Resistant horse!

Ughhh I am at the end of my straw…please help brainstorm! Where to start?!

So I have a young warmblood (disclaimer -This is my 3rd young horse I have owned, but ridden many many. I was a professional for a while. Just want to throw this info out to cover my basis for info and give a better idea of my experience).

When I first got this horse a year ago, he was super super easy. No issues. Out of nowhere this horse decided he didn’t want to go forward anymore, BUT here’s the weird thing, it is ONLY when he first trots. He doesn’t rear or do anything naughty, just doesn’t trot off when you put leg on. He stops and backs (quite calmly). If you take leg off he walks forward but does it again when you put leg on. Doesn’t respond to a dressage whip, but if you spin him and kick he will trot off. Great, no problems after that. Can walk again and trot off again no issues, it is literally just the first trot. He does the same lunging - Will turn in and avoid that first trot off. Then no issues. Around this time he was diagnosed with an NPA. I really believed this was the problem, but we’ve fixed it (confirmed with x rays) with shoeing and horse has been confirmed sound by vets. I’ve had 2 vets look at him, deemed sound and said he’s just being a baby and keep going. This has gone on for 8 months now, doesn’t get better, doesn’t get worse. In the last 6 months he feels a little stiff when I start for a circle then totally fine. If I walk at the end of a ride and start to cool down then go back to work, I’m at square one again. Resistant to go forward and stiff. Fine after starting again and a good circle.

So everyone thinks I’m crazy and says there is nothing wrong with the horse and he’s just a young kid. Deep deep down I truly think this horse is bothered by something, I just don’t know what. Chiro been out multiple times and he gets regular PEMF/body work. Nothing sticks out. He has a custom saddle that gets checked regularly. I first thought ulcers, but did ranitidine tabs as trial and no symptoms went away. He’s on extra vitamin e to see if anything helped, he does feel less stiff but doesn’t go away 100%. I’m not completely ruling out the NPA as the culprit since it all coincides around the same time, but aside from a very small broken back pastern axis, the palmar angle isn’t really negative anymore. Towards the end of the cycle he’s more neutral, but the horse doesn’t change attitude throughout a cycle. Ever. Farrier and vet are happy with the progress we’ve made in 6 months with the foot and don’t want to change much. Could the foot still be bothering him even though he isn’t lame? I’ve been told unlikely, but ???

If this was your horse what would you do next? Could this be a muscle issue somewhere? Some of the metabolic issues don’t stick out to me as it normally gets worse the longer into your ride, not stiffness starting out. Already on a IR diet. 1st cut Timothy and TC ration balancer gold. Coat and weight looks really good to be ulcers, but I know that doesn’t rule it out. Maybe i should just treat a month? Maybe I do a baseline blood test? Not sure what else to test without just going out on a whim here looking for something that isn’t obvious. Like I said, the few vets I have used and expressed the issue don’t see it being a big issue and think i should just keep riding, which is fine, but I just feel like there’s something.

Thanks for sticking with me through this erratic post. I’m sure I left vital info out somewhere. Hoping someone has maybe had a similar issue and can give advice. This horse has a super bright future and if anything, maybe just some encouragement from strangers on the internet is all I need :rofl:

Generally your gut is right in these situations.

I would take to a good vet clinic or hospital and get a full workup. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is helpful as they’re not looking for the same thing they’ve seen before.

Bone scan (nuclear scintigraphy) has been very helpful when I’ve done it. Can often tell you where to look.

How old is this horse? You already know this, but horses do tend to act like fifteen year old people somewhere around 5-6 years. But with your level of experience I would say there’s something there if you think there is.

Good luck!

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When my pony doesn’t want to go forward it’s generally ulcers or sore front feet.

I agree on the work up and bone scan suggested above to make sure you aren’t missing anything.

Either of these are big flags with this horse. I may treat for ulcers first, since that’s cheaper. I’m a little cautious about going down the bone scan path because my other horse had one and it wasn’t very helpful. My friend had a similar outcome with her horse as well. Does make me a little sick to go spend that money on a hunch, even with him being insured, but if it will help the poor guy out, I’d be willing! Especially because I do think front feet with NPA really could still be a factor here.

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He’s coming 5. I sometimes think it’s just him being a brat, because it sometimes seems like a game of getting me to stop nagging, but when he firsts start trotting he doesn’t feel 100% right to me (but he is sound). So I second guess how much I’m convincing myself it’s just an attitude problem because everyone tells me it is. I am a believer they don’t just act up to act up when it’s something like this and that there’s normally a cause. This horse is wicked smart though and he is fully aware of what he is doing when he’s fresh and pulls some of his naughty moves.

Muscle issues or a PSSM type situation was my first thought.

  1. Whats this horse’s lifestyle? What’s the turnout situation? I just ask because if it is a PSSM type thing turnout is very important.

  2. Is it worse in cold weather?

  3. Does it get better with a longer warmup?

  4. when you first ask for the trot, do you let him go around on a loose rein at the trot before you ask for contact? Or are you only asking for a trot with contact?

  5. Would he do this on a trail ride?


Insurance will pay to have horse scoped and treated for ulcers. Once.

Being five could be exacerbating the issues but there is probably something there that’s being exacerbated.

Is he on the IR diet bc you suspect an issue, or because that’s how you feed all horses? My vet now says that all horses should be on one, so there’s that. My suspected IR horse (also with NPA and ouchy front feet who then stepped on a rock with his better front foot) had some of his timothy replaced with bermuda pellets.

He’s outside for about 4-5 hours and then in his stall with access to a small paddock the remainder of the day.

Ironically when it’s colder, he feels less stiff to me. Warm up time doesn’t make a difference. I walk him on long loopy rein for 10-15 but more or less hasn’t made a difference. If anything I think he’s more resistant to go forward the longer I let him “putz around” if I ask for a big forward loose walk too much he automatically thinks I’m asking for a trot and shuts down. He’s allowed to stretch down, I don’t typically ask for a lot of collection with him since he’s so young.

New environment (ie trail riding) sometimes makes him just fresh/excitable enough that sometimes it’s less of an issue, but it wasn’t consistent enough to make note of and I haven’t changed environment recently.

Ditto Equkelly on checking PSSM. A 5yo coming into more work is the perfect timing for this to start showing up. A WB is more likely to have type 2, which is the trickier one to diagnose. You need a muscle biopsy but that’s only truly valid if there are enough symptoms (because it causes muscle changes). Or, you can test through the controversial EquiSeq. I personally think they aren’t all that unreliable because I know too many people now who have had problem horses, gotten tested (hair analysis), adjusted the diet based on the results, and have new, happy horses.


I feed all mine on a IR diet already because I’m a nutrition freak. It has helped his feet a lot! He grew so much sole on this diet.

Ive always just treated with omeprazole versus scoping, but not opposed to scoping him. I’m highly considering doing it. I know different meds are needed for different ulcers so it’s not a bad idea. It’s just hard to put two and two together that an ulcer might only bother him in the beginning of trotting, but hey they present themselves in some weird ways sometimes.


So he’s already on a IR diet, but maybe I am missing something if the diet needs to be adjusted more. The PSSM thing has always been in the back of my mind, but the way I understand it is it typically presents themselves later in the exercise activity vs the beginning. For example the horse is fine for 20 minutes then gets worse. My horse starts worse then completely fine after the first trot circle. Maybe that’s not correct? When I’ve done research the basic symptoms don’t really match his but he could be special lol.

He had some extended time off and has been brought back into full work appropriate for a coming 5 year old and nothing really changes. Not sure if that makes a difference with this or not.

I’m currently dealing with this for my mare (also turning 5) and she sounds a lot like OP’s horse. I haven’t done a muscle biopsy yet but I think I’m heading down that road.

FWIW @WbHunter88 mine is also on a IR diet and a fairly PSSM friendly lifestyle and she’s still showing symptoms kind of like what you described. She’s on a low NSC feed and gets very little of it, 24/7 turnout and access grass hay, etc.

My vet wants to start by pulling blood before and after I exercise her and see what that tells us first however she has a nasty overreach injury that she’s recovering from but once she’s back in work I’m going to get a workup.

I’m no expert but I’m researching a lot right now and it sounds like sometimes their muscles can also just be stiff when warming up too. Mine was always kind of like this and I had the PSSM thing in the back of my mind and then she tied up for the first time a month ago after a very mild ride so now I’m very convinced that’s our issue. There’s a lot of unknowns with PSSM and there’s probably a lot more “types” than just 2 and also more muscle conditions besides PSSM.


Feeding as if IR only addresses part of the PSSM diet.

Type 1 does need that lower NSC diet, but also higher fat.

Type 2 can benefit from lower NSC, but what they REALLY need is higher and more quality protein. That can be tricky for an easier keeper, since you can’t add much, if any alfalfa. But a lot of Type 2 horses are really benefitting from added amino acids, and whey isolate protein

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I’ve been to this exact movie, and it only got worse as he got older because as soon as we thought we were on top of maintaining his issues, another issue would come up, and that was his go to move for everything uncomfortable. I have a lot of threads on here about the struggle, but most of the issues were in the axial skeleton, so not lame. He also was very belly/digestion sensitive, which was related. And sometimes starting off working made him think he had to poop and he would rather not think about working and pooping. I think this was related to his chronic SI instability problems.

Anyway, he was also smart and talented and stuff like disengaging the hind end to keep him moving or whatever 100 approaches to controlling the feet he would figure out and shut down. He could end a ride just lovely if you could get him through it without mentally frying him.

I also suspected he had MFM but didn’t get him tested since he was just getting to be about the age for a reliable biopsy when I lost him.

I had so many people tell me it was just behavioral but it was not. If you could get him comfortable for a minute or a month, he was great. But he spent most of his life not comfortable. Started showing up at 4.


Please keep me posted @Equkelly as you progress with yours. Sounds like we might be in a similar situation.

This is so frustrating, but at the same time, there’s some comfort knowing I’m not crazy and these are real symptoms. I’m going to look into all this some more this evening and possibly call the vet out to do a muscle biopsy.

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So he’s on a really low protein ration balancer. I wonder if adding amino acids might help him. You know now that I’m thinking about it, this also coincides with grain change as well. So yet another thing to look into further. He was on quite a bit of tribute (One of the Kalm lines) when he came to me. My barn fed some crap grain and got a little spicy. Probably too much NSCs. He got fat and when I moved him he went on the ration balancer and has held his weight perfectly between that and roughly 30 lbs of Timothy daily. His topline is gorgeous, even when he isn’t doing a whole lot.

Ugh, not what I want to hear :frowning:
It’s frustrating because he has no performance issues aside from this resistance starting out. Part of me just wishes it was still his feet and we can make some more changes and he’ll be good as new. My farrier now does a good job with exactly what the vet told him to do, but he’s kind of brash and I feel like I have to always watch what he does because he has his set ways. I worry sometimes he’s doing something that may be causing part of the issue if his feet do hurt still and like you mentioned that his defense mechanism to just not want to do it.

I’m so sorry you lost your boy. Losing them is really hard. Especially when they’re still so young.

If you’re in a selenium deficient area, you might try adding selenium to his diet along with the Vit. E. (Natural Vitamin E is better absorbed). Additional magnesium might also be appropriate. I understand that you’re feeding a ration balancer, but he might still need some supplemental help.

Adding 1 mg selenium (if you’re in a deficient area), 5000 IU of natural Vit. E and 5000 mg of magnesium won’t do any harm and, if it helps, might do some good.

It does sound like it’s a physical thing rather than a bratty behavior thing. Good luck sorting it out.

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Which one? Did you stay with the Tribute line and are using Essential K at 28%? Or are you talking one of the other low ones in the 10-13% range?

Test the horse first :slight_smile: