NEW TO CHRONICLE ADVICE FORUM…
I have been working with this horse on and off for nearly 5 years. I love him and refuse to give up on him, but i do not own him. He’s a 17 hand selle francais gelding. He has always been a bit ‘naughty’, nonetheless he is super talented, smart, and an absolute blast when he is good. His biggest problem is that he’s a bit of an opportunist when it comes to the back side of the jumps. When he touches down on the backside with his front hooves, he throws all of his weight into his front end, rips his head down, and bucks/dolphin hops. It is truly impossible to hang on. Again, he has done this since even before my trainer aquired him in 2012. And also in my 20 years of experience riding jumping horses, this is the scariest and most painful way to fall. To combat this, we have tried to develop a distinct way to ride him and negate this behavior - deep seat, small release, hands up and always lifting, must be quick to get back in the saddle on the backside. Even then, he finds ways to get away with it.
I had taken some time away from him to work with my OTTB, and also on the accord that I had promised myself I wouldn’t get back on him again after he quite literally ‘pile-drove’ me face first into the dirt after landing from a combination which resulted in some permanent muscle damage a few years ago. This is his signature move…
We have had him evaluated by vets countless times, and had many x-rays done. We have a reputable saddle fitter that has double and triple checked the tack we use on him. Most recently during a lease he did show some slight navicular changes in his front feet. He was given the ok to go back to light jumping work with corrective shoeing. The leasor ended her lease early because he scared her so badly and he was left to sit. My trainer refuses to include him in the lesson program and wont even ride him herself because she thinks he is too dangerous, so i took him back on as a rehab project. Besides starting off a bit stiff, he works out of it quickly and is back to 100% soundness after cantering, so we’ve started him back over very small jumps and cross rails after a couple months of just flatwork. I wanted to bring him back to the basics and see if i could correct some of the issues I felt he was experiencing through correcting his gaits and how he carries himself. I even stretch him before getting on to ride (stifles, shoulders, and neck).
This past Saturday, I hopped on for a ride and could feel him balling up under me going towards the jump, but it felt more like excitement than pain. We cantered into a barely 18" three stride, but came in long and he was so heavy I couldn’t get him back up to fit the third stride in. We left long, and he characteristically planted his front feet, ripped his head down and planted me so hard on the backside, I actually herniated a disc in my upper back and suffered a small concussion. I literally fell straight to the top of my head. I still got back on and made him trot into the line and hault a couple times just to prove a point to him.
I refuse to give up on him, but am at a loss for things to try that would either lessen his pain or bad behavior. You would think if it was his front end hurting from the navicular problems that he wouldn’t try to launch his entire body weight into it on the backside of the jump. Also, he doesn’t pin his ears when he pulls his signature move like other horses I’ve ridden do when they are uncomfortable. He gets both lead changes nicely and is quite willing to go forward when asked. He rarely takes advantage like that when hacking, but will if he hasn’t been worked in a week or two. I can normally handle it just at the hack, but when he does it and you’re not yet back seated from the two point, there is NO hope for hanging on. At shows, he MUST be lunged before attempting to ride him. When i call him from the field, he is so excited to come see me he normally gallops up throwing in some pretty impressive bucks in while also whinney-ing quite loudly. So it’s hard for me to believe he’s in a terrible amount of pain, but I also don’t feel like he would act out so viciously without some type of discomfort. If this is a habit he’s learned, I don’t know what to do to break it. He actually came to us with these same habits, but the navicular changes were just recognized last year. Aside from the riding issues, he is quite the trickster on the ground as well. You have to be quick to close the stall doors, as he will trample and run over you to get out if he sees the right opening. He will also try to rip away from you and run away while trying to graze him. NO ONE is allowed to lead him without the chain over his nose
Currently, he is going in a full-cheek slow twist. My trainer and i both think a drop noseband would behoove him but i am open to all suggestions and different outlooks. Obviously there is something my trainer, myself, and possibly even the vets are missing out on. I do not want this horse’s life to be wasted because no one would stick it out with him. I love him, even with his antics. Please help me help my Joshua!