Harley is... off? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 83 Old 05-30-2019, 10:25 PM Thread Starter
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Harley is... off?

Hey HF friends! I'm worried about Harley, my daughter's show horse who just turned 20. I feel like something is up, but I don't know where to start looking, and as always, am very limited by local vets who aren't specialized in... very much.

He is acting normally when he's out. They've been on full pasture for about two weeks now. He lost weight this winter, and looks great. I had his metabolic profile done last fall and it showed that his thyroid gland was underactive so he was on meds for it part of the winter and lost about 80 lbs. I'd say he's really at his optimum weight right now. He has a sparkle in his eye. He has energy. But my daughter did a hunter/jumper show with him last weekend and he was a not having any of it. At lessons, he is resisting her a lot. There is a clear struggle going on between them, that was not there before. Maybe it's her... or maybe there's something bothering him. He's a very stoic horse. It's not like him to NOT want to get in the show ring, but last weekend, he didn't want to go in. I'm worried.

Symptoms beyond his change in attitude are 1- head thrown up in the air frequently. They are working on this with a new, high-level dressage coach. Dressage is tiring for him, but he tries hard. They're working on "packaging" him. 2 - wrong lead on the right side. Yes, it's his bad side and he exhibits stiffness, but this is way beyond what we've seen in the past. I'm probably over-thinking this, as I always do, but he means the world to us. I'm happy to bring a vet in, but I need ideas to throw out, because right now, they'll just come in and say my horse is in perfect health. Something tells me he's not though. My daughter was doing much better with him last year so this makes no sense. It's hard on her, and she's really trying to make it work because she loves him so much, but he's just not himself lately. Unless of course her riding has deteriorated, but that makes no sense either because she has been doing multiple clinics, 1-2 lessons a week plus riding at home. However, I'm trying to explore all possibilities here.

Thoughts?
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Acadianartist is offline  
post #2 of 83 Old 05-30-2019, 10:54 PM
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When I hear of head tossing and resistance, I always think teeth. When was the last time his teeth were looked at/done? Btw, he is lovely.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says, "Oh crap, she's up!".
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post #3 of 83 Old 05-30-2019, 11:20 PM
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I would be looking at saddle fit.
If he lost that amount of weight his shape and saddle fit has changed, no doubt about that.
Stoic or not... if he is telling you something you need to back off forcing whether in h/j or dressage lessons or not, stop forcing the horse to do what is bothering him.
You do not want to force a confrontation that is going to hurt your daughter cause she is no match for Harley's strength, period.
Harley is drawing a line in warning...

No lessons forcing the horse to frame.
Harley is not going to change his way of travel at 20 years of age, either you accept it and him for what he can offer or you need to consider purchasing a true hunter moving horse if your daughter now in higher challenging classes is not pulling the ribbons she is accustomed to.

Harley is 20 years old and has paid the dues of a show-horse for many years before you ever brought him home to your barn.
The horse did not like dressage and had limitations is why you were able to purchase him is what I remember you telling some time ago...
He doesn't like something that must aggravate his body if he is really showing it and balking for your daughter who he loves to work for...
Dressage movement is not for every horse...
Teeth and their care need change about this age too...They need more frequently checked and worked on for grind surfaces as they age not all the teeth align correctly.

...

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post #4 of 83 Old 05-31-2019, 12:37 AM
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Hmm. Couple of thoughts; possibly Harley is feeling so good, that he is acting like a youngster and carrying on a bit (he is an Arabian )

Or the medication may be just a little too much, and you could try decreasing it slightly.

A large weight loss could also cause the saddle to not fit as well, so possible an adjustment is needed.

Finally, he could have some age-related pain happening. Could try a little bute before the next lesson and see if it helps.

Hope all goes well
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post #5 of 83 Old 05-31-2019, 12:48 AM
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Video?

Head tossing and wrong leads would be enough for me to get the vet out. If this otherwise great horse is having issues, I'd be looking physical. Hocks, stifle, pelvis, back, could be lots.

He's older. You could probably start some joint maintenance, either IM or IV.

Keep riding him up to the vet appointment, don't push him too much, but when it's hard to see lamenss, it's best to keep them a little bit sore, for diagnostic purposes.
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post #6 of 83 Old 05-31-2019, 01:21 AM
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I would consider all the great points offered above, : teeth, back, saddle fit.


I also might consider that he is just so happy out in the field, he'd rather not work. And, if your daughter is working on dressage, she may (as many early learners of dressage do), be overly focused on using her reins. She may be getting busy, and forceful, and he may resent that.



Does he get more like his former self if she just does a hunter round?



But, I would not doubt your intuition regarding him being 'off'. We who know our horses well, know when something isn't right.


Oh, I have met a lot of Arabian hroses for whom 20 is just the beginning of middle age. They are highly functional to 30.
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post #7 of 83 Old 05-31-2019, 07:01 AM
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Like many of the others, I would also check saddle fit, given all of the weight he lost.
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post #8 of 83 Old 05-31-2019, 07:35 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walkamile View Post
When I hear of head tossing and resistance, I always think teeth. When was the last time his teeth were looked at/done? Btw, he is lovely.
Like a month ago, and the vet barely had to file them down. She said there weren't any prominent points. Still, I'll ask that to be part of an overall exam I think. Maybe he has an abcsess or something.
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post #9 of 83 Old 05-31-2019, 07:40 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by horselovinguy View Post
I would be looking at saddle fit.
If he lost that amount of weight his shape and saddle fit has changed, no doubt about that.
Stoic or not... if he is telling you something you need to back off forcing whether in h/j or dressage lessons or not, stop forcing the horse to do what is bothering him.
You do not want to force a confrontation that is going to hurt your daughter cause she is no match for Harley's strength, period.
Harley is drawing a line in warning...

No lessons forcing the horse to frame.
Harley is not going to change his way of travel at 20 years of age, either you accept it and him for what he can offer or you need to consider purchasing a true hunter moving horse if your daughter now in higher challenging classes is not pulling the ribbons she is accustomed to.

Harley is 20 years old and has paid the dues of a show-horse for many years before you ever brought him home to your barn.
The horse did not like dressage and had limitations is why you were able to purchase him is what I remember you telling some time ago...
He doesn't like something that must aggravate his body if he is really showing it and balking for your daughter who he loves to work for...
Dressage movement is not for every horse...
Teeth and their care need change about this age too...They need more frequently checked and worked on for grind surfaces as they age not all the teeth align correctly.

...
But the weird thing is that he was doing this at a hunter/jumper show - they're not going to do dressage shows anytime soon, maybe never. The dressage lessons are mainly so she can control him on the flats and in pleasure classes. The coach is just teaching her new strategies for bringing back his big canter. And she isn't competing at a higher level yet, this was her first show so they took it easy. Intro hunter is 8 very low cross-rails and she trotted him into the jumps so they took it really slow. Other classes were equitation and pleasure (for which she one a first place). When he's out there, he's jumping and cooperating, but it's not pretty and my gut tells me something's off.

Saddle fit is a good idea. My daughter has outgrown last year's saddle anyway, so I should start looking for another. That said, I got the chiro to check his back and he found there were no sore points.

I'm wondering about his hocks... maybe some stiffness there?
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post #10 of 83 Old 05-31-2019, 07:42 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnitaAnne View Post
Hmm. Couple of thoughts; possibly Harley is feeling so good, that he is acting like a youngster and carrying on a bit (he is an Arabian )

Or the medication may be just a little too much, and you could try decreasing it slightly.

A large weight loss could also cause the saddle to not fit as well, so possible an adjustment is needed.

Finally, he could have some age-related pain happening. Could try a little bute before the next lesson and see if it helps.

Hope all goes well
Yeah, I'm thinking of trying some mild pain meds to see if they help at lessons.

He's not on the thyroid meds anymore. Once he lost the weight, the vet told me to wean him off. That was March.

But yeah... saddle fit and aging are good places to start.
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