There really is nothing like horses for bringing you back to earth with a thump. I had a fantastic summer - both travelling and then with Echo, winning the dressage series, competing in our first tiny showjumping competition, and gaining a lot of confidence hacking out together on our own. I have many plans for the autumn and winter - a dressage lesson with a Portuguese rider, cross country schooling, perhaps a couple of winter dressage competitions... But Echo isn't quite right.
She had just under a week off while I went back to school and was insanely busy - then when I rode her next time she just felt a little odd. She still worked hard, but didn't feel as if she had the power in her back end at all and i couldn't get her to lift her front end whatsoever. We had been getting much much better at this, so I was a little surprised. When I asked her to leg yield on the right rein, she dropped my contact, contracted her neck and found it really difficult to move sideways. Not good.
I got off and lunged her, so that I could have a decent look at how she was moving. I couldn't really see anything wrong in her movement, but she was having trouble pushing off into trot from her left hind. The yard manager had a look at her back and thought it felt rather sore, but he was really digging, and when I ran my hand along her back she didn't react at all. He also pointed out that the grease on her numnah was rather unevenly distributed. I had been planning to get the saddler out for a while, so this made sense.
I gave her a week off, just in the field, hoping that this would help, then got my instructor, John, to have a look at her on Friday. I explained the transition thing in the left hind, but...as you'd expect...she didn't really do it then! He said that she looked fine behind, but was very tight high up in her left shoulder, and this is preventing her from moving correctly. He felt up and down her back and shoulders and said that her shoulder was rock solid and that was causing tension and soreness further down the back. He said that I should get her treated by a physio, then get her saddle checked. In the mean time, he suggested that I lunge her in a chambon for a few days, then ride her with more bulk under the saddle.
I don't have a chambon, so I decided to lunge her on Saturday just to have another look. It seemed to me that she was struggling with the left hind again. So difficult!! With my very limited knowledge of the horse's anatomy, it seems as if there is something not right in the stifle. However, it doesn't seem to bother her except for the transition into trot. I have no idea whether this might be being caused by the saddle and the shoulder tightness, or whether it's something different altogether.
It does make sense that her shoulders would be sore - I have been asking her to carry herself in a much more uphill position, and if her saddle is tight at the front, which the grease marks would suggest it is, then this would probably accentuate the problem. Also, we have been jumping more, which is probably putting more pressure on this part of the saddle. She has had that saddle for a year now, and has definitely changed shape, so the chances are that this is causing her some pain. It's infuriating that you have to wait until your horse is in pain to know these things though. The saddle looks to me like a pretty good fit, but then I have always been bad at judging this!
So - where to go next? I am going to rest her for another week, as I can't get the sports massage therapist that I use out for a few days. I will get her treated and those muscles eased off, then get the saddler to come and look at the fit of her saddle (fingers crossed it just needs a few adjustments...) and if she still doesn't look right behind, after all that, I will get a vet and see if we can look into the problem a little more closely. Since it doesn't seem to be causing her pain in general, and it is possible that its related to the saddle, I think its best that I get these things sorted first - sort of trial and error I suppose!
In a selfish way, it's much better that it is happening now, as I'm back at school and I have very little time during the week to ride. It is, however, very annoying, as we were just getting going after the long break at the beginning of the summer.
Fingers crossed that it will all be sorted by a massage and a saddle tweak - I'll keep you posted about how we get on!