A horse that stumbles can give us quite a momentary shock, but when your horse stumbles regularly, we need to start looking into the root of the issue. Here are a few reasons why your horse might stumble and what you can do to help.
A horse that is riding hollow with his head high is unbalanced and on the forehand, and may stumble more frequently. Same can be said for a horse that is leaning on the bit like a fifth leg, as soon as the pressure on the bit is released they may stumble, which is their attempt to avoid faceplanting in the dirt.
Ensure you use the correct exercises for true self-carriage. If you horse is unable to engage his core, go back down the training scale and start again.
Some horses are born with abnormal conformations, especially in the legs, may be more prone to stumbling than others.
There may not actually be a fix for this, but ensure you horse has the best self-carriage training to minimise the issues. It is also worth consulting with your chiropractor to see if there are any physio exercises to improve the issue.
Current injuries may create pain and result in limping and stumbling as a result. Also, past injuries, particularly long-recovering ones to the hips, shoulders, legs or feet, may have put the horse off balance as they favoured the injured side.
For current injuries, rest, recovery and possible farrier/veterinary attention are recommended. For previous injuries, have a chat to your chiropractor.
A horse that is not fit will tire quickly and stumble. A horse that is also pushed to his fitness limit will tire and stumble.
Recognise the level of fitness of your horse. Identify when you start to feel him tire and allow him to rest. Gradually increase his fitness by extending his training to the point where he is just starting to tire then allow rest again.
Horses with arthritis will tend to be less able to move the joints fluidly or less comfortable fully weight-bearing on one limb over others, and can lead to stumbling.
Unfortunately arthritis cannot be cured, but we can alleviate the pain with good supplementation or under veterinary advice. Also ensure you use gentle warm up exercise (this may take longer than other horses) and train for self-carriage. Regular gentle exercise is a must as is regular rest. You can read our article on how to manage arthritis here.
Hooves that are poorly maintained or too long can create stumbling issues.
Maintain regular farrier visits. Ensure the farrier is cutting to the right length and angle. If you are unsure or unhappy with your farrier, seek a second opinion.