Horse Lame After Riding

I’m hoping some of you could share your thoughts on this situation. I will preface with the vet will be out next week to check things out.

I have a 21 year old gelding. He has his set of health issues. Ringbone, hock arthritis and a weak top line. The weak top line is mostly due to him not being worked at all for several years because of me not being able to do so. We’ve battled lameness for many, many years. It would come and go and no one has ever been able to say, “x is the main issue”.

I’ve recently started to bring him back to work. We x-rayed recently and while the ringbone has progressed it shouldn’t be enough to say he can’t be ridden. We also changed his shoe situation. Brought back his toes more on the front, added leather pads and pulled his back shoes. He has looked much more comfortable and when he canters he no longer hops in the backend like he used to from time to time. His walk is less short than before and there’s no head bobbing at the trot. (Even in a circle which was difficult for him before.) He also got a round of OsPhos. I give him bute from time to time on his stiffer days. He will be starting Equioxx next week.

Riding him bareback he does well. Sure I can feel some stiffness but he’s happy and seems to want to work at both the walk and the trot. He’s absolutely one who will let you know if he doesn’t. That said if I saddle him up and just walk he will come up lame in his hind by the end of the ride. Today I rode him and I asked for a trot and he dis for a few steps but stopped because he didn’t want to. But he seemed very happy walking around and then just standing watching the other horse. When I got off and walked out of the ring he was favoring his right hind.

Clearly my first thought is what’s wrong with the saddle? It does fit him. I have a Mattes pad underneath to provide more cushion. I can certainly try another saddle on him I just haven’t had the chance to do so yet. When he is lame after he does eventually walk out of it after I turn him back out.

Is it possible since his topline is weak that that is part the issue? Not sure if it matters but I’m tiny- 110 pounds and I’m a quite rider. I’m also suspicious of pain in the SI. I know that the discomfort from his arthritis causes him to move short and I know that can transfer pain to the SI. What about Lyme? He did have it when he was younger but did well with treatment. What else should I be asking the vet to check?

If it ends up he can’t be ridden that’s fine. I just want what’s best for him. I’d love to be able to w/t/c under saddle but only if he wants to. As I said he likes to have a job but will let you know if it isn’t okay. He can always do simple ground work to give his brain something to do.

The vet has okayed him for low level work. Again, she’ll be out to see him next week. Any thoughts/advice you have would much appreciated!

I don’t think your horse agrees with you.


Fair enough. Perhaps I should have said the saddle appears to fit him. If it is saddle fit that would be a wonderful easy fix.

:grinning: I hope it is! I’ve got a horse who is extremely sensitive to saddle fit and have learned to let him tell me whether it actually fits. I am fortunate to have a good fitter who listens to me and makes the adjustments to suit the horse.

We were locked down on opposite sides of the provincial border earlier this year and I wasn’t able to ride for almost three months. I did try my western saddle on the horse and it appeared to fit. I was surprised how comfortable I felt but my horse was not comfortable. The Equestic clip had his trot symmetry uneven by almost 20%.

Good luck!


Obviously it may be the saddle.

It also may be the way you ride bareback v. saddle. I know that on my older TB mare, I would barely attempt more than a walk without a saddle because of her sharkfin withers and her sensitivity to bareback in general. So, in a saddle, maybe you asked your horse to do more? Think about that and if you try again - keep track of what you did, and for how long.

How many rides have you had so far in the “bringing back” to work? Is it possible you just did too much, too soon?

I might back it off and also wait until he’s on the Equioxx and see if you notice improvement.

The items in bold don’t tell anyone, especially your vet, enough to help.
For example, “low level work”, is what?
I’d go through this and quantify and elaborate so your vet has a much clearer picture.

For example, he hasn’t been worked in how long? How long is " several years"? His living situation is what? Before that time off, what was his fitness level and conditioning program?
You started to bring him back into work, describe what you’ve been doing, how often, what intensity.

I’d check saddle fit, paying attention also to the rear of the saddle. You say he used to bunny hop. And he’s lame behind. Those are signs of a lower back or SI issue that can definitely be influenced by how the saddle fits, especially if the problem with pressure would be behind where you’d sit bareback. Like even potentially straining a lumbar joint that perhaps is arthritic.

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Most of us who have tried to find a saddle our horses like may disagree on the easy part. I hope that is all it is for you.


Well, it seems it was the saddle that was making him unhappy. I tried his old one today and he did not come up lame at all and was very willing and happy to go forward. It isn’t my favorite saddle to ride in but as long as he likes it that’s what matters most.

And I do agree with the saddle hunt not being easy. I went through it many years ago with him and it was a nightmare. But with that said I know the brands that fit his shape best now so it makes the process easier than it was. The saddle he was in today was a Duett. I had Bill Wood out years ago for that one and he gave wonderful advice on what tress would be best for his shape (hoop trees) so that helped narrow things down.

He still needs to be slowly brought back to work and his topline built up, obviously. I’m also going to have the vet out still to check him out just in case.

Thank you everyone for the advice!