Signs of pain
Q:I have an 11-year-old Quarter Horse who has some issues under saddle as well as with the handling of his back feet. He seems stiff and uncomfortable when his feet are being lifted to shoe or pick. Under saddle he walks and transitions into a trot but does a rocking horse buck when asked to canter. He does none of this when I longe him under saddle. Any advice?
Name withheld by request
A:It is possible this is a behavior issue, but that would be the last diagnosis I would consider. I believe this sounds much more like a horse who is trying to tell you that something hurts.
Lifting a leg to clean or shoe the foot certainly puts strain on potentially sore joints. The pain could originate anywhere from the pastern up to the spine and sacroiliac joint, but the hocks are a common site. In my practice it is not uncommon for the farrier to tell me the horse is developing sore hocks before the rider is aware of it.
The bucking when you are riding versus longeing sounds, again, like
your horse is trying to tell you that he’s in pain---and in this case your weight makes it worse. He seems to be a very benevolent horse if he only does the “rocking horse buck” instead of trying harder to get rid of the weight that is hurting him.
I would suggest having your veterinarian examine this horse for signs of pain in the back or hind limbs before you attempt any retraining. Bruce A. Connally, DVM, MS Wyoming Equine Longmont, Colorado