I noticed this summer than my horse is "rope walking" with his front feet while going down hills (crossing his feet as though walking on a rope). I don't think he did this last year, and at first I thought it was him trying to get to the side of the trail to get at plants growing there. But even when I focused on keeping him centered on the trail, it kind of felt like he was "drunk."
I had DH watch and he described what was going on. So I tried without his hoof boots (new this year; last year he was shod in front) and then without any tack and just leading him, and he does it consistently even if the hill isn't all that steep. He's hesitant to go down the hills to begin with, then kind of wanders all over the place as he makes his way down.
On flat ground and going up hills he doesn't have any issues. He doesn't normally track closely, doesn't hit himself with his hooves or anything like that.
I spoke to my vet (didn't have an exam done, just spoke with her) and she didn't have any specific ideas about what could be causing it. She mentioned a recent study that found that arthritis in the elbow is nearly ubiquitous in ridden and driven horses (here's an article I found on it: Revealed: the Common Equine Arthritis You Wonâ€™t Read About in Textbooks - The Horse's Back
) , and that is a potential cause. Unfortunately, if that's it then there's really nothing I can do as joint injections are not routinely done on the elbow (apparently very difficult to do there)
To my knowledge my horse has never been ridden hard; I've had him for two and a half years, and his previous owner didn't do any high impact or demanding riding with him. For now I've stopped taking him out on trails as I'm concerned for both his comfort and my safety on the downhills.
Has anyone had any similar experience? Any ideas on what could be going on with him?
Here's a video of what he's doing. You can see he's hesitant to walk down at all: