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


Resists Moving Forward Under Saddle, Lazy


This sign can be associated with physical problems, or relate to training. If a horse that normally moves forward willingly suddenly seems unwilling, it may be likely that pain, lameness or illness may be causing the problem. If on the other hand, the horse has always seemed like this, it may be a training issue, or simply the horse's natural tendency. Of course, horses that are physically unfit will tend to be less forward and will tire easily.

There are common sense factors to consider, as well. For example, if the horse is dull heading away from the barn, and very animated and forward on the return to the barn, there is likely not a physical factor causing the behavior.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.
    • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Consider the horse's fitness and ability level and your own confidence that this is not a training problem. Assess the horses general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to rectal temperature, heart rate, capillary refill time and respiratory rate.

Look carefully at the limbs and back for swelling and pain and assess the lower limbs for digital pulse. Look at your tack and how it fits. Discuss the problem with your vet. It may be wise to have them rule out physical factors so that you can focus more on the training aspects of the behavior.

If the horse suddenly stops and will not move forward, and you cannot contact your vet, see the Observation of that name for emergency procedures.

your vet's role

Your vet will try to rule out physical problems through a careful physical exam and lameness evaluation. As with many performance problems, they may want to evaluate the behavior by watching the horse under saddle. Laboratory blood work may be helpful to rule out muscle and metabolic problems.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this behavior?
  • Is this a new behavior?
  • Describe the problem to me in greater detail?
  • Do you notice lameness or suspect any other physical problems?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Have you always noticed this behavior?
  • Do you consider the horse to be fit?
  • What is the horse's diet?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Has there been a recent change in feeding, level of work or management?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

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

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP