Horse & Rider



If a horse doesn’t move well and he doesn’t have any apparent structural issues, it’s either an undisclose­d preexistin­g issue or a sign that there’s one on the way. Don’t just look at a prospect and ask about his history; watch him go and look for indication­s of unsoundnes­s.

Rough Gait: Green light.

If he stabs the ground with his toes or trips in his front end often, it’s usually not a sign of injury. He either needs a trim or is lazy, which are both solvable issues. Tripping in an exposed area can mean serious injury, so you’ll want to be sure to solve these problems at home before you head out on the trail. Have him trimmed or shod and encourage him to pick up his feet with drills and exercises. Work him over obstacles, such as trail poles in your arena. If he continues to walk lazily, know that he can be a safety hazard in the backcountr­y.

Head Bobbing: Red light.

Head bobbing is always a sign of lameness. If you see that he has a hitch in his gait and the seller hasn’t shared any lameness, move on. He or she isn’t being honest with you. If the lameness is new, work with the seller to enlist a veterinari­an for a soundness check to discover the root cause before you invest in more vet care. If the owners balk at the suggestion, keep shopping. It’s possible there are other undisclose­d issues.

Stiff Flexion: Yellow light.

Before you invest in a vet check, do some pre-screening of your own with a flexion test. Hold him flexed at each joint, flexing his fetlocks, hocks, and shoulders, and then trot him off after each flexion test. If he comes off of the static hold stiff, he’ll need a vet check to determine the root cause. The stiffness

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