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Old 11-19-2007, 11:51 PM   #1
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Question Bunny hops at the canter???

My trainer says my 15 year old arab-saddlebred canters like a 2 year old. Meaning that she doesn't stretch out her back legs, but rather places them nearly together so it almost looks like a hop.

So the cadence is kinda off, and it honestly looks tiring to keep up. She seems to get somewhat better after being lunged for awhile, and stretches out pretty normally with a rider on her. She can give a pretty smooth rocking horse canter, but we never ask for it until she's been trotting for awhile and warmed up.

She doesn't seem to be in any discomfort and hasn't shown any signs of arthritis. She's on senior grain and still bouncing back from a period of being malnourished (I got her that way - at least you can hardly see her ribs now! )

Think she just needs a good warming up? Overall, she's not a super surefooted horse. We've been debating if it's just because she's been underweight and not had the energy to really pick up her feet - or because our field is somewhat uneven to ride in. Her feet were just done a couple weeks ago, farrier said they were not bad and recommended we leave her barefoot.

So I'm not sure if some of her little bunny-hopping look is partly because she isn't picking up her feet as well as she should?
As a side note - she stretches just fine for everything else and has no obvious problems with her legs/feet/hip/back. Very obedient and uncomplicated sweetheart - lets us handle her all over with no signs of discomfort.

Thanks for any advice!
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Old 11-20-2007, 04:49 AM   #2
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Congrats for doing such a great job with her!!!

Before I look into any behavioral issues, I like to 'double-triple' check any physical ones.. I had a gelding that did that and when I had his hocks injected, it stopped completely..looking at him running/playing you could not really tell..I have also known of horses w/stifle issues will do the same thing..the stifle works like our knee so if they are unable to stretch it and push off you can get that 'hopping' stride...Whatever it is sounds like it should be an easy fix..
Who knows?.......maybe she's just being silly now that she feels good too
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Old 11-20-2007, 11:07 AM   #3
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I didn't know that was common in young horses--I thought my 2 were just weird! My 3-year old only does it for the first lap or two (while longeing), and then she settles down a bit and doesn't do it anymore. So maybe (after you rule everything out like Eq. Kneads said) she is just feeling fresh.
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Old 11-20-2007, 11:51 AM   #4
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wow, I'm not very smart..

Please disregard this post...

Last edited by Goldun Acres; 11-20-2007 at 11:58 AM.
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Old 11-20-2007, 12:02 PM   #5
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Mine does that too but only when there's another horse around. It's like she can't stand the other one getting ahead so she "digs" in to go farther. Don't know if that makes sense. When we're by ourselves she's just fine. Not that I ask for her to do that much anyway (I'm not supposed to let her canter - she's a Paso). But I like to have a diverse horse!!! She'd probably do barrels fairly well (not to compete - just fun) cause she's quick. She's actually so quick that my daughter won't even let her "go". We're afraid to see how fast she really is. You'd never know she's 20.
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Old 11-20-2007, 12:47 PM   #6
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How does she canter when loose with another horse. Does she open up and go then?
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Old 11-20-2007, 01:03 PM   #7
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I would also think that something is going on in her stifle or back legs in general.

Are you sure he hasn't been nerved? I only ask because you say he is clumsy.

Oops, I ment she
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Old 11-20-2007, 01:16 PM   #8
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Bunny hopping at the canter is usually a symptom of a stiff back, or weak hips. if the main back muscle is tight, then the legs/pelvis can't stretch and rock. Often a hyper horse will canter that way when loose (usually with their head in the air!) as their back is hollow and tense. Young horses do that as they are using tension in their back to support the weight of a rider and take some warm up before they can relax with the weight.

A horse ridden with a poorly fitting saddle and/or rough hand/strong bit will also canter this way as they are afraid to bob their head with the canter.

i think with time your horse will learn to relax with you and this will go could be a legacy of the last people that had the horse, or a symptom of the newfound energy due to the great feed it is getting!

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Old 11-21-2007, 01:02 AM   #9
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Wow - this is great. I am glad to have a few things to discuss more in-depth with the vet. Unfortunately, I don't have much of a history on this horse, other than the fact that she needed groceries and worming when I got her.

I haven't seen her at a canter with other horses around... she was in a herd situation when I bought her, but we are still very actively looking for a buddy for her right now.

She does this for at least a few laps each direction when being lunged. And when she's loose... she's way too mellow to play around and would much rather follow us and practice sorting (2 pet sheep that are her new buddies).

The suggestion about nerving of course gave me an awful feeling. I can't see anything obvious that would suggest she's had chronic issues or any kind of surgery. But I'm definitely NOT experiened with that and will leave it for the vet to determine.

The stumbling thing... honestly the ground is a bit bumpy, the moles are having a field day out there, and she really doesn't pick her feet up well. She does fine when we place poles for her to trot over - so obviously she knows to lift them for those. Maybe continued work with those, and some more meat on her bones will help.
Another thought was maybe slight cataracts? If she's not getting great depth perception, maybe she's clumsy because of that?

Good goll, we make quite a pair if so... me the deaf rider, she the blind horse Somehow I think she actually knows to compensate for my hearing loss - so she's a great tribute to how intuitive these incredible beasts are.

Any more suggestions would be great... hoping to get her to the vet after Thanksgiving. thanks!
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Old 11-21-2007, 01:06 AM   #10
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Equine Alberta:

I gotta say, she doesn't have real strong looking hips. Like I mentioned, she's underweight, so hopefully that will improve with a few pounds. She was trained english/jumping at one time - but it was many years ago and the gal who sold her to me discovered that she was a terrible gaming prospect because she wanted to do everything "proper" rather than gunning it and whipping around. Fine for me - us beginners need to learn how to hang on before we ask for that kind of speed

We ride in a hackamore frequently, and if we use a snaffle, we're light handed enough that I get yelled at for the reins flapping too loose. So I don't think it's either of those issues.

We've got one of those thick foam saddle pads, the trainer thinks the saddle is a good fit. Doesn't appear to be bugging her back. If it were a back/hip issue, would she improve after a warmup - or would she continue to display that funny gait?

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Old 11-21-2007, 08:00 AM   #11
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When my mule was learning to lope on the lunge line she did what i would call kind of a bunny hop. I just thought it was the way she loped so I let her do it. Turns out she was cross firing. I felt like an idiot for not realizing it, since I know what it is but it just didn't quite look like that. Since you have a trainer who has seen it she probably would have said something if that's what it was. but I just thought I'd mention it. Once I got that fixed her lope looks much better.
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Old 11-21-2007, 08:23 AM   #12
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I knew of a qh that was so forced into the western pleasure frame that he bunny-hopped when asked for the very slow canter. It almost unseated the rider with each stride because of the amount of upward lift. I agree that she may be cross-firing. This can feel quite rough in the saddle. Are you correctly balanced in the saddle as this can throw her off.

Last edited by Slim Pikkens; 11-21-2007 at 08:29 AM.
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Old 11-22-2007, 12:54 PM   #13
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Had a chance to go back and look at the video of Kona cantering... and it does not appear she is crossfiring. Forgive my beginner status - but crossfiring is where they take up the opposite lead with their hind legs, correct?

She appeared to still be on the correct lead with both front and rear, but still placing the rear hooves awfully close together.

Slim Pikkens - I'm still just an experienced beginner, so it's definitely a possibility that my form is throwing her off. She definintely improves with a rider and after a few laps of lunging. I'm guessing the saddle fit isn't the issue if she's doing it on the lunge line without being tacked up.

Her canter isn't unsittable - but it's not as smooth as some other horses I've ridden. You can definitely tell when she relaxes and finds her stride. Again... this is Washington - we have some slick wet fields out there, so maybe part of it is a bit of fear of extending??? Due to how clumsy she already is?

In any case - we're having the vet out after Thanksgiving so hopefully he can rule out or suggest treatment for any physical issues.

Thank you for all your help! Please post again if you can think of anything else.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I'm thankful for all you fellow horse lovers who are so supportive and encouraging! And I'm thankful for our equine friends who enrich our lives on a daily basis.
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