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Horse Kicks At Stomach
While Moving Under Saddle

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Dear Marv,

I just discovered your site and am looking forward to learning much more. I do have an immediate question I would like to ask.

I have an 8 year standardbred mare I got about 8 months ago. I know she has stifle issues but I only want to use her for light driving and some light trail work. She did race quite a bit and was known to have stifle issues then. She has been off the track for a couple of years but hasn't been worked much. When I first got her I did a lot of long lining but have stopped as the vet said the circle work was bad for her stifles. Since then I have mostly driven, either in a cart or on the ground. However, that wasn't giving her the hill work she needed so I have started riding her a little.

Recently she has started kicking at her stomack when being worked, both under saddle and in the cart. Its like a bug is there but is so extreme that I don't really think it is bug related. Have you seen this behavior before? The vet said her stifles are improving but I'm just wondering if with all the time off she has had if this slight increase in work is making them uncomfortable or if this is really just a behavioral response to being asked to do something she doesn't want to do. Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated.

Thanks,

I'm not there to look at your horse but it sounds like stringhalt to me.

Stringhalt is an involuntary, greater-than-normal flexing of the hock while the horse is in motion. It may affect one one or both hind legs.

No one knows what actually causes it. There is some thought that in Australia it is connected with some plant that escapes me at the moment, but the condition is basically a nervous disorder and possibly a degeneration of the sciatic and peroneal nerves suppling the muscles of the hind leg(s), and/or abnormalities involving the spinal cord. Regardless, it involves the lateral digital extensor muscle that flexes the leg forward.

Stringhalt has some pretty obvious signs even though the degree of the signs can vary both in intensity and frequency. Some horses exhibit the signs you report, others only slightly so. It also is not consistent so it is often not obvious during an examination. The signs are almost always exaggerated when the horse is turning or backing. I have not seen any indication the condition is painful other than being disconcerting to watch.

It may be most noticeable after a period of inactivity and may also worsen during colder weather.

Some folks say that it isn't actual considered lameness but I for one wouldn't want to be on a horse with involuntary extreme leg movements.

You may be able to find more information by going to your favorite search engine and entering "stringhalt" in the search box.

Best of luck.

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