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


Worsening Attitude or Performance Under Saddle


Excellent performance requires physical conditioning, great training, practice, rider ability, and horse ability.

Declining performance can be caused by subtle changes in rider technique, or changes in feeding or management. In addition, many kinds of physical problems can cause worsening performance, including but not limited to: mouth problems, ill-fitting tack ,lameness due to undiagnosed injury, muscle or neurologic problems, or any undiagnosed low-grade systemic illness.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
  • 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.
    • If this is a slowly but consistently worsening problem and you are unsure of the cause.
You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

If a physical cause is ruled out, look to yourself, your own riding technique and others who handle and have handled your horse as both the cause of the problem and the solution. Engage a trainer who can evaluate the behavior. Some vets may have suggestions for managing or resolving this problem from a behavioral standpoint.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that the problem is simply a training problem or simply a physical problem. Recognize that both are possible.

your vet's role

Your vet can help you determine whether this behavior is a result of physical pain or illness by assessing general health and ruling out common conditions. They may want to assess your tack and your horse with a rider up. Veterinary assessment of these kinds of problems usually starts with a physical exam. Your vet may want to see the horse being ridden to more fully understand the behavior.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • Describe how your horse's behavior has changed?
  • Has the feed, management, rider, riding style, or tack changed?
  • From your perspective, does the horse seem to be in pain or show any other sign of a problem?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • How has your horse's behavior under saddle changed?
  • Is the horse a mare, gelding, or stallion?
  • If your horse is a mare, is she showing signs of heat or estrus behavior?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

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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