Why would a horse be reluctant to walk downhill?

Crazydancer

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We've noticed recently, after moving to a field with a slope at one end, that my old lad (24) is reluctant to walk downhill.
At first I thought maybe carrying me was causing the issue as I'm probably on the upper end of what he should be carrying.... but then noticed he was the same with my sharer (much lighter) and then without a rider at all (when following his friend around the field).
He did have a problem with saddle fit about 18 months ago, which was resolved with a different fitter (4th one I'd had!!) who checked him again in Aug/Sept, so not that long ago. Work level has been much the same since. We only hack.
He seems totally happy and comfortable on the flat, showing no other signs of discomfort, but as soon as he gets to the top of the slope he stops and has to be encouraged forward, then either goes sideways (in a zig-zag) or does tiny little steps, and is clearly not happy.
I've had him 23 years and know him well enough to know that there is an issue here, and I do have the physio booked to come out, but wondered if anyone has any ideas?

Thanks!
 

ycbm

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It can be one of the first symptoms of hock problems, struggling to walk downhill.
 

stencilface

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Sore heels, or in my case it was SI issues and umsttaight movement behind. How straight is he in his action? Could be fixable, or could be a sign of arthritis. My sisters horse (26 this year) is still in ridden work and is on a Danilon every other day to make him comfortable. It will be reduced if possible to see how he copes.
 

Kamikaze

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MY bosses horse had stifle issues (arthritis) which showed with a reluctance to walk downhill. She had steroids and was much happier walking downhill again. We now know when she is feeling them a bit by how she is going downhill
 

PorkChop

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Unfortunately quite a few issues could cause a reluctance to walk downhill.

Hocks, SI, stifle, back pain etc.

For me it would be worth investigating, because it could be something quite simple and easy to treat.
 

Kafairia

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Mine has to hack down hill at the beggining of our hack route and he always likes to take it really slow as his horseshoes slip on the tarmac and I'm not using studs - he forges sometimes anyway! Could it just be slippery surface / - past experience of slipping that has made him more cautious?? Try to just be logical but if not it may be worth having the vet out for his diagnosis. :)
 

Apercrumbie

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Often typical of hocks, so that's where we looked when our boy became stiff downhill, but in his case it was his neck! He now has arthritis there sadly although at 21 he was bound to start getting niggles. Do you have any bute? Obviously this needs investigating by a vet to find the cause, but I would be tempted to do a bute trial as well to see if there is any improvement. My boy is like a spring lamb on half a bute these days!
 

Mahoganybay

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Hock! This was the first symptom my mare showed signs off, started with discomfort going downhill to the point where she would just refuse (this was during tests and the reason hadn't been ascertained)

X-rays showed she had previously fractured her offside hock, a small piece of bone had dug into the cartilage over time and damaged it.
 

millikins

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Another who's elderly pony has arthritis in at least 1 hock and manifested as reluctant to go downhill. She's on a bute a day and enjoying life hacking once or twice a week.
 

HashRouge

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Unfortunately quite a few issues could cause a reluctance to walk downhill.

Hocks, SI, stifle, back pain etc.
Agree with this. You ask people what might cause a horse to struggle going downhill and you will never get just one answer, because the reality is that there are multiple possibilities. To the above you can add navicular and probably arthritis in any of the front limb joints too. My instinct, given the age of the horse, is that it's likely to be some sort of arthritis. The best port of call would be to speak to your vet, rather than starting with the physio.
 
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For me this is this is one of the acid soundness tests. If you're trying a horse to buy and it struggles going down hill, then it's time to walk away.
 

booandellie

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It can be one of the first symptoms of hock problems, struggling to walk downhill.
A few years ago I got an older mare on lwvtb- where I live is very hilly hacking and I noticed she was very reluctant going down hill. Had the vet out and it turned out she out hock spavins- fused in one but not the other.
 

Passtheshampoo

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My very active march on type cob mare started to slow going downhill in September. When she came in at night around 5 November I put her onto turmeric and within 7-10 days she was back to her old ways. I'm presuming my mare has hock arthritis haven't had a lanesness workup as she's never been lame just slower downhill.
 

Boysy

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Mine is hock arthritis, first symptom was reluctance to go downhill and she really struggles now so I don't ride her down, I get off and let her walk down at her own pace then get back on. Worryingly my lad has just started doing it as well and he is only 13 this yr, pain in the bottom living at the top of the Chilterns as you can imagine everywhere round me is downhill first......
 

Crazydancer

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Wow, thanks so much to everyone who has replied!! I really appreciate it.
Just to add, the downhill issue has been while on soft-ish ground rather than roads, so footing is not an issue. The previous problems with bad saddle fit caused/contributed to an SI issue, so it could be that again, but I will take the advice about getting the vet to check, as given his age, arthritis is a possibility.
I have heard so much about turmeric, and although I'm a bit sceptical about 'the next miracle cure', it's cheap and certainly can't do any harm so may look at starting him on that once we've done the work-up.
Thanks again all.
 
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