Horse constantly hops in to canter and won't trot?

Joined
14 June 2015
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Hello everyone, I'd just like to start off by saying that I'm a new user here and I apoligize if I have put this in the wrong place! :p

I seem to be having an issue with my Welsh Section D mare. She is 8 years old since last month and I recently moved her to a new yard with an arena and better facilities, it's wonderful! Before this, she was living in a hilly field and also being ridden in it. Since it was on an incline I found it hard doing any groundwork so I stuck to jumping, and she ended up doing really well; leaping over things up to 1m 25, occasionally bareback! :D I didn't ever bother with her canter lead or diagonal since I was just focussing on getting her over the fence at that point, but now that I have access to an arena, a problem has risen.

Basically, shes fine in walk, lovely and active. Then I ask her to trot, which is where it all goes wrong. I will give her a simple squeeze and she immediately transitions from walk to trot which is good, but she then throws her head up and 'hops' as if she is lame. This can't be the issue as first of all, shes never been lame and second of all, there is nothing else to prove this. I check her hooves over everyday and they are in wonderful condition without a single chip. However, if I allow her to carry on hopping, she will hop all the way to the corner of the arena, slow down and go in to canter. This confuses me terribly. She used to have the opposite problem, where she had a MASSIVE stereotypical Welsh trot and a crappy, gallop/canter. I worked on it for a while and she managed to slow her canter down, but now her trot is basically non-existant.
I carried on riding her in the arena for a few days in a row and shes doing it everytime. At first when we warm up and the tension isn't there, it's all good. But as soon as she does a canter on either rein, thats all she wants to do. It's really causes us problems because I desperately need to work on our groundwork however she is continously 'hopping'. My trainers always tell me it is due to her wanting to canter, so they tell me to let her. Which is fair enough, but I can't just let her canter when shes meant to be trotting, in a dressage test for example.
My dad told me it is because of her being young, excited and having been moved to a new place. This is a reasonable answer, but she can be completely calm and STILL do it. If I slow her down, she will go from the trot/canter/hop to walk and will carry on if I ask her to speed up.
I've realised that recently she has been holding her head really high, and opening her mouth as if she is resisting the bit. Could this be it? I have her in a Dutch Gag and it's always on the first loop under the snaffle, so it's not too strong but still works as a gag. Despite the hopping being a problem, it does mean I can easily get a slow, collected canter but once I do, I can't come out of it.
I've done some research and apparently it could be her saddle, which I've thought about since she doesn't seem to behave like this in the field. She naturally has a flowing, Welsh trot and I'm really needing her to use that now that we are going to start doing dressage intros.
Any ideas? I'm going to try a flash on her today and see if she's resisting the bit, but I still don't see how that makes her hop around! Thanks everyone <3
 
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spike123

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first port of call would be saddle fit and back check with a physio. Also if you haven't already get her teeth done. My friend had a cob with exactly the hopping issue you describe and it was due to having been fitted badly a new saddle by a saddle fitter. The saddle was pinching and gave him a bad back. He had to have nearly 2months out of work with treatments from the physio and a chiro and then had to have a new saddle fitted again (different saddler) and then build back up his workload again. One other thing you say constantly hopping in trot but not lame as never been lame and was fine ridden on a hillside type of ground. There could still be an issue (possibly soft tissue) which only shows itself on softer going.
 

ester

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So firstly, horses can have physical issues without being lame, particularly if it is an issue affecting say both hind limbs. Secondly there are physical issues that would result in the behaviour you describe.

It could also be down to tenseness, and having a welshie myself once they are tense getting them to do anything else then is problematic/it takes a while for them to come down.

Can you lunge/long rein her? Does she trot properly out hacking instead of in the school?- some issues show up more on a soft surface.

From what you describe I would have the vet first, then saddler (depending on answer to the lungeing question) before treating it as a schooling/behavioural issue.
 

soulfull

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Hi there

I too have a Welsh cob mare whose favourite thing in the world is to gallop, which is great BUT could become a problem if I kept letting her go every time she asked.

What is she like hacking? Will she trot ok on the road? If she is fine on the road then I would start making her do what she is told ie if you ask for trot and get anything else bring her back to walk with a firm 'NO' and asked again. Repeat 100 times until she gets it right (making sure you are not putting your leg too far back or leaning your body forward) when she does get it right make a big fuss of her.

If this doesn't work I would then get back teeth saddle and then vet
 

wkiwi

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Would do checks as above, but I would also consider finding a trainer who can help you identify the problem, rather than just always cantering. Just a suggestion.
 

rara007

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Id get a vet to check her over, and if no joy a ACPAT physio, and then saddler. If you have good professionals they will refer you on to people with other expertise as they feel needed. Horses can bubble over and hop, and bad saddle fit can make them unhappy, about but this doesn't sound like that to me.
 

Pigeon

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It would really help to get a video! It could simply be excitement/impatience about cantering, she obviously enjoys it! If she were mine, as others have said, my first port of call would be the vet. If it is a soft tissue or back problem, which it sounds like it could be, riding could make it worse so it's worth the call-out fee just to be on the safe side.

The head and mouth thing is a sign of tension, and very rarely does that originate from the mouth! It's usually a back problem, so yeah, saddle might be it. Especially if it's too narrow, it might be bouncing at the back in rising trot, but okay in canter. Will she trot normally on the lunge?

I hate to be the one to say it (just call me the fun sucker!) but perhaps jumping 1m25 on a stiff horse isn't the best idea? Show jumpers do loads of work on the flat - most only jump once a week, if that, and rarely push the horse to the edge of it's capabilities. Notice how top jumpers, in between fences, are round and lift through their back, like a dressage horse? Stiff/uneven/weak muscles are many times more prone to injury, it's the same with people! A more flexible person is less likely to pull a muscle!

So when you do get this sorted, I would seriously recommend going back to basics a little with the jumping. I know that sounds really dull, but pushing a horse to see how high it jumps, especially an unschooled one, never ends well in my experience. You know she's capable of 1m25, that's impressive, so you have nothing to prove and no-one will look down on you for focusing on courses at a more moderate height. This book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/101-Dressage-Exercises-Horse-Rider/dp/1580175953 is amazing, if you slowly work your way through the exercises, I promise she will look like a dressage horse before Christmas! Think of it as horsey yoga! :p
 
Joined
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Thanks for the advice, it's good to talk to other riders who have been in the same boat. I rode her today and she jumped fine however I have noticed her "giving up" with her bouncy, collected canter and going flat. Could this be another possibility that backs up your idea?
 
Joined
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She does seem to trot absolutely fine in the field, on a lead rein, out hacking, whenever. I feel as if it's, as you said, the Welshie tenseness as I can trot her on a lead rein tacked up and she seems fine.. I'll call the vet when I can and see how it goes!
 
Joined
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Yes, she does appear to be absolutely fine out hacking. And it's funny you mention that, I've been told that I need to put my leg futher back, it could be that I've solved that but I might still be trying to 'over exaggerate' it, if that makes any sense! Thank you
 
Joined
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It would really help to get a video! It could simply be excitement/impatience about cantering, she obviously enjoys it! If she were mine, as others have said, my first port of call would be the vet. If it is a soft tissue or back problem, which it sounds like it could be, riding could make it worse so it's worth the call-out fee just to be on the safe side.

The head and mouth thing is a sign of tension, and very rarely does that originate from the mouth! It's usually a back problem, so yeah, saddle might be it. Especially if it's too narrow, it might be bouncing at the back in rising trot, but okay in canter. Will she trot normally on the lunge?

I hate to be the one to say it (just call me the fun sucker!) but perhaps jumping 1m25 on a stiff horse isn't the best idea? Show jumpers do loads of work on the flat - most only jump once a week, if that, and rarely push the horse to the edge of it's capabilities. Notice how top jumpers, in between fences, are round and lift through their back, like a dressage horse? Stiff/uneven/weak muscles are many times more prone to injury, it's the same with people! A more flexible person is less likely to pull a muscle!

So when you do get this sorted, I would seriously recommend going back to basics a little with the jumping. I know that sounds really dull, but pushing a horse to see how high it jumps, especially an unschooled one, never ends well in my experience. You know she's capable of 1m25, that's impressive, so you have nothing to prove and no-one will look down on you for focusing on courses at a more moderate height. This book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/101-Dressage-Exercises-Horse-Rider/dp/1580175953 is amazing, if you slowly work your way through the exercises, I promise she will look like a dressage horse before Christmas! Think of it as horsey yoga! :p
Oops! I don't think I really explained myself to well, I don't regularly jump her 1m 25 but the times that I have, they were actually bareback. I find it MUCH easier to jump her bareback, and I'm not sure if this is an issue with the saddle or because I can feel her movement easier. And I wouldn't really describe her as 'stiff', shes very forward going and can be very floaty when we are doing flat work. But I think since so many people have mentioned muscle and tissue problems I will call out the vet. It's just such a shame that the vet costs so much since it could just be her young energy! But thats not a problem, it's 100% worth it :)
 

chestnut cob

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Do you have flatwork lessons at all? That would be my first port of call. To me it sounds like she is stiff and unsupple because she hasn't had the correct schooling she needs on the flat.
I'd get a good instructor out to take a look. Horses don't just know how to work correctly, someone has to teach it. And if you buy something that has been taught then you need to be taught yourself how to ride that.
 

eggs

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Not sure if it is the same as yours but one of my horses wasn't lame and had excellent feet but would 'hop' into canter when asked for trot. After a lot of vet investigation it turned out that he had OCD in his fetlocks.
 

Meredith

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My horse did this when I first had her. It was rectified by using a half panel saddle, the old one's longer points were digging in her shoulders.
 

Puppy

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Hopping behind during an upwards canter transition is a classic symptom of hind lameness. I would get the vet to take a look at your horse.
 

wkiwi

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Hopping behind during an upwards canter transition is a classic symptom of hind lameness. I would get the vet to take a look at your horse.
Fully agree - get the vet to check if there is something physical wrong. However, if nothing is found then don't rule out something you are doing when riding her and get a trainer to help. We have one mare on the yard who will do this when rider's don't ride her in the way she is used to --it doesn't mean that they are riding wrongly, just that the 'language' she has been taught is different to what they use and she gets worried and confused. you say she is fine in the field, so maybe (after vet ruled out a problem), try schooling her in the field as you may ride slightly differently when in the arena.
Good luck
 
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My pony used to do this a bit when I started schooling her and my trainer said to push her forwards more to stop her from doing it and not to try and slow her down. She said it was because she didn't want to go forwards and to her was the easy option! this stopped after a few weeks to a month and she hasn't done it since. Hope this helps.
Good Luck
 
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