My horse wont canter one direction!

So I bought a new horse-6 year old Oldenburg mare-about a month ago. Both times I tried her she went really well. I could tell she preferred cantering on the left lead, but she didnt have any problem cantering or jumping off either.
Well, she does now. Unfortunately, because of moving into college right after I bought her, she sat for like two weeks before moving up here with me. Now that she’s up here and Ive ridden her several times, Im noticing a pattern. She wont canter on the right lead.
She’ll happily trot around, do circles, go over poles, serpentine, and what not in both directions. But she’ll only canter to the left. On the right, she’ll canter for a bit and then swap. If you make her turn or try and force her to stay on it, she just gets mad and swaps more aggressively or just flat out stops cantering. At first, she would get super pissy and actually give a solid buck, but I gave her a shot of depo and she’s much better now. Instead, she just gets super short and balled up before inevitably swapping and moving back out.
Ive put her on the lunge and in the round pen and she mostly only cross canters when going right. I can make her stay on it for like barely a single lap. Ive done it with tack and without tack and the result is the same.
She wont jump of the right lead-mostly because I cant keep her on it long enough to get to the jump-but she will land on the right and go a few strides before swapping. She’ll jump anything at any height off the left. And she’ll trot in either direction and land on either lead.
She appears to be perfectly sound. She runs around, bucks, jumps, etc without an issue. She went through an in depth pre-purchase exam barely a month ago and passed with flying colors.

So, my question is this: does it sound like an injury or that she is doing it out of pain, does it seem more like she’s doing it to be pissy and lazy and I’ll just always have to deal with it, or do you think it will simply go away with more conditioning and schooling?

To me that sounds like pain. The “pissy-ness” you describe would be a reaction to being asked to do something that causes additional pain.

In general, a horse that has been doing its job happily and which then stops doing some part of its job (or does it only under a lot of pressure) is telling you the only way it can that doing that job is not comfortable or actively hurts. Horses don’t just decide to mess with their owners’/riders’ minds by randomly not doing things that they actually can do.

I’d have a vet look at the horse. That may be slightly complicated by the fact that you’ve just moved stables, but it’s the right thing to do.


Either pain, or lack of strength. I would check the hips.


It could be pain, a lack of conditioning, a training issue, etc… You probably won’t know until you start doing some investigating. You might want to consider contacting the previous owners and tell them the mare is reluctant to pick up or hold a right lead. Ask them what did they do to help encourage her to pick up and keep a right lead. Ask them about the program she was in and her fitness level and try to replicate that to see if it makes a difference. It might be a good idea to get a trainer involved to see if they have better results when they ask for the right lead. Check all the tack for proper fit. Have her teeth checked by a dentist. Consider the possibility of ulcers. Something changed in the last month. The easy things to examine are conditioning, environment, diet, tack, and rider. If you rule all those out as possible causes, it might be time to have the vet in for another work up. Personally, I would be ruling out ulcers and saddle fit first.

I am not really familiar with Depo and how it affects them, but I know my mare had a terrible heat this month (definitely the worst since I purchased her in April). Also, put her on ranitidine for suspected ulcers and everything has been much better… she was also getting very pissy about the canter and swapping off but has all but resolved now. Did get a little buck asking for a change yesterday but I think thats more the 5 y/o in her. Hope you figure out how to get her happy again :slight_smile:

Who had eyes on her for those two weeks? Any slips or falls? My horse did this when she strained her DDFT

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Is there any way to rule out pain without having the vet come out just yet? Im paying for her myself, and Id really rather keep the costs at the minimum.
Is there anything you can think of that would specifically only affect her cantering one direction? It doesnt show up anywhere else.

I tried her both times in my own saddle, and she goes the same without a saddle and without tack and rider completely. Plus she’s in her own bridle (I bought it from the owner) so I believe tack can be ruled out.
I will look into ulcers and the other things. I want to rule out teeth since she had them checked so recently and she has no problems with her mouth, but I’ll double check.

Huh thats kinda funny cause my friends horse just went through the worst heat this month too. I wonder if thats a coincidence.

Thank you all for your replies. I was trying to see if there was anything that could ruled out immediately, or if anyone had experienced something similar. Im really hoping its not a pain thing.

Just because you tried her in the same tack does not mean the saddle fits her, unfortunately- if you wore too tight shoes you could get along just fine for a day or so but weeks on end would definitely make you sore- the saddle/tack is no different.

I also strongly suspect you’ll want a vet out sooner than later. Plus- better to pay her vet bills than your own on the chance her refusal to do something you ask gets even more expressive and you wind up hurt yourself.

Finally- my mare also had her worst heat cycle ever this month! So… kinda nice to know I’m not alone


A chiropractor is usually cheaper than a vet visit and will help you find any areas that are sore or out of alignment.

Also, was she shipped a long distance to get to you? That could definitely cause some soreness.

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Maybe a left stifle weakness or mild injury. That was problem with one of my horses. Just barely noticeable at the trot but became more evident in the canter depart.

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If your saddle doesn’t fit her correctly, she may be uncomfortable. Cross cantering with the absence of a saddle isn’t proof positive your saddle fits her or it isn’t causing her discomfort. Best to have it fitted by someone that is experienced at saddle fitting, assuming you are trying to rule out possibilities.

Think about it this way. If your saddle pinches her and has resulted in her becoming sore or uncomfortable, taking the saddle off once while she is in the round pen or on the lunge line may or may not give you insight into the full picture. Go on YouTube and watch some saddle fitting videos. I believe there is a decent one on the USEF website too.

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Sounds like something is bothering her - especially if she’s that belligerent about it. It could be something that gets better as she gets stronger.
Do you have a passoa rig? If so try lunging in that and see if she canters right.
If she does, I’d maybe start here and build up her strength.

Even if you did a thorough ppe that doesn’t mean something soft tissue is bothering her or something may have been missed… I.E kissing spine if you didn’t X-ray back…

i also vote chiro should come out. Unfortunately horses are expensive!

Yes - this sounds like pain, although weakness is also a possibility if she is very green and no one has taken the time to develop her equally. Tack is certainly a possibility. Pain from tack gets worse over time. Besides the tack/back, I’d be looking carefully at the outside hind in the bad direction, as this is the leg that does the brunt of the work in pushing off into the canter. It could also be inside front, but IMHO, you’d probably be seeing a front foot in the trot as well.

Sadly, most attempts to save money in horses end up costing more in the end. I’d start with the vet, or a good chiro with a vet degree.


Maybe right stifle?

My guy gets crabby when it’s time for injections. Had the vet out a couple of weeks ago and she said he looked like he didn’t want to engage the right hind - meaning he didn’t want to bring it up under himself at the canter. She injected hocks, then a week later stifles, and he’s much better.



Sounds like pain. It’s unlikely that she developed substantial one sided weakness in 2weeks off.

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OP, sorry if I missed it, but did you do a PPE when you bought her? It definitely sounds like pain. I guess if you are worried about money, you could have a chiropractor out first and see if they can help. But I would definitely not wait too long to get her thoroughly checked out by a lameness vet of this keeps up.

I hope you figure it out! Such a bummer to be dealing with this already with a new horse. Chiropractic, saddle fitter and a vet will hopefully help get her sorted!

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I would suggest you read Informative. And it may be worth while to have a Vet do an exam…

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Get the vet out - it sounds like a physical issue and you need to know what it is, and not make it worse. A basic lameness exam is not expensive, and if the vet says you need diagnostics, that can get expensive but you can decide how to proceed once the vet has identified the area that is bothering her. They can often recommend a treatment plan that doesn’t involve further diagnostics. Don’t spin your wheels trying to avoid paying for a vet check, you can waste time and money and if there is an injury, you could regret letting it drag on. I have a good chiropractor that we like, but I wouldn’t want my chiropractor to work on the horse before my vet checked things out if I thought there was a physical issue. If you did a PPE, I’d also let the local vet see whatever you have from that as a baseline. Good luck, that’s not fun to deal with so soon after getting the horse!