This spring I began teaching intermediate-level lessons to a rider who pilots an enormous dark bay draft horse. When I met this gelding, his rider told me he had a barn-wide reputation for being clumsy. For example, they said, “When you are leading him to the paddock, if he turns his head, his entire body swings and follows.”

Here’s the draft gelding this spring, before his EPM diagnosis. His weight was fine, but to me he just didn’t look right. Photo: Courtesy Brian King/

Equal parts long, lanky, and imposing, what this gelding seemed to lack in self-awarenessÑI tried to feed him a peppermint from my palm and my entire arm disappeared in his cavernous mouthÑhe made up for in his charming personality and willingness to try.

In a particular lesson a couple of months ago, we were trotting over ground poles, and the horse stumbled through them. I kept checking and rechecking that I had the distance between the poles correct and, believing we were dealing with a lack of impulsion from behind and a wee bit of laziness (the latter might have been partly true), I asked the rider to use more leg.

I had intended to bring my riding clothes on my next visit so I could ride the gelding and see if I was missing somethingÑI just wasn’t getting anywhere when instructing this rider and his horse.

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