Sunday, 15 June 2008

Hind-leg Dilemma

After my lesson, I continued to work on the things John had told me to: engaging and motivating the hind legs by practising shoulder-in and walk to canter. I also started some halt-trot transitions as they seemed to get her moving a bit more powerfully. She was amazing for the first few days. She was really using herself and the walk to canter transitions were coming along really well.

However, towards the end of last week, she became much more resistant to the exercises. She started getting really tense and stressed by the transitions and started to run through me. The worse rein was definitely the right, as she seemed to not want to take a contact on the left. As soon as I touched the left rein, she would turn her head to the left or bend to the left. I ended up having such fights with her, as she was hanging persistently on my right rein and refused to take the contact on the left. It got to the stage where every day I was having a huge battle with her and not winning!

After a few days of this, I decided to give her Thursday off, while I got my head together. On the Wednesday she seemed to find it absolutely impossible to bend to the right. She was also struggling with leg-yield left, so I think we may have problems with that right hind again. John pointed out in my lesson that the right hind is the less-engaged of the two, as she tends to step inside with it, rather than straight. On Friday, I decided to lunge her so that I could see what was going on from the ground. She looked pretty stiff behind when she started. She was hardly bringing her hind-legs under her at all. After a bit of a warm-up, I put the side-reins on and asked for some canter transitions. This did seems to loosen her a little and she looked pretty comfortable in her hind legs.

It's just so difficult to know what to do. I don't know whether she's sore and really can't engage them properly, or whether she just finds it easier to drag herself along from the front and is being difficult. I put her on a really small circle on the lunge, so that I could almost flick her with the end of the string on the lunge-whip, and asked her to trot. This made her really bring her hind-legs under and was particularly effective on the right rein. It also made her bend, and subsequently made her take the contact in the left side-rein. Keeping her on the tight circle, I asked her to canter and then trot again. When I pushed her out onto the larger circle again, she looked much more engaged; she was really pushing from behind, rather than dragging from in front.

I decided to do the same exercise yesterday, and she started off looking just as stiff behind. Again, the exercises were successful, although she didn't bend very well to the left. I did, however, spend some time feeling along her back yesterday. She doesn't seem to be sore in her back, but when I pushed hard and ran my hand from her pelvis over the top of her quarters on the right, she raised her back right up and didn't seem comfortable. I have a massage therapist coming to see her today, so I'm hoping she can shed some light on that.

I find it hard to believe that she's sore in some ways, as she has been a nightmare in the field recently: she keeps jumping out! I can't believe that a horse that's having trouble engaging the hind legs in trot can find it comfortable to jump over a fence that's at least 3 ft high! She has been in season (hence the escaping into a field with the boys!) and I haven't yet tried the hormone supplement that her old owner has said works well with her mother. Her mother also gets stiff in her pelvic muscles on the right hand side, so this might be the answer. I will see what the massage therapist says today and then possibly try that next.

I really thought we were back on track when I started riding her again recently. Never mind - we have plenty of time. She has not even had her fourth birthday yet - it's in a couple of weeks time.


Aced said...

i've been having hind end issues with my horse aswell (stifle "tweak" and arthritic hocks =[ ), and we've been practing the same things. I found with him that atleast one of my rides just needs to be a hack( so just a walk/trot/canter quick do-nothing no training type ride) or he shuts down.. which kinda sounds like what you've been describing

good luck! and i hope i could help!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I hope the massage therapist can shed some light on her problem, if not maybe a chiropractor could be useful.For now it all seems a mystery, it is so frustrating they just can't talk and tell you what is wrong.

Beckz said...

I can't help but add my two cents. She is very young and wont have the carrying capacity of an older horse especially after her time off. The development of resistance to the exercises is probably muscle soreness. Mix it up alot, lots of riding out, lunge her some days, have days were you work on trot poles or something.

Wiola said...

1) From my experience with hormonal mares this could be season related.

2) You may be overtaxing her, not necessairly with the precision you require but maybe with the amount of work?. It's hard to say without seeing her work and it might be that you are doing all the right things. However, personally, I would never lunge such a young horse on a circle smaller than 20m.
How long do you school her for? I would say that 20-25 minutes is right for a horse below 4 years.

I hope you will manage to get to the bottom of this problem!

dressagemom said...

I have known mares who get a follicle stuck in their ovaries while in season and it's very uncomfortable for them. Perhaps she has one stuck on one side so bending is difficult?

Echo said...

aced and beckz- I've come to that conclusion too - I need to vary the work more. When you really love schooling it can be hard to make yourself not do it!

grey horse - it's possible a chiropractor could help, although I had a mctimoney woman out before, which is similar to a chiropractor, and it didn't do much. We'll see though.

dressagemom - i'll look into the follicle idea. I've got her some 'hormonal mare' supplement to see if it will calm down the effects of her seasons, although she really doesn't get very mareish, so I'm not sure.

Wiola - I wouldn't normally lunge a horse on such a small circle, but I wanted to see whether she could do it. It seemed like she couldn't use her back legs properly, and I wanted to see if she could. I only kept her on the small circle for a few times round, then let her back out. I know that her joints and muscles will find this hard, so kept it short. I usually school for more than 30 minutes if there is something that needs putting right. I would never lunge for that long, but scholing wise it is usually nearer to 40 or 45 minutes. However, I spend a lot of time in walk in between harder work, practising leg-yielding and other movements, or just doing halt transitions to get her really listening to me.
You might be right though - perhaps this is too long. My problem is that I find it really hard to leave it if I haven't got her ging well. The perfectionist in me thinks that it would be giving up. I now have realised that I need much smaller goals and therefore will be able to keep the sessions shorter. I am going to mix up the work a lot more from now on. This will be easier when we are jumping, as it will give us another possibility.

Daily adventures while training my young horse.