Nicole's Horse Whispers 

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Difficult Trot

Posted by Nicole Nauss on February 12, 2014 at 3:35 PM


Recently I've been helping a friend with her pony, working him on the lunge to bring him back to work and make him more flexible in his neck. The pony is a AA-German Pony cross, he's got a rather long back and very strong minded, yet in about three months he has improved a lot and I can get him trotting, cantering and even doing canter-walk transitions on the lunge with just voice cues.


He's got superb, elastic paces at the lunge, but when he is being ridden, his trot gets very bumpy and slow, it takes a lot of leg to keep him going forward (yet the trot keeps springy and his hindfeet track on his forefeet as at the lunge). At walk or canter there is no problem, you could sit his canter for hours, and I think because of that he has been ridden most of his lfe cantering and at the walk.


I wonder if there could be some issue with his back (having a rider on it at the trot), but then I am not sure if that should show at canter also, and whether there would be some exercises that could help with this. The best option would be to call a chiro, but then the pony is not mine and her owner does not think it is necessary, she says the pony is just like that.


Yet I cannot help thinking that he could improve so much. Would a long back, or pain, show only at the trot when ridden? Yet what could be the reason for his trot keeping springy and overtracking if there is any pain?


You know the answer – if there is a problem, first check for physical reasons. In this case I would look at his back and since his trot is fine on the lunge but not when ridden, I would make sure that the saddle fits and also at the rider.


In trot the horse is moving diagonal pairs of legs so the motion involves more swing in the back than in walk or canter which means that problems show up more in trot than in other paces – after all, why do we trot a horse to check soundness? The fact that the pony has a long back means that there is more back to have problems, so it needs better care, not ignoring.


It always amazes me when people decide that they don’t want to get the horse’s back checked – they are happy for the farrier to come regularly and (in most cases) for the dental technician, but a back specialist…? Similarly many people do not get their saddle fitted often enough – if it fitted him last summer and still goes on his back, why check it? I wish people would get backs and tack checked at least as often as the teeth are checked and, preferably, every time their horse’s work levels or body condition score changes.


You can try and eliminate possible issues by seeing how he works on the lunge with his saddle and with his saddle and rider (with and without reins).

Categories: Q. & A.

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