Unhappy horse and hunter's bump? (long and pic heavy)
Just hours ago, I had the worst ride I've ever had on my horse. I need help.
I bought him two months ago. He's an 11 y/o Thoroughbred gelding. I got him to learn some basic dressage on, he's no schoolmaster, but he has been schooled and I wanted to learn how to take him further.
Today, as soon as I got on him, he was dropping his shoulder and napping towards the gate, bracing against my rein when I tried to bring his head around. He shook his head and pigrooted, bolting sideways, and I couldn't get him to focus. I lost my stirrups, but managed to get him back under control. I dropped my whip immediately, not wanting to make things worse. There was another rider trotting on the road while leading another horse, and my horse was very focused on them. When the rider went out of view, he switched his attention to the cars going by, the truck pulling out of the driveway ahead, the magpies cawing in the next paddock - tuning me out completely! Every time I asked him to walk forward, he would take a few steps and then blow it again, shaking his head, dropping one shoulder, backing up, and bolting forward to let out a small buck.
I kept at it, talking to him, encouraging him forward with my legs, but he only got worse. He began to rear, which he's never done before, and it was only then that I dismounted.
I've ridden him around that paddock many times before, and I couldn't understand why he was so distracted and spooky. I led him on foot around the paddock, letting him look at everything. After a while, when he seemed calmer, I got back on. He was still unhappy, but he walked forward when I asked him to, and when I asked him to trot, he again dropped a shoulder, braced against my reins, and napped towards the gate. I asked him again once I got him straightened out, and his reaction was even more violent - he let out with a small buck, and at that point, I decided I would take no more.
Desperate to end on a good note, I got off him again and walked him around the paddock, since he seemed quite happy to do that. I ended things after that.
So - there's a problem. Or maybe a few.
He's got absolutely no muscle on him. His withers are pronounced, his spine sticks out, saddle fitting has been a nightmare. After spending a long time searching for saddles, I finally got him in a Tottenham with a medium gullet. I suspect his back is sore, because he swishes his tail when I brush his saddle area.
He wears a French link eggbutt snaffle, and I ride with little or no contact when I'm warming him up. I try to have soft hands and when I ask for a turn, I use leg first and then back it up with rein.
He has a strange bump on his loins, right between where his back meets his rump. I've heard of hunter's bump before - could this be it? Attached are several photos, and I've tried to make them as clear as possible.
Maybe his browband is too small? I know his face is dirty in the photos - that could have caused some irritation to him as well. I had work in two hours and I didn't have time to carefully clean his face - he had mud caked on his ears!
So - without further ado - meet Andy, everyone!
He does not look like a happy camper. Could you do more (some) ground work w/him & check the saddle fit when he has a bit more flesh? Had he been ridden out on trials before? Good Luck!
He needs groceries and likely a good worming, when were his teeth last floated?
He was wormed two weeks ago, and he's being fed sugarbeet and lucerne chaff twice a day. He's a bit of a fretter in the paddock, always moving about, so it's hard to keep the weight on him!
I don't know when his teeth were last done. I should probably look into it. I'm also planning on getting a chiro out to look at his back.
He is, but there are other horses around, all in their separate paddocks. I'm moving him in a few months to a place where he'll be able to run in a herd - I think he'll be happier in a herd environment!
He does need more weight, IMO and yes, I'd say the browband is a bit small. I would also check the girth for rubs and fit. It looks to me in the pics that it is possibly pinching him.
Some horses are very stoic and it could be that something has been bothering him without you picking up on his signals and this ride was just the ride where he had enough. Maybe... though that doesn't explain the inattention.
I'd be inclined to get him into better shape, check his teeth as mentioned, and do ground work with him for a week or so. And do the ground work near where you were if you can -- somewhere where things are going on but keep him focused on you by asking him to do things randomly. eg changing direction, speed, stop, walk, move his front, move his haunch. No pattern.
Maybe something will show itself in the ground work, or maybe after a week off when you ride again, something will show. Some clue that you missed before.
My TB's geldings back looked similar to yours a couple of years ago. He was primarily a lesson horse and never had consistent training. At the walk and trot, he rarely bucked which led him to be used for beginners. Unfortunately, in the majority of the lessons he was used for, he would be completely strung out and not using his hind end at all. This led to him having a horrible top line, in addition to a sore back which made him very unhappy.
To make a long story short, I'm taking him with me when I move and have been exclusivity riding him 5 days a week for the last several months. Boy, what a difference it has made! I'm far from an expert rider or trainer, however consistency goes a long way with horses. If you look at your horses spine, towards the end of his back, his vertebrae look to be elevated, then there is a very slight "down", then back up again. I was actually just talking to a RVT about this today, and she said that instead of a hunters bump, it could be that the muscles around the vertebrae at the back are stressed and tensed which causes that slight raise. Then the "bump" in the back isn't really a bump, it just looks that way because of that slight raise at the end of his spine (if that makes any sense). What I would do (and what I've done for my boy), is lunge him with LOOSE side reins every time before I ride. It really helped him be lighter in the bridle. Then when I get on his back he is warmed up and ready to work, and understand what I am asking from him. When I ride, I ask him to do a LOT of transitions in order for him to engage his hindquarters and lift his back. When (and if) you first try this, be careful of how much you ask of him. Just like people horses get sore and can't be expected to collect and carry us around for a 45 min ride immediately. If you have a trainer, ask her the best ways to help build your horses top line. It takes work, and doesn't happen over night, but is very much worth it in the end.
I hope this helps somewhat! Good luck to you and your horse and hopefully you don't have any more experiences like the one you just described. Bucking/rearing/bolting horses are never fun to ride.
Hi Dawn. Welcome to the forum. Re browband - yes it does look a bit small. Re hunters bump - yes it looks like he does have a minor one; once you get a bit more muscle on his topline I suspect it won't be noticeable. Good luck with him.
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