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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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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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.

:runninghorse2:...
 

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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 :smile:)

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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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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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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Like many of the others, I would also check saddle fit, given all of the weight he lost.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
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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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
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.

:runninghorse2:...
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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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
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 :smile:)

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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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
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.
Yes, I think you're onto something with the reins. Her dressage coach is having her use the reins a lot and Harley has always hated that. It may be that she has gotten stronger, and is more able to hold him back.

I think she should try to let him go a little more at the next show. Her regular coach (who specializes in hunter/jumper) said she is holding him back too much, but she's the one who suggested they trot to the jumps. I think they should canter the whole course at the next show. He still seems to enjoy jumping, but I think he's getting frustrated at being held back so much. The problem is that when he goes faster and faster, he is less and less balanced, so she has to bring him back sometimes. Maybe they just need to find that middle ground.

Will see what I can find for a better saddle since I have to get her a bigger one anyway.

And yes, he's an Arab so 20 isn't old for him. He's in the pasture playing with Rusty, running around. The dressage coach actually knew him since she had worked with him years ago and recognized him from his former dressage years. She said he looks better than he ever did. She also told us he'd always had an unbalanced canter, and that my daughter is doing better with him than any other rider she's seen on him. So maybe this is just a growing pain that they need to push through.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
When a horse doesn’t take a certain lead, I suspect pain in the hind leg...the one that holds all the horse’s weight on that lead. Can you post a video? Poor Harley...I’m sure your daughter is worried, too.
I'm uploading a video to Youtube. I don't like to post a video publicly, but I don't know of any other way to do it, so I'll post it here for a couple of days, then remove it from Youtube.

Another factor that came into play that day was the weather. It was raining and cold, and the footing was awful. Harley hates that kind of weather. He gets a runny nose, and has trouble getting good footing in the mud. But as I said, he was only trotting into jumps, so it should not have been a problem. However, what I'm sensing doesn't just happen at shows.

He acts like this at lessons and at home too. I just feel like something's different.

Will post the video as soon as it's done uploading. I have really slowwwwww Internet so it will take a while.
Editing to add: puter tells me over 2 hours before the video is uploaded, lol. Honestly though, I'm not sure it will tell you much. Most of the time, he moves just fine. But it's the little things... him not wanting to go into the show ring. Fighting with my daughter. Getting the wrong lead a few times at this show, but never getting it wrong at home. Still, I'll post the video in case there's something I'm not seeing.
 

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Honestly though, I'm not sure it will tell you much. Most of the time, he moves just fine. But it's the little things... him not wanting to go into the show ring. Fighting with my daughter. Getting the wrong lead a few times at this show, but never getting it wrong at home. Still, I'll post the video in case there's something I'm not seeing.
They don't need to be gimpy to be injured.

Knew a horse who overjumped in a lesson, no one thought anything about it. Went to a show that weekend, seemed to warmup fine, refused to enter the show ring. He ended up on stall rest for 4 weeks with a soft tissue injury to his SI.

My own horse, the week before he went lame we were riding in a clinic where I got multiple compliments on the quality of his gaits. I could read you a laundry list of the chronic issues he was dealing with including a torn meniscus and we don't know if he'll be sound again. He still moves well enough that a lot of people don't see the lameness.

Only indication in both were behaviour changes, no obvious gait changes.
 

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My list would be looking at the teeth, and taking into consideration he may be going in a different type of frame than before, which could be making his teeth sit differently while working.

Secondly, I would look at his hocks and stifles. He's old. I'm not sure if you maintenance him in any way, but if he is getting stiff or stuck I'd look at adding injections.

I think most importantly, he's old, it might just be that he's hit 20, and some other horse told him he would be able to retire. Maybe he's just telling you he's done and it's time to enjoy him as a pal rather than a team competitor.
 

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I'm uploading a video to Youtube. I don't like to post a video publicly, but I don't know of any other way to do it, so I'll post it here for a couple of days, then remove it from Youtube.

You can set the video to private. That means it will not come up on a YouTube search, but as long as you post the link for us, we can view it. You can also disable comments and ratings if you would like, on YouTube.


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.

In general, when a horse doesn't want to pick up a certain lead, I first look to the hind end. I don't remember his history -- have you done x-rays or anything of his hocks? At age 20, I wouldn't be surprised if he's got changes going on in the hocks. It's possible that stifles could be bothering him too, or both hocks and stifles.


When I started legging Red back up this spring after having 1 1/2 years off, he was good on the left lead (his favored lead anyway) but really, really struggled with the right lead. I had to "hold him" with my leg or he would crossfire or drop it in the hind. I knew he needed his hocks injected again (left one is fusing) but my vet prefers to have them legged up a little bit before she does their lameness eval. As suspected, he was quite sore in the hind (both hocks and stifles) so we injected the hocks. I didn't inject the stifles but historically that has not done much for him, and that will probably improve anyway as his physical fitness is brought back. That was 2 weeks ago and he feels SO much better on the right lead in back. Huge difference.



Chances are, you probably don't trust your local vets anyway to do injections. I can't remember but how far away was a reputable lameness vet from you?


If a horse needs injections in the hocks, I can't stress enough how much they are WORTH IT. It makes them feel so much better.



Your intuition is usually right so I would quite honestly start planning a trip to a good lameness vet in the near future. In the meantime, you could see if you can get him on Previcox/Equioxx to help him move a little better, but make sure to have him OFF that at least a week prior to the lameness appointment so it doesn't cover up any symptoms.
 

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First things that come to mind are mouth/teeth, hocks, stifles, and back.

Has Harley had a good chiropractic adjustment? All of mine get one every spring, as winter with its frozen ground and ice seems to get things out of place. Then check teeth--- if you can find someone who can do that rather than a local large animal vet, it may be worth a shot. I have seen a lot of horses 'with no teeth problems' turn out to have pretty severe issues that a run-of-the-mill vet didn't find. There's more to a comfortable mouth than no sharp spots. A lot of issues on my mare were solved once we realized the vet hadn't noticed or done anything to correct the pretty severe wave on her molars, preventing her from chewing properly.

Missing or resisting one lead is often hock/stifle issues. A good horse vet is what you need for an accurate diagnosis here. Once you have that, sometimes a local vet can take over. It's rare to find a 20 y.o. show/performance horse that isn't getting maintenance injections regularly.

Back -- your daughter has grown and could be balanced differently. Weight loss could mean the saddle doesn't fit. Lots of things at play here.

I think you need a good horse vet to do a workup and figure out what's going on. You may need to haul to find one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Video is still uploading to YouTube... but I will post when I can.

I had his knees and hocks x-rayed about 1.5 yrs ago and they looked great! Exceptionally sound and no sign of arthritic changes. Doesn't mean that hasn't changed since. And again, to the posters who suggest teeth, they were done about 6 weeks ago. Nothing going on there.

There are no vets I know of that advertise themselves as lameness specialists in my area. However, there is a vet that comes to my city from a vet college that is 5 hours away. I can get on her list of clients next time she's out here. I think she'd be my best bet other than actually driving him there myself which I don't really want to do. Other than the long trip, it will cost more money than I can afford. After my son's cancer treatments, our finances are in pretty bad shape. But I could have this vet come see him on her next trip. I'm pretty sure she comes monthly.

I'm thinking of trying him on Previcox just to see if it makes a difference. If so, then we know there is achiness somewhere and it might help diagnose it. I'll talk to my local vet about it.

There is also the possibility that he is just not liking how my daughter is riding him lately, holding him back so much. But it's like he has two speeds: really really fast or too slow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
First things that come to mind are mouth/teeth, hocks, stifles, and back.

Has Harley had a good chiropractic adjustment? All of mine get one every spring, as winter with its frozen ground and ice seems to get things out of place. Then check teeth--- if you can find someone who can do that rather than a local large animal vet, it may be worth a shot. I have seen a lot of horses 'with no teeth problems' turn out to have pretty severe issues that a run-of-the-mill vet didn't find. There's more to a comfortable mouth than no sharp spots. A lot of issues on my mare were solved once we realized the vet hadn't noticed or done anything to correct the pretty severe wave on her molars, preventing her from chewing properly.

Missing or resisting one lead is often hock/stifle issues. A good horse vet is what you need for an accurate diagnosis here. Once you have that, sometimes a local vet can take over. It's rare to find a 20 y.o. show/performance horse that isn't getting maintenance injections regularly.

Back -- your daughter has grown and could be balanced differently. Weight loss could mean the saddle doesn't fit. Lots of things at play here.

I think you need a good horse vet to do a workup and figure out what's going on. You may need to haul to find one.
Chiro was out about 3 weeks ago, and did a few adjustments. His pelvis was a little off, which is not surprising given his age, but also nothing really severe. Chiro said he looks great for his age. Everyone says that.

I'll talk to the vet I mentioned in my last post (from the vet college) about his teeth, but no, there isn't anyone here that is an actual horse dentist.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
This is the video set on private. I don't think you'll be able to view it on this setting though. If anyone is in here, let me know if you can view it.

 
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