Arkansas 20 year old Racking Mare ridden in curb and Western saddle in pasture by novice rider.

She is severely stumbling on flat ground.  She has been inspected for problems, but the vet & farrier can't find a problem. 

Think she may have learned that we get off when she stumbles, so she is starting to a lot. Now, I keep riding, even jogging more after she stumbles, but sometimes she almost goes to her knees.  I am concerned that maybe we shouldn't ride her anymore--or should we be riding her a lot more?  One book that I read said that it is probably due to laziness.  Help!

From Panelist Erica

First, I hardly feel that this is something she has learned to do to get out of work. If she is stumbling and almost going down, I wouldn't continue riding her until you find out what may be the problem. Be sure her toes are not too long which may cause some stumbling because it limits the horse's natural breakover point. You may even consider having an Equine Chiropractor out to check her out. Because of her age, I wouldn't rule out that simply she is tiring out and less coordinated.

As for her stumbling being from laziness, it may be in some horses but I wouldn't think it for her age. If it were a younger and more than capable horse I would wonder if they were simply being lazy, but she is an older mare and even lazy horses don't try to trip themselves to the point of getting injured just to get out of work. Usually if you have a lazy horse that drags it's feet, when you pick up a faster gait that dragging will disappear completely or almost. If it is worsening I would look for a physical problem. Good luck!  Oh, and be sure to have your hard hat on when riding her!

Erica Frei

From Panelist Lee

It may also be due to pain, off angle hooves, bad shoeing, and neurological problems.  I would seek second opinions from another vet and farrier, and look into the possibility that she may have been "nerved" in the past, or may be developing navicular or other "changes" in her front limbs from the ground up.

In my experience, horses rarely stumble from "laziness" although they may do so from inattention.  (mind wandering because the rider is not keeping them focused on the job of being ridden.)  Try keeping light even contact on the reins, paying attention to where you are going, and keeping the horse energized with occasional leg pressure and an active, pushing seat. (tighten your lower back muscles a little and push down with them).

Good luck with your horse.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Steve

This sounds like degenerative joint disease may be a problem. This is often non-inflammatory and can't be diagnosed without Xrays. I would  not assume it is laziness until I radiographed her, starting with the knees. If she checks out then I would ride her a lot more and see if things get better with conditioning.

P.S. I assume she is trimmed and shod correctly.

Stephen B. Chasko

From Panelist Liz


Check your saddle to be sure you are having no pinching problems in
the shoulder area.

You may want to get another opinion on feet and vet too. Couldn't
hurt.  I might have a chiropractor look at her to . Could be something
very much out of alignment.

Liz Graves


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