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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 10 year old Standardbred gelding I've had for four years. He's been mainly a trail horse with some ring work in English saddle due to me not having an arena (until recently). Now that I do, and the weather is nice again, he seems to have decided he doesn't want to do anything.

He's always given me some issues with giving to the bit and he's also always had an awkward gait, very long and sometimes not so smooth or stiff, but usually a great ride. Lately it seems like he would rather do anything but walk and he refuses to trot or canter (he is trained to canter), instead he "bunny hops" or cow-kicks. I've had several people suggest that his back and/or hips are out so I think I'll be having a chiropractor in soon.

Any other ideas or have any Standardbred owners experienced similar issues?
 

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I can't help you, but I do have a question.
Does your Standardbred have good feet?
My brothers 10yr old Standy has really soft weak feet. A few years back he got abscess in all four feet, he has to wear boots, and we have to put Stockholm Tar on his hooves (twice a week).

I've been told that it's common for his breed to have feet like that.
 

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I would second pain and a vet or chiropractor out. I would start with saddle fit and go from there. They tend to be really willing horses so a sudden change in both gait and temperament are noteworthy.

I am surprised the clydesdales mentioned bad feet. I have never heard of standardbreds having bad feet. I have always heard the opposite and had several farriers tell us me that various horses of ours will never need shoes unless racing or doing endurance.
 

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In addition to what people said above, it wouldn't hurt (once your horse is feeling well again) if you guys worked on your bit connection a little, as this can become intensely irritating to a horse. Usually the problem originates in the rider (that's just how it is), and indeed it's not easy to have featherlight bit contact at all times and have super-elastic arms. When I learnt to ride, it took me so long to learn to give out of my elbows - I instinctively collapsed my shoulders forward instead. Once that was fine, things were so different.

With OTSBs, it's important to realise that the relationship of the racing harness horse to the bit is quite different to the riding horse's. For instance, tight contact with the bit means "go faster" and the horse leans into it. If a harness reinsman wants the horse to slow down, he loosens the reins. Unless a horse learns the different bit rules for riding versus driving from the go-get, by parallel training, it's going to take active re-education post-racetrack to get the horse to understand that the rules are now suddenly different. Many OTSBs don't receive that kind of re-education, and they unhappily muddle along as best they can.

One thing that's seriously worth considering is changing the type of bit you use, or going bitless. Such a change makes it easier for a horse to see that things are different now (new gear, new tricks). Just make sure that the new gear is really comfortable. The port-mouthed Spanish snaffle (actually a mild curb bit) and various bitless options have all been well-liked by various OTSBs I've retrained, indeed preferred to snaffles, since they are less irritating devices and very forgiving.

All the best!
 

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Yep, that's the one. It just has to fit correctly, and especial care needs to be taken that the curb chain lies nice and flat, isn't too tight or too loose, and doesn't trap the lips during the rotation of the bit (always try this from the ground first).

I'm riding Sunsmart in one. Still gives me good turning ability and I do ride with soft contact.

If you click on the photos here, they enlarge and you can see the bit better. Please note (for the beach shot) that my horse lip-flaps for fun (during riding and while waiting to be tacked up), which is why his lower lip is hanging in that shot! :rofl:





People sometimes ask me about the rope around the horse's shoulders.



It's something a dressage enthusiast showed me six years ago. Basically it makes sure that the direction of the cues that go to the bit stays more steady, even if the horse were to raise its head. Sunsmart was very upside down in the neck when I first started working with him under saddle after his harness career, as he had habitually star-gazed in harness. This little set-up helped correct that problem, and his head carriage and neck musculature are much improved these days.

The rope just runs through the reins, and is attached to the girth either end (above the saddle cloth loops, so it doesn't slip down). It's a bit loose in this photo (and I should cut off the leather martingale stops on the reins as they might snaggle), but he doesn't do head-in-the-air anymore when spooked, so not that crucial.

The rope has some of the functions of a martingale, but it much softer and also does other important things: 1) Stop the reins from being thrown over a horse's head if the rider or horse fall, and so stop the horse from tangling its legs in the reins and hurting its mouth; 2) Give you a useful piece of rope should you need it on a trail, like I once did when one of my hoof boots came off because a strap broke. I took off the other-side boot too, and tied them to the rope. This means I didn't have to carry them in my hands on the way home.

And if I meet a suspicious character, I can hog-tie him! :wink:
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you all SO much for all of the input!

He has never had any issues with his feet and hooves, he has always been very sound with healthy hooves. That's why him coming up like this was so out of the ordinary. I plan to check saddle fit, but I'm definitely going to have a vet or chiropractor out to look at him. I would feel much better with a professional opinion about what I should do.

SueC, thank you so much for all your information! I want to look into the bit thing more once we get him feeling better. I really like the idea of the rope you were talking about. With going bitless, what would you suggest, or what has worked best for you?
 

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I would also recommend a french link as a bit change. I tried my two standardbred in a dr. cook bitless one was very patient and learned to work with it, the other had a mental break down. He loves the french link.

As SueC said, the key to stopping is relaxation. You tighten the reins he goes faster and gets tense. If you want him to stop relax and give him reins. There was a learning curve for me on that. I didn't think he had brakes it turns out I just did not know how to use them.

spring boarding off the bit talk, have the vet check his teeth.
 
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