3 Signs Your Breakaway Horse Needs Vetting, Not Tuning

Your breakaway horse might not be performing at his best, and it's tempting to take him to the practice pen for a tuning session. But that's not always the right answer, says 19-time WPRA World Champion Jackie Crawford, because your horse could be trying to tell you he's hurting.

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Breakaway horses often take a lot more runs than head horses or heel horses because the perception is that they aren’t taking a jerk. 

But we’re also asking breakaway horses to explode out of the box and stop hard, and that can cause wear and tear on their joints, and, compounded with the number of runs these horses take, can really wear one down. That wear and tear doesn’t always show up in lame steps. Your horse can be showing you by his performance in the arena that he’s not feeling up to par, and as a horsewoman, it’s your job to determine that, too. 

Here are three performance problems you might run into with your breakaway horse, and what physical problems could be causing them.

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PERFORMANCE PROBLEM: Lack of fire from the corner. 

PHYSICAL PROBLEM: The hocks and stifles could be one of the first places your horse gets sore because of how hard he usually leaves the box. Don’t think they are losing a step or just not working because they aren’t leaving hard enough. They could be sore in their SIs, or even across their back. After 10 years riding T-Boy, I know it’s time for a stifle injection when he’s not leaving the box hard enough.  

PERFORMANCE PROBLEM: Not staying in their stop. 

PHYSICAL PROBLEM: I’ve had good horses who suddenly didn’t want to stay in their stop, or weren’t strong with their hind end and couldn’t get into the ground. That could be caused by front-end problems—like navicular or coffin bone stress—or hind end troubles like soreness in the SI, stifle or hock. I keep my horses on LubrisynHA, so we’re fortunate to keep that problem at bay. 

PERFORMANCE PROBLEM: Nervousness in the box. 

PHYSICAL PROBLEM: If a horse is hurting, he might be dreading what’s going to happen in the field for any number of reasons. He will get in the box and then want out as fast as possible, and he might get really nervous and not score. If joint problems are ruled out, have your vet check for ulcers. BRJ