Help with A Cold-Backed Horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 04-23-2011, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
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Exclamation Help with A Cold-Backed Horse

When we got my TB last August, we knew that he was cold-backed. His owner was very clear and helpful on the topic, but she hadn't had him for very long and didn't know how far-reaching the habit was (anyone who has seen my previous threads knows his story). Now its been over 8 months since I bought him, and it is still there. He's much better now, and most of the time at home I can mount him with no problem, but when he has his TB hot days, or when we go somewhere new, I need to mount him in a corner so he can't bolt (and then ride out the little bucks that sometimes come as soon as I turn him out and start walking him in a small circle) or have somebody hold him and lead him around for a few seconds after I get on. He always relaxes quickly, but it's just really annoying sometimes, as I've been very patient and progressive in trying to help him to work out of it and sometimes it doesn't seem like I've gotten anywhere.
I've tried different methods of mounting, and have found that he prefers when someone gives me a leg-up as opposed to a mounting block (probably from his days as a Steeplechase horse), but that isn't always possible as I often ride alone. When a leg-up is not an option and he is having a hot day, the best method is to mount him facing a corner, mount him slowly and gently, and then give him a carrot as soon as I get on (which keeps his attention on me and forces him to turn his head to me to get the carrot, helping to relax him somewhat).
I am always gentle when I mount, and his saddles (dressage and jumping) both fit him well. His jumping saddle is a Stubben and was made to fit him, down to special flocking to fit his somewhat asymmetrical shoulders. I use natural horsemanship methods with him, have 'joined up' with him. I have also tried many desensitizing methods, i.e. flapping a saddle pad/tarp all over his back and body until he relaxes, rocking and patting and flapping the saddle before I get on, and those help a little. I don't think trust is the's like for a minute, when he is having an episode with mounting, he forgets that its me on his back and drops his back and acts like he's scared I'm going to whip him or something. Again, probably from the racehorse days. Like I said he snaps out of it pretty quickly, and it is never an issue if I need to mount him additional times after the first...after that first time, I can stand in the middle of the arena and hop up without even a mounting block and he is fine, as long as he is warmed up. I wouldn't be that concerned, as he is slowly getting better, but sometimes he has a really bad episode and manages to bolt when I am halfway on. He has bucked me off two times this way, and that's when it really gets dangerous. I especially worry when I'm at a show, if he gets me off and goes running around and hurts himself. Not to mention the danger to everyone else there of a loose horse. Plus it is rather embarrassing sometimes when I can't even get on my own horse...
Does anyone have advice? Sorry for the novel...I just wanted to give as much background info as possible to try to avoid all the questions later. Should I just keep being consistent with him and hope he eventually works out of it, or just accept it as a personality quirk? I've seen the ads for massage and magnetic pads and stuff, that claim to help cold-backed horses, and based on how good he is when his back is warmed up, I can see how that would help, but I would like some first-hand information on that before I go off and buy one (they are very expensive!). Please, any and all advice would be greatly appreciated!

He knows when you're happy; He knows when you're comfortable; He knows when you're confident; And he always knows when you have carrots.
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post #2 of 10 Old 04-23-2011, 05:11 PM
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Has his back been checked for any soreness or pain?
When was the saddle that was made for him fitted? Is it possible that he gained/loss a fair amount of muscle since then?

When you mount do you go right to work after you give him the carrot?

One thing I found is to mount and stay in a two point poistion. Let the horse walk around on a loose rein and stretch. Once his muscles are going then I will sit gently down on his back (after a lap of the arena or two) and then procede with the rest of my warm up.

Ideally, as I'm sure you know, you want to be able to mount without him facing a wall. My way of doing it is to just make sure that standing still and letting me get on him is a pleasant and unstressful experience. I rub them all over and praise them if their feet stay still. If they move or try to avoid, I back them away from the mounting block quickly and then start flexing them. Move their feet and get their attention on you. It doesnt have to be a big scary thing for them, just "get out of my space and pay attention".

Once they show that they have their attention on me, I walk them back to the block and try again. Generally they seem to realize that standing there isn't so bad. And when they move away from me, I'm going to KEEP them moving which is a lot more hard work. I praise every correct attempt.

If you are worried about him bolting, could you have someone hold a lead rope or something to keep some level of control over him should he decide to blow up?
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post #3 of 10 Old 04-23-2011, 10:48 PM
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Instead of riding out those little bucks I would whack him upside the head and get his attention back to where it should be but I'm kind of a grump about stuff like that. What you could do is flex his head around before you get on and then once you mount flex him both ways a few times and see if that relaxes him.

I had a horse that was somewhat like that and I finally had to quit trying to talk him out of it and make it misserable for him. However I am a large man riding a western saddle as opposed to an english saddle.

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post #4 of 10 Old 04-24-2011, 11:21 AM
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I warm up my TB in half seat so he can warm up his back muscles without my posting hindering him. Takes a good 20 minutes, but it works great.

You just have to see your don't have to like it.
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post #5 of 10 Old 04-24-2011, 11:27 AM
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My Best Friend has a Holsteiner who is cold backed. She has done everything possible for her - from Chiro to Massage Therapists, Professional Saddle Fitter/Maker - and what she found works well, is lunging her before she gets on.

That way her mare can relax, warm up, and get prepared for the mounting. That process is working well for her.

I suggest lunging for a good 15 - 20 minutes before you get on.

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post #6 of 10 Old 04-24-2011, 08:57 PM
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Given saddle fit and no back issues I'd lunge 10-15 mins before the ride to warm up. Also I've heard (didn't have a chance to try yet, but I definitely will next winter) this product Back on Track Saddle Pad - All Purpose Saddle Pads from SmartPak Equine helps a lot to warm up and relax the back.

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass: it's about learning to dance in the rain..."

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post #7 of 10 Old 04-25-2011, 09:56 PM Thread Starter
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Hmmm...sounds like my horse is just a tricky case. Because I DO lounge before I ride, when he's obviously hot and every time we go somewhere new (where he is almost always excited). Lots of cantering, side reins, all that. And everything correctly adjusted. And I still have to have somebody hold him because he is almost ALWAYS at least somewhat tense and needs to be led in a small circle or two. Most of the time its not the actual act of me leading him to a mounting block or even getting on that he's so opposed to...its when we start moving. I always make him stand for a few seconds, give him a carrot, make him flex, pet him, but as soon as we walk off he's like "Oh, we're running now!" and drops his back, raises his poll and gets all tense. I always keep him in a small circle (like 10m), keep him moving until it stops. And then I pet him. And like I said before, it's inconsistent. At home, it rarely happens any more, and when it does it's to different degrees. Sometimes he's just a tiny bit tense, sometimes he goes all out and crowhops and even throws in a little buck once or twice. But again, he always settles really fast, when I talk to him and pull him in a circle. He never needs more than about two little circles before he is fine.

It does help when I lounge, though...its like the difference between a crowhop fit or just the head going up. Dove, I don't think the saddle is an issue, as it just came in a couple of months ago, although he has gained a bit more muscle since then. But it slips onto his back and fits like a glove, and he doesn't object to saddling (unless he is having a REALLY hot day, where he objects to everything, even like me unfastening a velcro strap...I always lounge on those days, and they are rare and usually after he has accidently had alfalfa hay or something). I have not, however, had his back checked. I've never used a chiropractor/equine it worth the money?

Also, do you think any other item of his tack could be a problem? Everything fits him technically, but has anyone ever heard of a girth being a problem? I use the same girth on both my saddles, and it is rather cheap, stiff leather, although it never visibly chafes him and I keep it clean.

I have heard a bit about the Back on Track pads...maybe I will look into that, thanks kitten Val.

He is a hot horse...maybe I just need to keep working with him.

He knows when you're happy; He knows when you're comfortable; He knows when you're confident; And he always knows when you have carrots.
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post #8 of 10 Old 05-25-2011, 10:50 AM
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I know this thread is a month old, but have you had your horse evaluated by a chiropractor?
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post #9 of 10 Old 05-25-2011, 11:57 PM
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I had also problem when i started to learn driving and i also had difficult Arabian horse to ride.Now I have hired quality trainer so i am getting better day by day .
You must need a trainer.
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post #10 of 10 Old 05-26-2011, 02:24 PM Thread Starter
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I do have a very good eventing trainer. She said she's seen quite a few cold-backed cases and in her experience they never fully work out of it; it's just a habit and a sign of a hot horse. She always just has me lounge him, then mount in a corner and have somebody hold him and lead him in a couple little circles. Which is why I'm posting here; I wanted to know if anybody had had this problem with a severe cold-backed case and developed a method to work out of it! Unfortunately I have already tried most of the methods posted here, except getting a chiropractor to look at him...I want to get that done and see if it helps him! Because if his back hurts, of course he is objecting to me pulling myself up. The only reason I haven't looked into it sooner is the fact that he is so inconsistent. He doesn't object every time, only when he is having a "hot" day (which is actually very often recently...see my other post, lol). I figured if he was in pain, it would be an every-time thing. Like I said earlier, it doesn't seem to be the actual act of mounting that bothers him, but when we start moving! Or maybe it is just when he starts moving that he tells me he objects? I guess I won't know until I get him evaluated by a chiropractor. I will let you know when I do!

He knows when you're happy; He knows when you're comfortable; He knows when you're confident; And he always knows when you have carrots.
~Author Unknown
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