Monday, 22 November 2010

Horses' Backs - pain in the back(side).

Oh dear…it’s been a while again. Sorry about this. Things should be a little more on track from now on! I have started my Master’s and am absolutely loving it – it’s fabulous to be learning again and having had five years as a teacher, as you can imagine, I have become a real swot! The course is varied and intense but I am still getting plenty of time to spend with Echo, which is great.

Echo has got used to being a field horse – she’s grown a huge furry winter coat and is looking pretty rough around the edges. However, the stables that my parents are building are NEARLY finished and so hopefully she will start coming in at night before the really bad weather kicks in. I am really struggling for money, so hoping to use some really economical bedding, possibly Megazorb, which is supposed to need minimal mucking out on a day to day basis and confines the wet patch to a really small area. We’ll see how this goes!

I think in my last post I may have jinxed things in terms of riding. When I first moved up here, Echo was going fabulously. However, things started to go steadily downhill, mostly in terms of her behaviour – she got a bit nappy – spooking a lot and running away from under me at the slightest thing. I was really confused, as this is not like Echo at all. I always check her over when I groom and tack up, but she started to get more and more difficult about her back. It was odd – to begin with it was barely noticeable, then after a while she was obviously very sore.

The lady who keeps a horse with Echo is a back specialist, so I got her to take a look and she said she was very uncomfortable and it would be worth getting a saddler to look at her saddle. AGAIN!!! After all the stress I went through less than a year ago, the saddle appears to not fit. I found a master saddler and sure enough, she said the saddle doesn’t fit. What is more worrying is that she didn’t see how it could ever have really fitted. It’s apparently too narrow between the panels. Echo has uneven shoulders (so I learnt) and she also has a tendency to push the saddle forwards onto these uneven shoulders. When this happens, the saddle then apparently twists, putting pressure on one side of her back. It also puts added pressure on the back of the saddle, as it is becoming too high in front.

The saddler watched me ride in my saddle and it was awful – Echo was totally lame – she couldn’t even trot. That was the worst she had ever been – I felt I had to promise the saddler that I hadn’t just been riding her like that! She recommended I have her back treated again, then give her a few days off and she would come out again bringing some saddles that she thought would fit. When she did, she pulled out this absolutely beautiful saddle. Typical! It was brand new and I nearly melted over it. Sure enough, she put it on her and it stayed nice and low in front and was held in place by a point strap. When I rode in it, Echo felt soft and forward and lovely. Her neck was able to bend in both directions and I suddenly realised how bad things had got – that’s the problem when you ride a horse all the time – changes happen gradually so that you don’t really notice.

The problem? This saddle is £925. I don’t have £925.

The saddler left me to think about it and I thought a lot. I had pretty much decided to just buy it on my credit card and pay it back when I could, but then I lunged Echo a couple of days later. She looked fine when she was free, but when I put side reins on, she went crazy, running and spooking and getting really upset and unreasonable, rather like she had been the last couple of times I’d ridden her. I didn’t see how it could be her back, as she’d had time off and been treated. Next avenue of thought – teeth. She was due to have her teeth done anyway and my friend suggested that rather than getting a vet as I always have before, to try her horse’s dentist.

I’ll write a separate post about the dentist, as it was a fascinating experience, but the short version is that her teeth had never been properly rasped at the back. Ever. The back teeth were like razor blades and had caused huge amounts of muscle tension in her poll, which is likely to have been causing her a lot of discomfort. Now how bad do I feel!? The dentist recommended that I get a new bit, one with a lozenge in the middle, as she has a fleshy mouth and a big tongue; she thinks that that might help.

So where to go from here? She has had a week off after the dentist, and tomorrow I plan to lunge her very gently in a headcollar to see how she looks. If she still looks uncomfortable, I have a vet coming to vaccinate her on Friday and I may start some investigation into what the problem might be. I will also get the back lady to check her over again and see how her back is doing now that she has had her teeth done and her mouth shouldn’t be as sore. So for the moment, I can’t even think about saddles. I am half looking out for an Ideal Jessica, as the saddler said that was the only other type of saddle that she could see fitting her. Perhaps I should ride her bareback for a while. Any opinions on that? I’m not convinced by riding bareback – does it harm a horse’s back? Would be interested in your views.

Daily adventures while training my young horse.