What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Will Not Stop or Roll Back Well


This is a common complaint for reining horses and other Western disciplines. Any lameness condition can contribute to a horse's reluctance to stop hard or roll back, but hind limb pain, specifically hock soreness, is a classic cause. Back pain and any other lameness also can cause horses to resist engaging their hind limbs to stop heard. Saddle fit issues are common and under-diagnosed. Neurologic conditions, too, can cause inability to collect and work off the haunches. But pain, lameness and illness blend into training, conditioning and riding issues. Sometimes multiple factors are at play.

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You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Look closely at all of the limbs for signs of swelling, a pain response, or resistance to handling the limb. Feel for digital pulse. Assess the horse's back. Assess lameness at the walk and trot. Assess your tack fit and condition. Touch and press the skin and deeper tissues of the horse's back and girth- anywhere there is normally contact with the saddle. Look for a pain response, heat, swelling, and look for saddle rubs and sores. Check the back for dry spots under a wet saddle blanket, and look for white hairs that might indicate pressure points from the saddle. Share your findings and concerns with your vet. Consider having someone take a video of your performance issues. Have a qualified trainer ensure that riding and training is appropriate.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that because you cannot see lameness, that it does not exist. Hind limb lameness can be very subtle. Do not continue to work horse without some understanding of the problem.

your vet's role

Many of the physical problems affecting performance at this level are subtle and may be difficult to diagnose. Talk to your vet about performing a lameness exam. In some cases, a bute trial may be helpful to separate a physical from training problem. Once physical problems have been ruled out by your vet, you can focus on the training and conditioning necessary to improve performance.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When was the last time the horse performed to your expectations, or has he ever?
  • Do you notice lameness or suspect any other physical problems?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Do you notice swelling, heat or injury in any of the limbs?
  • Have you changed tack or technique?
  • Have you examined the horse's back and girth and checked saddle fit?
  • Do you feel confident in managing the training aspects of this behavior?
  • Have you changed tack or type or degree of work lately?
  • Have you examined the tack?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP