Sunday, October 25, 2009

Flipping over: Nice looking horse, scary behavior

This is a scary video, and the story behind it is that the horse was bought from a KY trainer who assured the new owners (mom and daughter) that the horse could go to the upper levels of eventing. This is footage of the first show, daughter riding.

Quite sensibly the horse is no longer being ridden. With the understanding that there's little to go on in this video, anyone care to guess what is happening with this horse?

Amazing that this young girl landed on her feet -- very athletic...

My only observation is that the loin connection looks very weak (or else he's just racing thin and it's an optical illusion. His back may not be able to comfortably support a rider, but then that's probably true of a lot of horses who don't flip over in protest. He doesn't look particularly overwhelmed by the show environment, but he is a young horse. Even so, I'm not sure what you do with a horse who exhibits this kind of behavior. The owners seems thoughtful and reasonable, best of luck to them in solving this.


  1. A few things that I notice that don't seem right to me. 1) Agree that he is long backed and has poor conformation in that whole area (top and bottom lines) where his back attaches to his hindquarters. 2) Why is his mouth cranked shut like that? Looks like the crank is too tight, and his bit almost looks too high in his mouth. 3) Rider has stirrups too long, not moving horse forward enough in the walk before going to trot.
    If this horse is off the track, he needs more time to retrain before showing, because with that lack of impulsion in the free walk it says that the horse is not comfortable going forward into contact yet.
    Also when she asked for the trot, she was not giving in her hand, she pulls back a bit and puts her leg on. Surprised that he didn't flip on her in any test ride (if she did any test rides of him).
    Altogether, it's surprising that this behaviour did not come out before she got to the show!

  2. Particularly scary for me to see as I have a friend who was nearly killed that way.

    Hard to say why something like that happens, but a horse that tend to use rearing as an evasion, can easily lose its balance. It is one vice I simply would never want to deal with. It takes a super talented, knowledgeable professional to cure the problem.

    That ride was extremely lucky to get herself out of the way.

  3. Wow!!! That was amazing - he seemed so calm before that happened. Horses like that make me so nervous - I'd be afraid to ride him after that.

    When I was a kid, I took my horse off to horse camp, and an instructor there decided that my Arabian had not set his head properly and he needed a better arch. Rather than teaching him how to flex his neck and move himself into the bit as one does in dressage, the instructor kept pulling on the bit until my dear boy flipped himself over twice! I was about 10 or 11 and did not know to speak up and tell the person to leave my horse alone. WE never recovered from that event. He threw his head repeatedly after that leaving me with more than one black eye.

    As an adult, I've learned a little about dressage - just enough to know that what happened with my dear Arab never should have occured.

    Hope this girl works it out well with her horse.

  4. Hard to say without seeing another video of the horse. It does appear to be thin, racing thin or not theres no muscle tone there.

    When the horse protests at first the girl does apply tension to the reins. There could be an underlying mouth issue as soon as she does pick up contact the horse throws it's head and then flips over.

    Hard to say if it's a medical issue or a training one without actually seeing the horse to assess how to change the behaviour. Either way not a nice habit to have.

  5. I agree with most of the things the other posters said here, but my first thought watching it was that the horse is behind her leg. I know my mare tends to get reeeeeally light in the front when she is behind my leg and gets upset. The best thing to do is to push her forward - she can't go up if she's going forward!

    But good job to that young rider! I can't imagine I would manage to pull off nearly such a great landing if I were in the same situation - she makes it look easy!

  6. I wouldn't call that flipping, it's just rearing and falling. A real flipper launches itself into the air and goes over with no hesitation and no warning. This horse gave pretty good warning. I'd bet this wasn't the first time it happened as the rider seemed to anticipate what was happening and extricated herself from the wreck. Anyhow, we have rehabbed rearers, but they need special handling forevermore. This horse seems to need a lot of physical therapy, too. Flippers we just put down, period.

  7. I agree with what most have said too. The horse was staying way behind the bit, then seemed to notice that person sitting, went against the bit, the rider tightened the reins and that scared the horse more. No way to go but up.

    I've seen trainers starve horses down like that, and don't like it a bit. That horse will be very different once he's back up to weight.

  8. I would bet that 90% of that rear n flip had to do with his mouth being cranked shut. That is a young, hot horse. Part of training, "to the top levels" *HUMANELY* is allowing the horse a "out" so that nobody gets killed in the process. Remove the flash and the horse has the option to get away from the bit and spook/refuse/whatever. . I'll always take that as a lesser evil. I never forget that I am NEVER going to win a battle of strength with a horse. Why pick a fight just to speed (force) along training.

    If that horse could have opened it's mouth my guess is that the anxiety level (which anyone can see in the eye/ear and tense "on the toes" body language) was only ramped up by forcing the mouth shut.

  9. Honestly it looked to me like this rider did just about everything right. He's obviously green and nervous, but he's not spooking or bolting or jigging. Just walking along. If you look at her reins there was slack in them before and as he was going up. She wasn't jerking or pulling on him, it's like his brain just imploded. I wonder if he HAD been jerked on in the past, and threw his head up as a defense mechanism, freaked out, and just kept going...

  10. Aside from the weak connection through the loin, this horse's glutes are "overdeveloped," typical of a horse with chronic back soreness. Having a long back doesn't help matters.

    My money is that it started with the confirmation, then a sore back and that this isn't the first time he has ever flipped.

  11. Glad she's ok. No clue what went wrong other than animals don't always do what a person expects them to. And what they do, doesn't always have to make sense, does it? Sometimes both with animals and with people...stuff happens.

    She was amazingly fast to slid herself off like that.

    Wow, must show this to my SIL, who does dressage.

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  12. Okay, I see a young horse, not very fit, doing a lower level dressage test. Yes, that horse is behind the leg. If every horse behind the leg a a dressage show reared and fell over they'd be falling like bowling pins. Most horses I see at the lower levels are behind the bit and not forward enough.

    Is is mouth cranked shut? Not that I can tell. Yes, he's wearing a flash. Once again, most horses at dressage shows are wearing a flash. It didn't appear to be bothering him earlier in the test. I've seen some horses wearing some mighty tight nosebands but this video isn't sharp enough for me to tell if this is too tight.

    I did NOT see that young rider excessively pulling on his mouth and she did not use too much leg. The horse started to come above the bit and hollow out when she asked for the upward transition. I don't think it's inappropriate for her to put her leg on and hold the reins. I see no egregious or abusive riding here at all and I think it's unfair to blame this young rider based on 35 seconds of video.

    So what did I see? A horse that starts to feel trapped when asked to go forward and when his rider picks up the contact. I bought a horse like that and in his case I can attribute it to poor use of draw reins by a previous owner. Other causes could be pain either in his mouth or his back.

    Personally, I would not deal with a horse that actually goes over. My Trak. came to me with a case of the "lights" in front but he had a strong sense of self-preservation and never went that high. He was rehabilitated and stopped the behavior completely given some sensitive training.

    Obviously this horse needs as thorough review by a vet and perhaps some professional training.

    Thank goodness that girl was okay.

  13. Tongue over the bit? It looks like something is going on in his mouth a few frames before he flips. The contact is very light and he is behind the bit before that. My guess is he was evading by curling under and hollowing his topline. Being young and inexperienced (looks like a recent OTTB) he got to playing and got his tongue over. Then he over reacted.

    Granted I think flipping is a *big* over-reaction to having the tongue over the bit. Certainly not a response you want in a kid's horse.

    Hope horse and rider were OK. That could be very dangerous for the rider. Also the horse could break something (back, withers).

  14. (Sorry to 2x comment. Really got me thinking.) Armani got his tongue over the bit in early training. It really was like day-to-night in 5 seconds. Fortunately, he did not react *that* strongly. But he did suddenly start flipping his head violently, high enough to almost knock my teeth out, and hopping. My trainer was there, saw it, and had me jump off quickly. We removed his bridle and repositioned the bit slightly higher. Then worked on long, low, and slow for a while.

    If that is an OTTB, they might be able to tell from its race record if it went over backwards before. Like while in the starting gate. It went over so quickly I wouldn't be surprised if it has done it before. A horse who hadn't I'd expect would rear up and then be like "Oh uh, I'm tipping, eek. Maybe I better squirm another way so I don't flip??"
    That one just flips over like "I'm panicked so I'm going to flip again. It worked last time."

  15. Something in this horses hind end looks off to me, also he is thin and everything else that the other posters have said about his mouth and being behind the leg could have everything to do with this. Could also be neurologic?

  16. I would not have purchased that horse for dressage. He looks very weak in the back, and very stiff. He is carrying himself behind the bit, and hollow backed. When he went up, he fell over because it looks like his back end gave way. The footing really wasn't slippery enough for him to go down like that.
    If he were at my barn, I would have a chiro work on his back, because guarantee he has issues in his sacral region (most OTTB do) I would have his teeth done, then spend 6 months hacking him out on trails on a loose rein (no flash, happy mouth or french snaffle) before I tried to get him to work.

  17. That horse just does not look ready to be doing shows. He looks like he just came off the racetrack. I wonder if he just needs some time off to be a horse and put some weight on before starting a career in eventing or dressage. I've found my TB cannot handle claustrophobic feelings or pressure without getting explosive; maybe he just felt the only way to avoid the pressure was UP and he lost control?

  18. I agree with shadow rider. The weak coupling between the back and hindend, along with the stiffness and over-muscling around the top of the pelvic bone is often an indicator of a sacroilliac problem. I would call a chiro first.

  19. Scary. Lots of good info in the comments. This is a really difficult one to solve, hope that they all get it sorted out. Poor kid.

  20. I'll assume his calmness before the flip is indicative of a nice horse who needs more training time and tack adjustment. I suspect his conformation will keep him from attaining the promised levels. By comparison, there is an interesting video of a national hunt horse who habitually launched into a back flip.
    Ignore the subject header "man dies"; one can see the rider landed clear of the horse and walked away. Also, you can see groom is just waiting for something to happen. From my other reading on this horse, turns the behaviour was due to a brain tumor and he was put down.

  21. IMO, this doesn't look like bad riding or pilot error. Yup, horse has terrible conformation for it's supposed new sport. What stood out to me: something caught the horse's attention at F, rider calmly rode through, horse "gave", and head went down.

    He went up, but I too don't see any intention to flip. Rider was not hanging on reins, gave him lots of room to come down while he was rearing, and kept herself as balanced as possible.

    I'm wondering if his confirmation, lack of muscling and possible tendon issues (overwork, getting him ready to sell?) all contributed to his suddenly not being able to sustain all his weight on his hind legs (that takes a lot of muscle) and he lost both his balance and ability to hold himself up?

    Thank god she got out of the stirrups, and thank god she is okay.

    I'd guess it's not the first time he reared, as it was so quietly done (no freaking out), but who knows?

    All in all a bad circumstance for people and horse.

  22. I see a horse who has learned a tactic. The girl looks to be a tactful rider, the horse's tack is not ill-fitting, and the horse is not overly upset. He may have been given reason to develop a tactic like that by a previous owner, but I really doubt the girl on his back is in any way culpable for what occurred. I think that riders (rightfully) develop an instinct to blame ourselves or to look for pain in the horse to explain bad behavior. The vast majortity of the time we are right to do so. But just as there is a wide spectrum in human personality, so too is there a wide spectrum in horse personality. Some individuals can choose to be devious for no reason other than that they've learned that the tactic works.

  23. Anon, Excellent point. Sometimes horses develop a habit originally started in response to some tack or training discomfort, and then the horse quickly discovers how useful that behavior can be.
    A horse learns bad tactics so fast. Just like a child. Ha!

  24. Very scary! Something doesn't look right, i would have vet out to inspect, dentist and a GOOD chiro out! I've had this happen to me (nothing to do with the horse, other than he was a naughty pony with a bad attitude coming out of a 5 month spell) and it is not an experience i would wish on anyone! Very scary! Hope horse and rider were OK.


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