Lameness in the Performance Horse

January 11, 2018
, Lameness in the Performance Horse

The Vast majority of Unsound Horses DO NOT SHOW LAMENESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!…….contrary to what most Vets’ are taught. I have met hundreds of them in my Life time and could walk You out the door here this instant and show You one. I could sell that Horse Today, obtain a ‘Pre-Purchase Vet Check’ and the Horse will pass!

This article is written on behalf of all Horses that cry out for help but are often not heard.

One must of course realize that such horses have got unsoundness problems. Despite their physical discomforts or mental fragility, these horses can often be rehabilitated to a level of normality and even competitive careers. My Wife is the best I have ever seen at this.

This article is designed to give horse owners the ammunition, to give their horses a sporting chance to becoming much improved in their way of going and well being. Remember however that not every case is fixable!


Never miss any message from a Horse

All too often horses with rear end problems will exhibit “attitude” whilst being ridden. This is horses trying to communicate with their owners saying they are uncomfortable or even in pain. Remember horses do talk but we often do not listen, they can only act out defiance in a response to our demands. They will often have  muscle degeneration on their rumps, being an indicator of ‘ lack of use ‘of certain muscles. This can  point us, the owner, in the right direction of where the problem is. We must learn to observe our horses closely both physically and behaviorally to aid in our assessment .

Yes, they didn’t listen and attempted to compete Her for a couple of Years but soon after, she was in Foal, at 7.

Horses attempt to show us in many different ways that they are hurting or unhappy. Of course each horse is different and therefore will exhibit different evasions. Some are more subtle than others. For instance tail swishing and chomping on the bit are mild attributes, but bear in mind it would also depend on the individual horse’s level of discomfort and their pain threshold. The horse may just flick his tail at the moment when he feels a slight catch of the stifle. More distinctive resistances might be the throwing of their heads  in defiance of the bit or being so above the bit that the head is in the rider’s face, often placing the ears back on the head whilst doing so.


It is no accident that one of the elements of this ( the most influential training system of them all) is STRAIGHTNESS and we know, that a lack of ‘Straightness’ is one of the main causes of unsoundness.


    • Birth complications
    • Poor Conformation
    • Being ridden ‘flexed off’
    • Being ridden ‘above the Bit’
    • Being ridden ‘Crooked’
    • and other general injuries…….


 is when the horse doesn’t travel straight. With this I mean that the hind foot falls are not in line with the front. This means they are using one side of the body more than the other and if allowed to continue will eventuate in unevenness of the paces and  lack of rhythm. Often more evident when the horse is asked to extend  gate for example to medium trot. Although this shows as unsoundness if only moments are noticed then it can be referred to as bridle lameness and this is able to be corrected by riding with inside leg to outside rein (more about this later). All too often horses that are sore behind will have short choppy paces. They don’t want to step out and show movement  and as a result are often behind the leg and exhibit nappiness, even kicking at the rider’s leg in a response to an aid.


It is also important to seek professional advice of vets and others’  to help diagnose and treat our horses but if You learn to “Listen to the Horses”,  Correct work together with  professional guidance can create  much improvement. It is amazing how much improvement I’ve seen in horses that I thought were beyond help. I believe there are plenty of horses out there competing with soundness issues  being flogged by owners who have no idea of their horses discomfort  this being misunderstood for ‘bad attitude’. “The Horse was naughty”

In order to check the horse out physically we can stand them square on a cement slab. Checking whether the hind quarters and shoulders are even in muscle development. The back muscles mustn’t fall away from his spine. Whilst riding one stirrup must not feel shorter than the other.

The damage caused

The saddle shouldn’t fall to one side. If these things are occurring there is definitely a problem with your horse’s muscular structure and the end result will be that of unsoundness unless addressed. Certainly unhappiness.

What we have to realize is ‘back end’ problems affect the engine of the horse. More often than not the traits being displayed by such horses are kicking up in the back legs, bucking  ,nappiness, lack of forward and a common sign is disunited canter work. This is where a horse is on a certain lead leg in  front but his hind legs don’t match the stride and is on the other lead behind, as it were. In some cases horses will also swap back and forth with the hind legs in an effort to find comfort and coordination or to relieve pain. Now part of our job is to build up the muscle tone correctly to strengthen the horse to enable it to do the job and use the engine correctly. In many cases horses have developed physical problems due to incorrect riding where the riders have in actual fact developed the wrong muscle tone inhibiting the horse. Some of the ridden problems are listed below. It is not always due to an injury.


Across the Thousands of Horses that we have worked upon, they have told us this:

    • That the ‘Holy Grail’ of ridden rehabilitation is ‘Inside Leg to Outside Rein’
    • That the Phillip Karl system causes unsoundness
    • That the Andrew McLean system causes unsoundness and ‘learned helplessness’
    • That the Pony Club systems cause unsoundness
    • That the British Horse Society systems cause unsoundness.
    • That the Dutch and German systems foster more soundness, not less.
    • and that unless Horses are ridden via “The German Training Scale”, there cannot be Harmony and relaxation.


Listen to Your Horses

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