lesson, 1-2 short schooling sessions (ringing the changes), 1 hack and 1-2 "other" interesting sessions for him is plenty.

Coffeeandchocolate9 · 05/08/2019 13:36

Where are you? I am an instructor who specialises in riders who have lost their confidence, and I've re-schooled a driving horse. If you're out of my area I or somebody else here could perhaps recommend somebody.

DingleyDells · 05/08/2019 13:49

Is there a chance he may have got cast at any point and strained himself getting up again, or slipped over when gallivanting in the field? This sounds a bit like a friend's horse a few years ago, turned out it had a misaligned disc in its neck.

Is there anyone else who could ride him to see if he does the same with them as well?

ShadyMeLady · 05/08/2019 20:09

My instructor is really good, she’s been with us since the beginning, I’ve tried a few in between but I’ve always gone back to this one.

We have one 30-40 minute lesson a week. 30 mins is normally plenty so we stop then.

No his rhythm is the not the greatest, but this is nothing new... he used to charge round and break neck speeds in trot and go as quick as he could around the corners due to lack of balance, but we worked hard on his pace and rhythm, which got really good but it’s a bit hit and miss now.

He doesn’t ever hollow, he does the opposite, he means and plunges his head to the floor. Again he’s always done this but it has improved massively since I’ve found the right bit. When he has a contact he’s very soft and works correctly, but he doesn’t maintain it for long, he finds it hard and that’s when he falls onto his forehand and leans.

We did that with him actually, learning the outside bend first the moved onto the inside. Again he found it difficult but he was getting there.

Again we have done a lot of work on mainly using just my seat, and he was responding really well to it. My instructor is very good at correcting my position and making sure I use the correct aids. But it may well be me as well. I’ve asked one of the people at the yard to ride him next week to see if he experiences the same.

I’ve just moved to this yard!! So moving is not an option, it’s lovely and most of the people there are happy hackers... I just happen to miss them due to work commitments etc. I’ve arranged tomorrow to go with them though and got a babysitter.

Yes I think it is definitely regression, between October and April/May he came on loads and then we slowed it down and now picked it back up again. Slowly though, i haven’t just leapt into this workload!

I don’t use gadgets to lunge, but again this could be part of the problem as I never really lunged him first due to not having the facilities to do so. Again we’ve worked this up to twice a week in short sessions and haven’t just leapt into it. I occasionally have lunge lessons instead of ridden now as well.

Yes I see what you mean about the long reining him, but I use it more as he naps badly on his own and I use it as a tool to get him used to being on his own and me being out of sight, if that makes sense?!

He’s never been cast, he’s never been in a stable long enough! He lives out 24/7 365.

I’ll message you coffee

Thanks for all your help Flowers

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ShadyMeLady · 05/08/2019 20:10


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ShadyMeLady · 05/08/2019 20:12

Oh and he speeds up with the unasked for lateral movements. That’s the story of his life Hmm Speeds up when the going gets tough!

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Booboostwo · 06/08/2019 15:05

i remember your other posts.

Your horse is in pain. He’s been trying to tell you for a while.

ShadyMeLady · 06/08/2019 22:02

What other posts Confused

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Booboostwo · 07/08/2019 06:01

I am really sorry, there was a poster with a very similar story and I confused you with her. Sorry!!!

What you describe is more likely than not pain related. What you are asking him to do is quite basic, and there must be a reason why he cannot do it. Given the sudden change, i’d guess it’s an injury rather than a long niggling problem. If he were mine, I would book a full work up with an experienced equine vet. You may find that a lameness crops up during the workup which will give you a more specific area to look at. Personally I would ask the vet to pay particular attention to stifles and hocks - what you describe often comes from there.

While you wait for the vet ask your instructor to pop on him. How much of an effort is it for her to correct him? If she can straighten and bend him quite quickly and you feel a benefit the next day, it may be a muscle issue.

RafflesMaidenSister · 07/08/2019 10:37

I am not surprised you've had a regression if he's had a month off! It really could just be this and a more intensive training plan.

But, have you checked for ulcers? We had this problem and I still feel guilty it took us so long to twig (like you we'd done all the back, teeth etc usual checks). All's well that ends well though.

I hope you get it sorted and rebuild your confidence (I fairly regularly have to put mine back together, so know how you feel).

ShadyMeLady · 10/08/2019 11:56

Haha, I had to go back through my posts and see if I’d posted about anything similar before Grin

Thank you though, I’ll speak to my instructor when I see her next week and get her to jump on him.

He’s been much better this week, had a long hack in walk only and schooled him once and he was “normal”. I lunged him this morning and he was the best he’s ever been, he moved beautifully and his transitions were all spot on.

Technically he had two weeks off, after the two weeks I started up ground and other work slowly, then after two weeks of that started the ridden work. He wasn’t left in a field for a month and then suddenly worked like this, it’s been done gradually. He’s still not up to the workload load he was on before his little break.

Funny you say that though, ulcers have been popping into my head randomly for a while, he’s not girthy at all though but hind gut ulcers is a possibility. I’ll look into what I can do to help him with that.

Thank you for all your suggestions!

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RafflesMaidenSister · 11/08/2019 20:12

Yep - ours were hind gut. I dread to think how long we’d have taken to get there if another horse hadn’t been diagnosed. Horse was asymptomatic but for ‘attitude problem’ type symptoms. So pleased we sorted it - he’s a much happier horse now!

RafflesMaidenSister · 11/08/2019 20:13

Sorry - not clear there! Another horse on our yard had them - which is what prompted us to investigate. I know they’re not contagious 😂

ShadyMeLady · 12/08/2019 07:46

Haha, I knew what you meant Grin

How are you treating them?

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RafflesMaidenSister · 12/08/2019 08:47

He had a hormone treatment, which worked wonders and now we manage his diet. He’s been recovered nearly two years and we just keep an eye now. Can’t remember the name of the treatment but it thickens the stomach lining. Particularly good for hind gut ulcets

RafflesMaidenSister · 12/08/2019 08:48

Ulcers! Ffs!

cherrytree63 · 12/08/2019 08:51

Most cobs are late maturers, has he had a small growth spurt which can change his balance?
Is is saddle one that's specifically for his build, not just a wide saddle on an average riding horse tree?
I'd definitely try a gut supplement to see if that helps, I think most horses benefit as they don't get much opportunity to forage for the herbs and plants that they know they need.
Is he shod? Have you asked your farrier if he can spot amything?
When you long line do you do it in straight lines or do you "lunge" with 2 lines, moving about the school, chsnging rein, serpentines, loops etc?

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