Wisconsin, 16 year old Paso Fino ridden in snaffle bit and western saddle in pasture by intermediate rider.

Question: My 16 yr old mare has begun to stumble!  About a year and half ago she began an occasional stumble while pleasure riding. There is no injury and no limping.  This
last summer it became more often and towards the end of the summer she stumbled so severely we almost went all the way down.  I am getting all kinds of advise but none from horse owners with gaited horses.

Is there a special way to trim gaited (paso fino) hoofs?  Should I try placing her saddle back a little further on her back?

Those observing her stumbling say it appears she is coming down on the toe of her foot rather then the bottom. The only time she stumbles is when she has a rider?  She runs beautifully through the pasture when turned out?

Is this a correction to hoof trimming, placement of the saddle etc. or should I look into possible medical reasons. 

Thanks for any help you can give me.

From Panelist Liz

Trimming the hooves of a Paso fino would be no different than any other breed. The hoof angles should be the same as the pastern angle, the hoof should be balanced from side to side. They should not have a longer toe than any other breed.Hoof trimming should be kept maintained about every 6-8 weeks.

Once you have ruled out any problem with trimming next would be soundness. Having a good vet do this for you .

If all is still fine then I would start working on some exercises such as going over ground poles and getting the horse to start using it's self more. It could just be boredom, not paying attention or lack of conditioning. Make your rides interesting by adding safe obstacles where the horse will have to pay attention to execute them. A Paso Fino normally has a higher head carriage due to how the neck comes out of the shoulder. If she is going on a loose rein and not carrying her self correctly  then the hind quarters are not being engaged , thus making her heavy on the forehand. If this is the case have her bring
her head up more, collect her and get her on the bit. If your saddle is in the correct position do not move it back , as this can change her balance point for carrying a rider and could create a sore back too. But also be sure it is not to far forward . The saddle girth should fall 4" behind the joint of the front legs. Also be sure your saddle is fitting the horse correctly and not pinching, soaring the back or to large of skirting could be interfering with the shoulders moving freely.


From Panelist Erica

Hi there, this mare of yours sounds extremely familiar. My mother had leased a mare 16yrs old, Paso Fino who also frequently stumbled. The more often she was ridden the more she would stumble. She became so bad that she even once fell down and flipped her hind end over her front! We immediately put her on joint supplements and had her on daily Bute as not one joint in her legs was not sore/stiff. Her name was Amaretta. What seemed to help under saddle was taking it slowly and asking her to pick her head up. Her owner had
recommended giving and softening while we rode, but that simply worsened the problem. If your mare is to the extent that this one was, I would seriously consider how safe it is for you to continue riding her. When we would leave her unridden for a few weeks and then do a short light ride she was increasingly improved. 

I wish you best of luck with your mare.

Erica Frei

From Panelist Jonathan

Ofcourse , the very first thing is to get a clean bill of health from a vet !!! I believe this is where you will find the answer since this ailment has been so long in duration and progressivly getting worse . If you wish you may ask her , while in halter , to give her head to you in a extremely "slow" , extremely tight circle to the left and then the right . Inevitably 
you you trigger a sore spot in one leg or the other . You may want to try this before calling a vet but not in substitution of calling one .

Upon the event of a vet exam finds nothing physically wrong , you have  multiple options of trial and error at you disposal to find the answer . Here are a few that come to mind , based on my experience with the single-footers I raise .  These suggestions may fit what you do or they may not . This is multiple choice time .

In my opinion , many gaited horses kept in gait for hours at a time , ( as I do ) or longer than they are comfortable doing , will over-tax the gait specific muscles causeing tired muscles to surface resulting in a rear leg stumble . Now this has always been in the rear from my experience . I understand you did not specify front or rear tripping so i will assume it to be the rear .  To give this muscle group a rest I allow my horse to utilize 
any non-lateral gait it wishes , according to terrain . Along with better overall muscle developentment , traveling at a slow walk to a canter on different grades is great exercise , stimulates better ballance and keeps their mind fresh . Yes , not many will suggest working you horse out of gait . This is hopefully a deminishing point of view as well as another subect .

Also your horse  may be just be lazy but as I indicated earlier and especially considering her age , it more than likely is physical . I'm not saying she is old , it's just that i find certain age related ailments start popping up in the later third of there life expectantcy  . You can try the old time standard of walking , or slow gaiting her over low obsticles , on sandy beaches , or the old farmers favorite , soft plowed fields . This in conjuncton with a more natural angle of foot of as close to 55 degrees as posible will keep her mind on lifting rather than slideing or dragging her rear feet as well as her fronts . Just incase this is a unstated and unlikely front foot stumbleing problem .

Lastly , but not least , is one of my favorites that i believe will pretty much cover the positive results of all the above . Simply turn her out in a one acre pasture . Ask her to "go to work " while cracking a buggy whip ( in the air only please ) ;) sending her off at a gallop . I prefer this to rideing at a gallop ;) . She will gear down as she gets farther from you so ask again while walking towards her until she moves off again with speed . Do this for the amount of time suited to her health and physical state  ( or yours ) untill she comes in for join-up so much you just can't refuse . As I stated , this will result in the benefits of all above with the added bonus of creating or polishing good ground manners thru dominance clarification .

Most of all keep it fun for her and you , and hopefully she will get a clean bill of health from your vet to try some of these suggestions .


From Panelsits Stella

Starting to stumble while under saddle can be a symptom of EPM disease, so do get your horse tested for this by a vet to rule it out asap, it has become more common, and there are now medications for it if discovered early enough.
Not that there is a "special" way to trim Pasos, they should be trimmed to their natural balance, but often they grow less heel than toe, and its very important-as with all horses - to keep their angles correct, as high as their pastern angle, to insure they dont develop long toe/low heel syndrome. This also causes stumbling, as the heel collapses and the ends are thrust forward, no longer ending under the fetlock to give the body weight enough 
support. The toe also ends more forward, and becomes "in the way" of proper motion.
When looking at your horse's feet, it should appear that the bodyweight is distributed evenly over the center of the hoof, not rocked back on the heels. From the side, stand her so her front leg is perfectly perpendicular to the ground - and her hoof angle, viewed from the side, should be exactly the same as the pastern angle(hold a straight edge bissecting the pastern, down thru the quarters of her hoof-the hoof angle should be parallel to this 
line)...often horses that are "off" alot arent able stand perfectly perpendicular, so if you have trouble doing this, you know why.While there may be other reasons, these 2 are most likely & common, check them out first...


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