Melissa G asked in PetsHorses · 8 years ago

Horse won't trot. Is he lame?

I am at my wit’s end and need some help. Have you ever seen a horse that won’t trot? Well I have one. He goes straight from walk to lope. 2 ½ year old gelding that has just started training. He has been there 2 weeks now.

Ok so here is his history. I bought him in late August from a big show barn. They raised and showed him as a weanling and yearling. At that point the owner got sick and the horses pretty much had a year off. Then he decided to downsize and sell a bunch of his stallions. He seemed like a reputable breeder/owner and had some really nice horses. So I bought a horse from him. He is beautiful. I got him gelded and let him have a month off in the pasture to heal up. When I started trying to work him I immediately noticed he wouldn’t trot and just really wasn’t interested in working. I took him to the vet for a lameness check. They xrayed his feet and used the hoof testers and the diagnosis was thin soles. They did flexion tests and everything—nothing else was found. So I put shoes on him and put him in the pasture for 6 weeks. I then took him back to the vet for a follow up lameness check. The vet said he was completely sound. So I took him to the trainer. The horse will not trot. Even in small circles he can manage to lope slow enough. He also much prefers his left lead to this right which could potentially be a red flag. The trainer wasn’t too concerned at first but is not beginning to wonder if he is hurting somewhere. Even in the pasture he will run and buck but not trot. I am debating taking him to the vet for the THIRD time, but I just can’t afford another mis-diagnosis. Maybe he needs a chiropractor? A specialist? I just have no idea. I need some ideas. I have sunk a lot of money into this horse. Obviously I don’t want to keep him in training if he is hurting or if it could make it worse. And I definitely don’t want to spend another several hundred at the vet for them to tell me nothing is wrong again.

10 Answers

  • gallop
    Lv 7
    8 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    You mention xrays of feet, hoof testers and flexion tests followed by shoeing and then a "lameness check". I'm wondering whether any further diagnostic studies were performed during the lameness check?

    When a horse refuses to trot, especially if it is consistent even when he is at liberty, there is good reason to suspect a pain issue, and it might take some doing to get at the cause.

    Xrays alone are insufficient to reveal various changes in the soft tissues of the navicular apparatus, for example, and digital ultrasound exams or other scans may be needed to identify changes that xrays don't reveal. Shoes actually mask pain by blocking the functions of the sensory nerve receptors in the hooves, so you'd be better off to remove the shoes in order to restore sensory function and accurately evaluate issues of hoof pain.

    When either lameness at the trot or refusal to trot manifests, but the horse is willing and able to walk and canter (apparently sound aside from the lead preference), then the underlying source of the pain that is preventing him from trotting is often most likely to be located in the horse’s limbs as opposed to the neck and spine.

    The lateral movement of the back at trot is relatively small compared to the movement of the horse's back at stance or at walk, with the widest lateral movement at the 5th thoracic vertebra.. The dorsoventral (rear to fore) movement of the back is larger than the lateral movement, but the difference is still small. When a horse shows lameness at the walk and improves at the trot, the source of pain is most likely not in the limbs and more likely to be stemming from neck or back issues.

    Problems in the forelimbs could stem anywhere from the shoulders, elbows, knees, accessory carpals, splints, fetlocks, or sesamoid, pastern, or coffin bones and accessory structures.

    Problems in the hind limbs could stem from the sacroiliac joint of the pelvis with the spine, the hip joints, stifle joints, hock joints, splint bones, fetlocks, or sesamoid, pastern, or coffin bones and their accessory structures in the hind limbs.

    Hooves, joints, tendons ligaments, and muscles may have to be systematically assessed from the ground on up to the spine to rule out (or confirm) a source of pain, and this can require more or less extensive evaluation in order to get at the cause. Your vet can determine such things as whether joints are moving correctly through their full range of motion or weight is being borne evenly on each limb without advanced diagnostics, but in order to definitively rule out the presence of an orthopedic condition more investigation is required. Nerve blocks, digital ultrasound scans, joint and limb xrays, bone scintigraphy or other testing may be required, and none of it is cheap.

    You can proceed with the assumption that this is a behavioral/training issue and see what happens. In the meantime I'd find a reputable certified barefoot trimming specialist to pull the shoes and evaluate his hooves, and see what might be going on there. A quality trim and a good pair of hoof boots if needed could be all it takes to solve the whole issue.

    If you still can't get him to trot out willingly or sound, then I would get him to an equine orthopedic specialist for full evaluation. Unless you have access to a licensed veterinarian who is also AVCA certified in chiropractic I'd steer clear of that. At any rate, a qualified equine veterinarian and preferably one board certified in orthopedics should ideally evaluate your horse.



    In the US, human chiropractors are licensed only to practice adjustments on the human spine, and are not legally allowed to adjust animals nor are they licensed doctors of either human or veterinary medicine. If they contact either of the licensing boards in their states they will be reminded of these laws. Chiropractors can only legally practice on animals in the US under supervision of a licensed veterinarian in that state. That affiliation allows the veterinarian's license to protect the public, along with the animal, the veterinarian, and the chiropractor.

    The definition of direct or indirect veterinary supervision is subject to each state's legal interpretations and in some states may be enforced inconsistently

    Only licensed DVMs or licensed human DCs are allowed to complete additional training to become certified in animal chiro through the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, but licensed human chiropractors who earn AVCA certification are still legally required to affiliate with a DVM who is currently licensed within that state.

    Source(s): Registered Nurse and 59 years with horses Orthopedic specialist in human medicine
  • Anonymous
    8 years ago

    I agree completely with "Bonnie" and "Smaug the Dragon".

    Another thing to add on top of that for you to consider is a chiropractor as you mentioned.

    A good, well trained equine chiropractor that does a full body massage before any work will be able to tell you if he needs therapy (and what kind), vet check, his teeth need to be floated, back is the problem, shifted stifle is the problem, etc.

    The reason the chiropractor would be a good one to turn to for advice on where to go next is because of the sensitivity. If the horse has nothing out of joint/place they can still find the sore spots and (though not entirely what it is that's wrong) will be able to tell you if its a tight muscle, tore muscle, internal, and the location of the wounded area. From there you'll know if the vet needs to do another check and be able to say about where on the horse's body the checking needs to be done or if something more such as therapeutics need to come into play. If it is a job for the chiropractic then your good to go and don't need to do any more checks. Also, the chiropractor (if trained properly in advance) will be able to tell you if the saddle is pinching, or what maneuvers (in training) will help as they do specialize in skeleton and muscular systems thus understanding the movment of the horse which will tell you what is good and not good for a 3 (rounding) year old horse.

    " He goes straight from walk to lope. 2 ½ year old gelding that has just started training. He has been there 2 weeks now." - that sounds like he has only been in training for 2 weeks (as said) so he is still learning. The attention span of a young horse is quite small, like a toddler. And he isn't matured physically enough for extensive work (mounted). Keep that in mind :)

  • 8 years ago

    There is only so much information you can put into a question so its hard to tell without seeing him. If he has both leads but has a preference that may be normal. Many horses are stiffer or less coordinated on one side, especially young green horses. If he has a short stilted stride or is having this problem mostly undersaddle it may be his back (did the vet only check his legs?) If hes been checked twice i would say most likely he has sound legs but if you do go back to the vet choose a different one for a second opinion. Make sure he is relaxed before you do anything! Tension can cause this problem. Try massage and walking exercises to make sure he is loose and calm before trying anything else. If he trots in hand (he was shown before) but not undersaddle then it is a tension/ back issue. If he wont trot at all even loose or in hand and has a normal free stride get his back checked and get help from a professional trainer. Sometimes it is psychological and he may just need alot of patience and some specialized exercises.

    Source(s): Worked at equine clinic for 2 years. Lifetime owner/ trainer
  • Nicole
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    If you did not ride him before you got him shame, shame on you! If you did and he worked sound then. He probably had some bute in him so he did not feel any pain. You may have some recorse if he was gauaranteed sound. I do hope you took someone with you when you went to see him if you did who was horse knoledgeable who could be your witness.. A gal who boarded with me once got a horse that had been on bute, 3 days later she whas very sore. Her hooves were so bad, contracted heels and a dropped sole. I took some very good picts of the front hooves and some of a sound horse. Small Claims cort- She also had the tiny pinsized bumps of scab on her jujular where she had had injections. She won case but I do not know whether she got her money back or not.

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  • Janian
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    Try a second opinion from a vet.... it's sounds like you have been sold a dud though.

    I knew a horse that wouldn't trot and it turned out to be a stifle injury.

    Don't waste your money on a chiropractor, get someone with actual medical training, like another vet or a physio.

    At 2 1/2 years old, I also have to ask why he is doing 'small circles' etc? That's a lot of hard work for a baby.

  • 8 years ago

    I went through all this nonsense with my horse too. over and over again. many soundness exams...many lyems disease tests. nothing was ever found to be wrong with him. then i had a thermal scan done for $175. the technician sends the images to a vet in Arizona, who works it out with a blacksmith in Ca. They then send the results to me, and i worked with my vet . It turned out the horse had severe nerve damage in his neck/withers! This was never ever brought up during any of the lameness exams. the damage was so bad that it had interupted the blood flow to the fron legs. I have been treating him with a "back on track" theraputic back pad, every day before i ride and have had no more problems. this company has cerfied technicians all over the country. If you would like the name of the company, shoot me an email and i will give it to you. it was the best money i ever spent...solving the mystery of my lame horse!

  • 8 years ago

    With the amount of vetting that's gone into him, I would be likely to suspect he's fine, though a second opinion from a totally different specialist wouldn't go unwanted.

    You don't say what breed he is. Some breeds just don't trot.

    Some two year olds are that way, they can be amazing pricks. Maybe you're not catching him at the right moment at liberty -- is he with other horses or by himself? If he's in a herd, get the lead horse to trotting off and he'll likely follow suit.

    Trotting small circles is hard for big, adult horses, never mind youngsters. I'd quit doing that before you do actually injure him. If it's the trainer doing that, then you most definitely need a new trainer. No one worth a dime is going to do that to a two year old.

    All horses prefer a certain side to another. You do too. It's not a red flag, it's totally normal, and that's why it's important to really emphasis work on both sides of the horse, and pushing for balance so both sides are equal.

    My 2yo was similar. Rather than trot he'd collect up at the canter and go sooo slow. I think his mentality was that I was asking for a bigger gait, so he'd give me that, but he wouldn't go quickly. I think he was both confused about what I wanted, and also didn't want to give me faster, bigger. He finally started to catch on with sporadic training over about a month.

    I tried three things: Trotted him off with a lead horse he would follow; sped him up into a faster canter until he wanted to slow down to trot; backed him off the slow canter, asked him to move forward quickly, and if he went back into canter then backed him off and asked him again until he moved forward at the trot.

    What worked best for him was getting him to speed up in the canter and then asking him to take his gait down while still going for that speed, if that makes sense to you. I'd have him go through a quick canter for about 200ft then ask him to slow down (his verbal cues are excellent and will 'whoa', so I do all of my work at liberty in his pasture), at which point he would take it down to a trot for a few steps and that's when I'd let him stop completely. I'd give him more direction, more than I'd ask for a walk but less than if I wanted him to go into canter, and use 'trot' to cue it.

    If he went into a slow canter, then I'd just repeat. Speed up, slow down, bring him back. Took a little while but he got it eventually. There's still hiccups, but you just have to remember that they're babies, and not all two year olds think the same, or understand the same things at the same rate as others. Some of them can be really, really slow on the uptake, and completely immature.

    (For instance, I used the same method I just described above to teach his dam the verbal cue for trot and she got it practically immediately. He, however, still refused. She is about fifteen years older, has a lot more worldly experience and respect, and knows how to work. Babies just don't. You gotta work with them, teach them what their job is going to be.)

  • AD14
    Lv 4
    8 years ago

    Give chiropractic a try. It can only help. Most people are very pleased with the results.

    To the person who suggested finding someone with "actual" medical training rather than a chiropractor, chiropractors do not have medical training. They have chiropractic training. Medical doctors have medical training. Your statement implied that chiropractors have medical training that is different in some way from medical doctor's medical training. That is false. Chiropractic doctors have chiropractic training and medical doctors have medical training. Two different schools of thought for two different jobs. Both are necessary.

    Good luck with your horse!!

    Source(s): Second year chiropractic student
  • Lilian
    Lv 6
    8 years ago

    I love working with horses that have a lovely gallop and can move into it without a trot step. Maybe you should sell him to someone who does not need to trot and buy another horse.

    Please let us know what the problem is when you find out! also what breed is he?

  • 8 years ago

    It is called being lazy. Maybe they didn't tain him how to trot. Most jumping horses don't trot. They go from the walk, to a canter or gallop. Or maybe he doesn't know how too.

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