Horse won't walk straight, and he trips a lot - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 11-09-2011, 08:08 PM Thread Starter
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Smile Horse won't walk straight, and he trips a lot

Hi there! I am new to the forum, & am so glad I found a place with so much helpful information! My question is about a horse I've been riding, I'd appreciate any advice or tips!
So, I've been riding a retired Standardbred harness racer named Jim, he's not mine, but his owners have been kind enough to let me ride since he needs the exercise. He's been off the track for about a year, and he isn't ridden very much, at the moment I'm the only one riding him, but I can only get there about once a week. I am a fairly experienced rider, but have never trained, or retrained a horse.
So the problem I'm having now is that he keeps turning to the right, it's more like sidestepping, and refusing to walk in a straight line. He only does it part of the time, & especially when I turn him around and he doesn't want to go that way. I've been riding him in a small field, and on a grass/dirt full size track, they don't have a ring. We only walk & trot, he's still learning to collect his trot, & has no clue how to canter (i'm not sure how to teach him that, but maybe that's another post!). He moves so far to the right, he starts going off the track, even toward the fence sometimes. I tried turning him in a circle to kind of reorient him, but he gets frustrated until we either get past the part of the track he's doing it in, or turn around.
He also trips over his feet a lot, I don't know if that's related, if there's some foot problem, or I was worried something might be hurting or iritating him instead of him just being stubborn. His hooves could use a trim, but they've said his legs are fine, I'm thinking he might be a little stiff because he's pretty much in the stall all day.
Sorry for the long post, I hope it's clear enough! Thanks!
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post #2 of 13 Old 11-09-2011, 08:15 PM
Green Broke
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Either he is a) just plain stubborn and being a dork because he wants his way and is purposely doing it or b) he has a physical issue somewhere.

If it's A) you just have to really assert that he isn't going to get away with it.

If it's B) the horse may be stiff somewhere or have a back issue. Unfortunately it would require a vet to check him out to know for sure what and where, and as he isn't your horse, it is slightly out of your hands. Working on flexing him and getting him to really stretch out his body may help, as well as different exercises to get him bending in both directions.

If you feel comfortable with the owners, I would ask them if he has had any injury that they know of, or if he has done this in the past or even if they think he's just testing you out and you need to be more assertive.
Cinnys Whinny is offline  
post #3 of 13 Old 11-09-2011, 08:37 PM
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I would have this horse checked out by a vet. Almost sounds neurological, in which case, could be very dangerous for you to ride. You really want to rule out any physical problems first, constant tripping indicates a problem of some sort.
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post #4 of 13 Old 11-09-2011, 08:54 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice. I will try some exercises with him, do you know any good stretching exercises for this? He does actually have a scar right across his back, but they haven't mentioned he has any lasting injuries or problems, they seem to think he is a good, sound horse. I don't think he retired because of any injury, he's just at that age, he's 14. I know he's more used to the harness than the saddle, so i also thought maybe I'm unbalancing him, but i think I have a pretty good seat, & I don't think that would explain all his problems anyway. I did mention his tripping problem, and they thought maybe it was just his hooves, or that he doesn't pay attention when he walks. I will ask again, it is a little hard because he's not mine, they would have to decide to get a vet to look at him.
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post #5 of 13 Old 11-09-2011, 09:28 PM
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Yes, it could be hooves -- all part of the physical aspect. If you post pics of him we can let you know if anything stands out, but it wouldn't be a comprehensive analysis like a vet and farrier need to do.
NorthernMama is offline  
post #6 of 13 Old 11-09-2011, 11:41 PM
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Navicular, neurological problems...
bubba13 is offline  
post #7 of 13 Old 11-10-2011, 04:34 AM
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I'm in the process of re-training my standardbred, and he does most of what you are mentioning. If he doesn't want to go a particular direction, he tends to sidestep and ignore the bit. I would work alot with him on giving to pressure. It doesn't sound like he's been ridden alot, so he's probably still getting used to the cues and having someone on his back.
My boy stumbles alot as well, especially when I'm riding him. He may feel slightly unbalanced with you on his back (I'm not saying your seat isn't good, but he's used to pulling a harness, not carrying someone around on his back, and he has to learn how to balance a rider through the paces.
I've had my boy four months, and we are still in the walking phase, with a few paces of troting here and there until he can build the proper muscles and learn to balance a rider. He's slowly getting better, and doesn't trip and stumple as much at a walk.
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post #8 of 13 Old 11-10-2011, 07:20 AM
Green Broke
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It could be all physical problems, like many of the others mentioned, and its worth checking it out.

Although, I had a Standardbred for a while and when I first got him he would trip a lot, evade to the side. As I worked with him, got him flexing and such he got much better. I don't know a lot about harness racing, but I know pulling something would require a whole different set of muscles and may encourage the horse to balance through leaning. Without this, he may just not be able find his feet, his balance. It can be hard to get them to flex because they mainly seem to go in versions of straight.

What has he actually done since the track? Did anyone retrain him or did they just throw a saddle on and start riding?

I'd start with a lot of groundwork, getting him able to move, bend his body and neck, working on smaller circles rather than on straights. I'd get him doing transitions, and slow trotting on the ground (he was probably used to just running full out) letting him develop muscles need for carrying people and himself. Encourage him to stretch his neck out rather than brace it, which is what my Standardbred used to do.

The problem though is that he isn't your horse, and I guess you don't want to do all this training and no riding. But chances are, if he's only ridden once a week and stabled, that he's sore because he's not fit. For progress on fitness and training I really do think he needs more dedicated, regular work, as all horses do.
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post #9 of 13 Old 11-10-2011, 07:02 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you so much, all the comments are so helpful! Gothicangel69 & Saskia, it sounds like he's doing exactly the same thing as your standardbreds, so hopefully it's just that he needs more retraining & it's not neurological, although I will still see if they can have a vet look at him. He does seem to still be getting used to a rider on his back, I start posting to his uneven trot, and he's like, what is going on back there! And his trot goes really slow, speed up, speed up even more until he's got that impossible fast trot. He's getting better at controlling the trot though. I don't think he was retrained much at all, just enough to accept a saddle & rider, & I guess someone worked with him a little on trotting. So, I will try all those exercises with him, i don;t mind trying to retrain him, I'm just happy to have a horse to ride at all, it's just not ideal because I don't have a lot of time for him. He's real sweet though, and seems very smart, I'm sure he'll get the hang of it! Oh, & Cinnys whinny, it may also be what you said about being more assertive, I know I've sometimes had that problem, I guess I'll have to work on training myself too! Thanks!
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post #10 of 13 Old 11-10-2011, 10:56 PM
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I'm going to assume it's not a physical/neurological problem, that's for a vet to check out so going to assume it's not something a vet is needed for.

Heading to the right (or left) is a common avoidance issue. Could be he doesn't like the ground he's on (rocks, mud, water, hard, soft, etc). If that's the case you have to train him to go where you are pointing him. It could also be because you are leaning to one side (have someone watch or film you) or you are keeping one rein shorter then the other.

Tripping can be caused by not paying attention to where he walking, long toes or just flat out being out of shape. If he's not paying attention then it's up to you to keep his attention on the trail. For long toes, you or the owner needs to talk to his farrier. Out of shape, well you can take care of that!
Darrin is offline  

leaning right , standardbred , tripping , walk straight

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