When is a stumble something serious?

A misstep every now and again isn't much to worry about, but some types of stumbles warrant immediate attention.


A misstep every now and again isn’t much to worry about. Active horses, particularly those who work over varied terrain, are bound to stumble from time to time. Sometimes, however, stumbling needs to be investigated.

Call your veterinarian if any of the following apply to your horse:

• He stumbles more often than he used to.

• He stumbles so badly that he feels as though he may fall or unseat you.

• He stumbles so frequently that you’ve come to expect it.

• He shows signs of incoordination or neurological weakness, having trouble turning in a small circle, for example.

Stumbling can have a variety of causes, from too-long toes to failing vision. A full physical examination may reveal the most likely cause. In some cases, hind-end “stumbles” are actually sticking patellas. The treatment in these cases is more exercise to strengthen the area. In addition, your veterinarian can also work with your farrier if a different trimming schedule or technique is part of the solution

You may hear that a stumbling horse is “not paying attention” or “lazy,” but the reality is most horses don’t want to stumble. A single stumble may indeed be inattention, but repeated stumbles most likely aren’t a behavior or training problem.

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #465, June 2016. 

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