Monday, 5 November 2012

Quick Update

Just a quick note to let you know that Echo is doing really well after her surgery. She has had the staples out and is now going for short walks - about 7 minutes twice a day so far.

She actually doesn't seem to mind box rest too much. She's pretty bored and quite spooky out of her stable, but she is coping very well. She loves all the extra fuss she gets from being on the yard all day. She has multiple salt and mineral licks, as well as a treat ball that she kicks around her stable to find pony nuts that fall out. The yard owner has also been great about hiding carrots in her bed so she has to root around for them, so she has quite a lot to do.

We are still doing moderate versions of the yoga exercises too and she had physio last week to see if there was any residual soreness - she was quite sore in her back still, but this apparently eased off nicely during the treatment.

Over the next three weeks we will build up her walking to twenty minutes twice a day and then hopefully she should be in a position to be turned out in a small pen for a period each day.

What really sucks is that I am working away during the week now, so I can only see her at weekends. I hadn't really realised how hard I would find this, particularly with her being on box rest - I felt terrible leaving her on Sunday. But she is in a really great place and I trust the yard owner implicitly - she has known her since Echo was two years old, so she's pretty attached to her!

I'll try to get some photos at the weekend.

This photo was taken the day she arrived back from the vets - looks a bit dramatic!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


My goodness. It's been months. To cut a long story very short, Echo started getting sore in her back when being ridden - not in the saddle area but behind it - and the physio said she didn't look right behind again.

The vet came out, nerve blocked her again and said she was lame again in both suspensories - i.e. when he nerve blocked the right hind she showed lameness on the left. Having done shockwave and gradual reintroduction of work, as well as having given her a long time off in the past, the only real option was surgery.

So last night my amazing friend (and, incidentally, Echo's physio) drove her to the vets, so she could be stabled overnight and then be operated on this afternoon. I felt horrible leaving her there, but she had a lovely big stable, with company on either side and a full haynet, so I'm sure she wasn't too worried.

I've been a nervous wreck today, knowing how they operate on horses - she had a general anaesthetic and I was so worried. But I had a phonecall at about 6pm this evening to tell me that she was back on her feet and tucking into a haynet. They were pleased with how the surgery had gone and, all being well, she should be able to come home in a week.

She'll be on full box rest for two weeks, then box rest for a further six, with gradually increasing hand-walking over that time. After that she should be able to have restricted turnout and start building up the walking so that she can be ridden. The vet hopes that in four months, she should be in light to medium work. She'll be so bored, but I'm confident it was the right decision to make. She hates not working and it has been so stop-start over the last couple of years. Hopefully this will sort the problem and we can get back to full work again by next summer.

So fingers crossed, everyone, for the speedy recovery of her poor suspensory ligaments. Hopefully we should be back on track soon.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Just a quick post really as I am swamped with work. I was away for a few days last week and while I was gone Echo managed to pull one of her front shoes off. She had only just had them on! And with my farrier being on holiday, I had to get another farrier who was visiting the yard to put it back on again, as I didn't want to cause more problems by having her walking unlevel for a couple of weeks. It cost me £20! I was horrified - just to put a shoe back on! We had even found the shoe, so all he had to do was nail it back on.
Anyway. Also while I was away, Echo had physio, and Ella rang me afterwards and said that Echo was pretty sore on the left side of her back under the saddle area. She also had a bit of soreness at the back of the saddle on the right. She treated it and it loosened off well, but I really don't know what to do now.
I'm still not happy with this saddle. It just doesn't seem to sit right on her back and it pulls over to the right so easily. I rang the saddler, considering it's only been less than a month since she came out before, but she can't come and look at it for at least a week yet. I asked the physio if I should avoid riding her in it and she said it probably wouldn't hurt her too much to ride a couple of times, if the saddler can't come out straight away. So I have long-reined her mostly for the last few days and then yesterday took her out for a 25 minute hack. She was very stressy (and the tension won't have helped her back), although she hasn't been ridden for a week and a half, but once she calmed down she seemed ok. It's tough, riding in a saddle that I know is hurting her, but I don't know what to do. it doesn't seem like any saddle will ever fit her. We are now onto our 6th saddler, and it looks like she hasn't been able to make something fit either. It drives me mad!
One thing I do wonder about, is whether this soreness might just be normal. She hasn't had a saddle on consistently for nearly 18 months now and I reckon if I hadn't exercised for 18 months and then was expected to start again, I would be a bit sore. Perhaps I am asking her to work under saddle for too long at a time - we were just building up to 35 minutes of walk. Another suggestion from someone at the yard was to start trotting her under saddle too - as this will relieve the constant pressure that walking with a rider creates. I just don't know!
So tonight I did her yoga exercises and long-reined her. We are now up to 50 minutes, with between four and six stretches of trot, probably of about 30 seconds each. It's getting me pretty fit! I even put my cardio trainer app on my phone on today, to measure how far we go, and in 50 minutes, we walked 5.1km at an average speed of 6km per hour. I was going to go for a run afterwards, and decided I needn't bother! 50 minutes is quite a long time to be walking round a field, but with all the trotting and reining back, as well as going over poles, it doesn't get too boring. It was really hot and muggy tonight though, so she was a little lazy towards the end.
And so our circular issues go on. The physio spoke to my vet after treating Echo last week (it's very convenient that he also treats her horses and she sees him quite a lot). He said not to worry too much about the soreness in her back and to just try to sort the saddle issues (Ha!) but not think too much about whether the back pain could be linked to the suspensories. He will be coming to assess her again at the beginning of August and I really want to be up to an hour of ridden work by then, but I just can't see it happening. We will at least be up to an hour of long-reining with lots of trotting, so hopefully he will be able to see some improvement.

Friday, 15 June 2012


I long-reined Echo yesterday, as she had had a couple of days off after being shod. She looked great, although she was very lively! The temperature dropped by about 10 degrees really suddenly and the wind got up, making the trees sway and creak at the far end of the field we long-rein in. I decided to do the trot work fairly early on in the session, to try and tire her out a bit (and tire me out too - trotting on long-reins is exhausting!) which worked well - she was surprisingly calm in trot. Except one time, as we trotted away from the scary Echo-eating trees, she decided she would rather canter. I can't run that fast! She was fine, and I think she had thought that was what she was meant to do, as she came back to trot very willingly!

I think part of what made her a bit wound up was that the section of field at the far end has been fenced off since it was fertilised and now it's open again, the grass is really long and inviting. I had to keep whacking her on the quarters with the long-reins, to make her stop eating and walk on! Greedy pony! She was making me laugh a lot though, which is good. There was a time a few months ago, where her behaving like that would have scared me a bit. But because she is back to her old self in her temperament, the odd silly moment now just seems quite funny.

She's having a day off today because I'm super busy and it's blowing a gale outside. Looking at the forecast, I think I will long-rein her again tomorrow, then ride on Sunday. I'm happier long-reining when it's really windy, as I don't like her getting too tense under saddle - not because I think she'll do anything, but because I don't want her to get sore in her back, which she is quite susceptible to doing.

As I don't really have any more to report, I thought I would take an idea from Twitter for today. I don't use Twitter in a horsey capacity, but I really like the idea of the Follow Friday - so thought I would just share a couple of my favourite blogs that I think you should follow, if you don't already.

One of them is Cat's blog called A Young Horse's Tale, and is all about her young horse Wolfie, who reminds me a lot of Echo. I really identify with how she is training Wolfie and it's great fun to see them progress.

The other blog I have been reading a lot recently is One Friesian Sporthorse, One Percheron and One Donkey. Achieve One Dream, as she is know in the blogging world is training her young horse Chrome  using clicker training. This isn't something I have ever tried, but I love the way she documents her journey with Chrome and I thoroughly recommend you pop over and take a look.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Loving the hacking!

Echo enjoying a snack after her ride today. I think she thought she was in heaven!

Just a quick post, but couldn't resist telling you what a lovely ride I had this morning. The farrier was here and I wanted to ride before she was shod, as she was ever so slightly uncomfortable for a few hours afterwards last time. However, the really good thing about the farrier being here was that Rocky, the horse who terrorises us when we're out hacking, was up at the yard to be trimmed - so we could hack past their field in peace!

I went a little bit further today - probably more like 30-35 minutes and it includes really quite a steep hill. I have to admit, she really struggled to walk up the hill - there was one point she nearly stopped, as if to say 'I just can't do it!' It's clear she has absolutely no strength in her back end at all at the moment. But hopefully, if we keep doing it every couple of days or so, she should build up some strength soon.

The thing which pleases me most is how much she seems to be enjoying hacking out - we 've been going out alone, as I am super busy at the moment, so not really able to coordinate with someone in advance to hack together, but she seems to be loving it. She's relaxed and calm going out of the yard and today she didn't even mind when the pigs started leaping about, making a bizarre noise and trying to mount each other! She's fascinated, but there's no tension in her body.

The farrier was pleased too - said her shoes have worn evenly, and he had to do even less than last time to get the balance right today. So all good news!

Long may it all continue!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Anyone for a quiet hack!?

Things have been going pretty well. We are now up to 45 minutes long-reining (which is boring, but we are now doing some trot, rein-back and pole work on the long-reins, so it's not too bad) and 20 minutes ridden hacking.

Echo has been a bit spooky, but thankfully she is back to her old self in terms of how she spooks - when she was lame, she started spinning around or taking off, which I found scary because that wasn't like her at all. She still shies at things, but she just jumps, or stops dead - much more manageable!

I know I always moan about the hacking where we are - I know it looks beautiful, but it is full of scary Echo-eating monsters and so I thought I would make a little video on our hack tonight, to show you what I mean. Bear in mind it was 7.30pm on a Saturday evening, so usually there would be farm machinery all over the place too. Please excuse my rambling on...might not be very interesting, but I got quite carried away chatting to myself and the camera!

But I am pleased with how she is coming on. The physio is happy that she is getting more even in her muscles, although still some tension through her back which she works on every time she comes out. Long may the improvements continue!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Dare I mention saddles...again?!

Things have been progressing, slowly. After the vet's visit, we have upped the long-reining - we're now at 40mins walk per session, with a couple of short trots (I'm getting fit too!) and I rode her a couple of times bareback in the field too, which was good.

However, on Friday I had a new saddler come out and look at the saddle I got from Jane. It was interesting. She said the saddle is ok, but she said Echo is very uneven. It was quite refreshing, actually. She is the first saddler who has looked at my horse and said - 'yes, she's wonky, so we need to make the saddle fit her,' rather than telling me that it's best to have the saddle even and that will somehow make her even. It doesn't work, and I end up with a sore horse! She described Echo as 'cross-threaded', which is pretty perfect to explain her problems - she has a bigger right hip and left shoulder, and a smaller left hip and right shoulder, so she doesn't move straight through her body - a bit of a problem when it comes to saddles!

So she added some flocking to the right side, to 'fill the hole' behind her right wither - she has quite severe muscle atrophy there and this causes no end of problems with saddle fitting. She put it on her with no numnah, watched me ride in it and said it hadn't moved at all. She wants to see it again in about 6 weeks, after the vet has reassessed her and hopefully before we start building in canter work.

I went to an interesting lecture a couple of weeks ago by Gillian Higgins, who writes the 'Horses Inside Out' books and she explained (among many other things) that when a horse carries a rider, it has to hold its back muscles, rather like us sustaining a squat position for a prolonged period of time. this made me think, as Echo is so weak at the moment. I have, therefore, been only riding her for about 15 minutes at a time so far, and I will break this up with days of long-reining to keep checking her straightness and keep the longer periods of walk.

So I rode her in the field on Saturday for 10 minutes, which was good, then took her down the track for a 15 minute hack yesterday evening. I am trying really hard to believe that the saddle is ok, but it looks to me as if it is STILL twisting slightly to the right. The flocking was supposed to stop that happening. I wonder if I am putting the saddle too far forward...or back...I don't know. She felt a little bit sore on the left of her spine this morning - and when her saddle twists, it brings the left panel across so it sits painfully on her spine. I just don't understand it - it was FINE when the saddler was here!

I am going to long-rein tomorrow, and she is having physio hopefully on Wednesday, so she should be able to look at whether she's sore or not. Then...I don't know. I'll have a play with the placing of the saddle and see if that makes a difference. I also wonder whether it is me that's crooked and I pull the saddle to the right. Either way, it's so frustrating!

I have, however, been keeping up with the yoga and she is getting much better at it. The physio was also pleased when she watched her trot up a couple of weeks ago, saying she looked much more sound now and she isn't lifting her right hind higher than the left any more.

Here are the before and after photos from Saturday evening.

Before yoga - just snapped as she was standing:

After yoga - again, just taken as I saw her standing. Note how square and straight she is (except being a big poser for the camera!)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Sound...for now!

Well I wasn't expecting that.

The vet came out yesterday afternoon to reassess Echo. So far she has had three lots of shockwave treatment, two weeks apart, three lots of physio and two set of lateral extensions, as well as three weeks of long-reining and yoga. He watched her trot up on the concrete and felt along her back (where she is still quite sore). He then watched her lunge in the school and on the grass on both reins. She was rather excited to be on the lunge again after so long walking in straight lines so she had a bit of a buck and a charge around, but settled very quickly. And my goodness. The difference in her hindleg action is astounding. I had studied her movement so closely in the weeks leading up to first getting the vet out and yesterday she looked like a different horse. Whereas her hock action was jerky, with her snatching her hindlegs up each time - yesterday it was beautifully smooth.

He then watched her trot up on the concrete again and said that she was better after exercise than she was before, which apparently is a good thing. Her back soreness was also better after exercise, which, equally, is apparently a good thing.

The vet said that if I had called him out to assess her for the first time yesterday, he wouldn't have bothered nerve blocking her and would have said she's pretty much sound. When he first cam out, he said there was an obvious right-hind lameness and he could clearly see where he wanted to nerve block. So that's rather encouraging!

However, as the vet explained, we are not even half way there yet. She has shown as much improvement as we could ever have hoped for over the last 8 or 9 weeks - now he wants to see how she maintains that as she comes back into more work. He still doesn't want us to do any work in the arena, as he thinks that may well have contributed to her lameness originally; so we keep doing the straight line work, but he wants me to build her up to an hour of walk at least every other day, starting to introduce some trot after the first four or five weeks. I can vary this with long-reining and ridden work.

So we are back to the saddle fitting problems.

I don't want to ride her in the saddle I have until I am absolutely happy that it fits and is not going to make her sore. In the meantime, while we are still walking, I might ride her bareback - I have been long-reining her up and down a long paddock at the yard, so I may ride her bareback to begin with in there. I don't much fancy hacking out bareback, as she will undoubtedly spook...and I would either fall off or have to grip really hard - which doesn't exactly help!

I am going to try a new saddler that has been recommended. It's so difficult, because she is virtually impossible to fit a saddle to - her right shoulder is considerably smaller than her left and she has much more of a muscle atrophy behind her right wither, so saddles tend to twist, which is very uncomfortable for her. I am trying to get to the bottom of why this might be - I wouldn't be surprised if it is linked to the soreness she has in her right lumbar region too.

One thing that was quite interesting - I was asking the vet why he thought she had got this injury - cobs don't usually get hind suspensory injuries - it's much more common in big-moving dressage horses. I was trying to explore whether there might be anything in her pelvis or stifle causing her to load the suspensories. He said that her build of horse is designed to move with their hindlegs stuck out behind them, pulling themselves along. It's rare, he said, to find a horse of her type with movement like hers. She's also well schooled and will try to do what you ask of her, so if you ask her to sit back on her hindlegs like a dressage horses, she will try, even if it is not comfortable for her.

Just before I moved to Lincoln last year, I had several lessons with a dressage trainer who got Echo much more 'up' in front and sitting on her hind legs. I wonder whether this was too sudden a change - I was asking quite a lot more of her quite quickly. Perhaps that caused the suspensory problems...I don't know. I'm not sure what I think of what he said, because if I believe that entirely, it suggests that Echo will never be able to do dressage again, which would be sad. It's an interesting idea that some horses are more able mentally and in temperament, than they are physically to cope with the demands of what we ask them to do.

Perhaps I just need to take things slower with her - do more hacking and only (eventually) ask for more collection in short spells. I don't know. I guess first of all, I have to concentrate on keeping her sound as she comes back into work. The vet will come out again in eight weeks to have another look. I will build up her exercise, keep up the physio and the yoga and see how we get on.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Feet, physio and vets

It seems a bit silly to write this post now, as later on this afternoon Echo will be seeing the vet again, who will reassess her lameness and see if the shockwave treatment has had any effect. But there have been some improvements that I thought might get lost in today's events if I didn't write them down now!

I haven't been doing the yoga quite every day, but not far off - and I am quite pleased with the results. As my last post showed, she is standing much more square, much more frequently, which has to be a good thing. She quite enjoys the exercises, particularly the one where I hang off the end of her tail. She doesn't much like the butt tucks, but she is getting much more responsive in them - and the belly lifts. I've noticed that when I do the yoga then long-rein her, she is much straighter on the long-reins, which is interesting. She had physio last week and Ella said that she definitely feels a bit better - she's still a bit sore through her lumbar region on the right hand side, but it is more localised now and she was able to loosen it off fairly easily.

So that's good.

And the most interesting thing has been the developments with her feet. As you know, the first diagnosis of any problem was done by the farrier, who told me that her feet were very unlevel - each hind foot had about an inch's difference, as she was loading the outside of her feet. He assured me that it was down to poor shoeing when I was in Lincoln and that getting her feet level would solve the problem. He then worked with her for eight months before I got a vet and he confirmed she had suspensory damage that was probably causing the foot balance problem. The vet advised lateral extension shoes, and, knowing my farrier, I knew that he wouldn't be prepared to work with the vet on this. He had been treating her unlevel feet by putting a stud in the outside of each shoe to lift the outside heel. This didn't really do a lot, and I knew I had to listen to what the vet wanted to do, since I was going down the vet route.

So I changed to the farrier that shoes most of the horses at the yard; he's a really highly respected farrier round here and, more importantly, he phoned my vet personally, to discuss her feet and decide on a plan of action. He also knows Echo's physio, as he shoes her horses (which is a good sign, as she's REALLY fussy!) and last week, when they were both at the yard at the same time, they both watched her trot up and had a discussion about her lameness. Amazing.

And EVEN more importantly, having had lateral extensions on for the last six weeks, the outside of her hoof has now grown enough for him to get them pretty level. He said that the stud she had in, while he could see the logic, would have probably made things worse. Because it was protruding out beyond the shoe, it would strike the ground first and in fact concuss the heel, preventing it from growing. Also, as a stud's purpose is essentially to provide grip, having a stud in meant that any residual movement had to go up through the leg, which was why I was seeing such hideous twisting in her hocks as she walked. New farrier has brought her toe back, so that she is not sitting so much on her heels and when I have been long-reining I have seen a lot less twisting in the hocks - her walk is starting to look much straighter.

But none of this really matters if she is still lame. Which I think she is. She's much better in walk, but I can still see that she is holding her right hip higher than her left. In trot, I don't know what she looks like as I am always the one trotting her up, but Ella says she is still snatching the right hind higher when she trots. So I don't really know what is going to happen. I think the vet will probably suggest surgery on her suspensory ligaments, but I'm not sure whether I want to do this yet. I think he will have wanted me to work her a bit more before today, but I don't want to ride her at the moment because we still have all the unsolved saddle fitting issues and I REALLY don't need any additional problems right now. I don't really want to operate on her suspensories unless I know for sure that there isn't a higher up problem causing her to load the suspensories too much. It just seems weird that she would have chronic wear and tear - I can't help feeling that there might be something else going on.

So the vet is coming out this afternoon and I will hopefully know a little more then. There are lots of things to be pleased about though - this is the most relaxed she's been when out of work and stabled - I have her on a nupafeed calmer, which seems to have done the trick. She isn't a zombie and she's on a pretty low dosage, but it just seems to be keeping the edge off her.

Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

A little improvement?

I have a much more detailed post, telling you all about Echo's yoga, her shoeing and her physio (with some rather interesting developments...) but I just wanted to share this very blurry photo. Since doing the yoga with her, I am catching her standing like this a lot more - much more square behind than she has ever chosen to stand before. This is just how I saw her standing while eating her hay. I think she just looks more solid now when she stands. It's not all the time, but it's definitely more.
And right now, I'll take ANY sign of improvement as something to be over the moon about!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Echo does Yoga - Day 2

Echo was a little more grouchy this evening, but I persevered with the yoga and she was really good in the end. She really enjoyed the front leg stretches, but she doesn't like the 'butt tucks' very much at all, and without someone holding her, I can't get her to stand still and hold the stretch. We did get some good stretches though - here are the photos. Before:
We then did 15 minutes long-reining and she was starting to relax much more - until it started hailing! This was taken just before - you can just about make out the rainbow by her right ear!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Echo does yoga - Day 1

Two posts in two days!? I spent all afternoon with Echo and it was really lovely. It was nice to spend a bit of time at the yard - I always seem to be rushing somewhere else at the moment and today it was just Echo time.

I started off giving her a bit of a groom as she had got filthy in the field, and then got rained on. Then I took a photo from each side. The idea is that I will take photos as regularly as I can to see if the yoga is having any effect on her body shape.

And here she is from the other side:

There is nothing major to see here, although on that video I posted yesterday April Battles talks about how a comfortable horse should naturally stand square. I find it nearly impossible to get Echo to stand square, and she certainly doesn't do it of her own accord. You can also sort of see some of the muscle wastage on the right side of her body.

So - the first exercise I did was the one where you lift a front leg and bring it across the other one and encourage the stretch right through the shoulder and withers. She really enjoyed this - she found it a little more difficult to bring the right leg across the left one, but once she let the stretch really work, she enjoyed it and stood with her front legs crossed for a minute on each side. We then did carrot stretches (although she is used to these, followed by a tail pull. I had to pull her tail from side to side to get her to stand square (although this didn't really work that well) then once she was square, I got hold of the end of her tail and pulled fairly hard - with most of my weight - at the angle that the tail comes out of the body.

This movement is designed to stretch the lumbar region and this is where Echo was really sore when we first noticed her feet being unlevel. She let me do this once she worked out what I was after and really pulled against me, meaning that the stretch was more effective. The next stretch was more uncomfortable for her - a series of what April Battles calls 'Butt tucks' (!) followed by belly lifts. I had to find the spot on her quarters that gets her to reflex through all the muscles along her back. She was quite resistant to this on the right side, which makes sense given the muscle wastage there. Once she had pulled through the back, I then lifted her back from under her belly. I wish I had taken a photo after this, as it was fascinating. Her back looked a totally different shape after doing this. I will definitely try to get a photo at this point tomorrow.

Having loosened her up, I then took her into one of the paddocks to have a go at long-reining. She has been long-reined twice, although never by me, and she hasn't done any exercise for nearly two months now. I had bought some shiny new long reins and started by just leading her in hand. She was ok, but she doesn't totally understand hand-walking - she gets a bit competitive about getting in front of me.

So I just put her straight onto the long reins and got on with it. And she was great! She plodded along happily. What was interesting, was what I could see from being directly behind her and watching her walk. There is something very strange still going on with her back end. If I can get some video one day next week I will, as it is very odd. also, her right hip is much higher than her left as she walks. It's a bit exaggerated in this photo due to the stride she is on, but it is definitely held higher in walk.

This might become a rather familiar view over the next few weeks!

I had an interesting chat with a girl at the yard just before I left, whose horse has had many many problems, and I got talking about my thoughts on Echo's injury. I will write more about this when I have thought things through a bit more, but she has a sort of physio person working on her horse who I am very interested in...but as I said - more about that later!

I think Echo enjoyed her yoga today though - this is how she was when I left her this evening!

Friday, 13 April 2012

A few things on my mind

It has now been six weeks since Echo first started having the vet look
into her lameness. She has had three doses of shock wave treatment and has been
turned out every day, but has done no more exercise than that. She now has
lateral extensions on her hind feet, at the recommendation of the vet, and is
starting to look like she is moving a little better behind.

She has also had two physio treatments; in the first, the physio found
she was very sore on her right side (the right hind suspensory is the more
damaged) and she loosened that off quite carefully. She came out to treat her
again on Wednesday and found that she is still sore on the right side, although
this is now much more localised.

However, the physio watched her trot up and didn't really think there
was much improvement in terms of her lameness. I think this suspensory injury
has probably been the problem all along, which means that it is pretty
deep-rooted. She has had a good deal of rest over the last year and that
doesn't seem to have worked. I am mulling over the possibility of surgery,
although I will wait for the vet to reassess her before I make any decisions.
However, I have been thinking over the last few days about a slightly
more...holistic approach to her problems.

Some of the people at my yard have become very interested in a lady
called April Battles, and I have spent a long time this evening watching her
videos on youtube. It really is fascinating. I haven't completely got my head
around it yet, but she seems to suggest that a lot of hind end problems start
off further forward and that problems in the first eight ribs, where we think
of as being the horse's shoulder, can be the root of many hind lamenesses. I
can't explain it really without getting it wrong, but the thing that is really
interesting is her 'Yoga for horses', which she uses as both a diagnostic tool
and a treatment. It involves releasing the horse through the areas that will
often be tight and the areas that cannot be loosened by any kind of surface

Here is the long video - it's really really long but well worth watching if you have time.

Now, I know Echo's problem is medical and will need fixing, but I can't
help feeling that I am going to have to do a bit more if I am going to get her
sound again. I have been watching videos from my lesson a couple of months ago
and really looking at the whole of her body and how she is moving and I know
it's easy to tell with hindsight, but she looks terrible! I could hardly watch.

So, I am planning to do the yoga stretches in April Battles's video
every day for a month. I will take some photos along the way so you (and I) can
see if there has been any improvement. Everyone at the yard who has been doing
these has said that it really is working. In the longer video, she talks about
measuring the horse from the centre of the poll to each corner of the mouth - I
am quite interested in this, as Echo's bridle always looks a little odd - I
wonder whether (as April Battles suggests is the case with lots of horses) she
has different lengths. I am also thinking of getting her a new bridle. Perhaps
I am going soft, having been out of the dressage world for so long, but I am
struggling in my mind to justify my clencher noseband and fairly tight fitting
bridle. Echo's comfort has to be my priority and so I shall look into better

I've been having a careful think about the whole blogging thing, and as
I really enjoy writing about our (lack of?) progress, I will keep doing it. I
have been a bit put off writing on the internet in general recently, as it has
been evident that people's agendas for reading are not always that positive. I
think, with blogging, you need to feel that you can write what you want to
write - when it seems like you can't, it becomes a less pleasant experience.
I'm aware that I sound a little cryptic and that explanation was rather convoluted...but
I was just feeling a bit 'on show' in the very public world of blogging -
people can be rather judgemental and in the horse world everyone has different
opinions on how things should be done.

I don't claim that what I am doing is right - in fact, I will often ask
for advice from all of you, as I regularly don't really know what to do... I
have learnt a lot over the years from reading other blogs and asking questions.
I really hope that if someone has any queries about what I'm doing they would ask
- either in person if they know me, or via the comments section on here. I
moderate comments, only because the internet is a funny place and, hiding
behind the cloak of anonymity, people can say some mean things. In the end, we
are all just trying to do the best by the horses that we love.

I don't know if I've fully made the point that I intended to...but
enough of that.

Tomorrow we start the yoga and we start long-reining - so I will
endeavour to take photos and tell you all about it.

These are the exercises I will be working on with her for the next 30 days.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Suspensory fun

Sorry about not following up the last post about Echo's lameness. I have been feeling a little undecided about the future of this blog and writing on the internet in general...but that's another story.

Echo had another session of nerve blocking and we determined that it was definitely in the low hock area on both hind legs, but she had no improvement when the joint was blocked. The vet was pretty sure it was suspensories, so he scanned both hindlegs and, sure enough, the suspensory ligament right up at the top, near the hock, was inflamed on both. The right leg suspensory was bigger than the left, hence the increased lameness on the right hind, but both were fairly large and grainy on the scan.

The vet said that it isn't a specific tear, but wear and tear of the ligament. Its official name is apparently 'Chronic proximal suspensory desmitis'. He said that surgery is an option, but he wants to try using shockwave therapy and controlled exercise first, then if that shows no improvement we can consider surgery. This seems like a good idea - I was really worried about the prospect of box rest and, this way, she could keep on going out in the field for now.

I've been going over and over the last year's events, trying to work out when this could have started, but it's really hard to tell. It could be as long ago as October 2010, just after I moved to Lincoln, when she first started going badly and I found that the saddle didn't fit. It could have happened charging around in the field when she was in could have been the feet being imbalanced that put too much strain on the ligaments...or it could have been the ligaments being sore that made her load the outside of her feet, causing the feet to be imbalanced. It's pretty impossible to tell.

So, for now, we are doing...not a lot. She has had two lots of shockwave treatment, two weeks apart, and has spent her days munching hay in the field. It's been good that the weather has been nice, as she's been pretty relaxed and chilled. She can get a little strong going to the field, but once she's there she doesn't run around or anything. I think, if she did, we would probably have to restrict her grazing to a small pen - but I didn't opt for this as she is better off keeping moving- the shockwave treatment is designed to stimulate blood flow and cell growth in the damaged area, so moving about is good for it.

Sh has her last session of shockwave tomorrow, followed by two more weeks of turnout, then hopefully the vet will re-scan the ligaments and we can go from there. If there is a significant improvement, we will be able to start working her - in walk and in straight lines. Although the vet said this could be ridden, I think I would start off with long reining her in one of the long paddocks. She won't be able to go on an arena surface for a long time, but I wouldn't want to take her out to begin with, as she can be really spooky and I wouldn't want to waste all the progress. If we long-rein, there is also more of a chance of building up the muscles more evenly, as her right side is much less muscled than her left at the moment. I have a feeling that if I were to put a saddle on her as she is, it would just sit wonky and make everything worse. Not to mention how utterly impossible it is to find a saddle that fits my horse.

So that's where we are! We'll keep plodding on and see how it goes. Luckily, Echo doesn't seem to mind all the time off - we've had no breakages or naughtiness and she's enjoying doing all the carrot stretches that the physio has recommended. She's having more physio next week to keep her comfortable and so I'm pretty confident. Or at least trying to be!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Vet Route

Having fiddled around for a while now, trying to make Echo more comfortable, things took a rather different turn this week. One of my best friends is an equine physiotherapist and came on Monday morning to have a quick look at Echo. She wasn't going to treat her, just have a look. She knows her pretty well and has known her since she was a yearling, so I trust her judgement.

She had a feel along her back and said she was quite sore from the 9th vertebrae back, and that something was not feeling right in her right hind - that there was a lot less muscle in the main groups of the right hind in comparison to the left. She then watched her on the lunge. Recently, Echo has been doing a weird hop up into trot on the lunge - unwilling to push off her right hind. It isn't so noticeable when she's ridden, but on the lunge it looks awful. She pushes off the left, then sort of hops on her right hind, seeming to not want to bring it right under.

Ella watched her on both reins and said that she was really unhappy with her right hind and she would recommend getting a vet to look at her. She said that if she was asked to make the call whether the horse was lame or not, she would say she is lame. Marvellous.

So I called the vet that she recommended and he came out yesterday. He performed flexion tests on both hinds, watching her trot up, and said she is definitely lame on the right hind. He said also that the flexion test affected the left hind too. He then watched her on the lunge in the school and on grass, then watched her trot up again, and said she was worse after work.

He nerve blocked just above her fetlock on the right, and she showed no different. She didn't think much of being injected, and nor did I. I forgot how squeamish and affected by needles I am - I nearly passed out, as I stupidly watched him inject her!

He then nerve blocked the top of the suspensory area / base of the hock in the right hind and she was much better. However, when she was better on the right, she showed some lameness on the left. He didn't have time to do any more yesterday, but is coming out again tomorrow and wants to block the hock joint, to see whether that makes any more of a difference than we achieved yesterday. He told me to ride her as normal today, so that he isn't seeing her after having a few days off. That was really tough. It's one thing riding a horse that you're not sure is sound, but riding a horse that you know is lame is really upsetting. She was very good, but of course I could feel her lameness every step now that I KNOW it's there!

Last night, I stupidly did lots of reading on some of the possibilities that he was discussing. I read about high suspensory injuries, about arthritic changes and about spavins in the hocks. And all of them sound horrible and terrifying. She is insured, so I will get her fully sorted out, but the idea of months of boxrest with a horse that a) gets frustrated when she has more than a few days off, b) gets cross when she's left in longer than the other horses and c) has a habit of jumping out of her stable when she decides she's had enough of being in there, is, quite frankly, hideous. I had a brief chat with Lyn, the yard owner this morning, who said that she is sure we would be able to work something out with a small pen in one of the fields for her to go in.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I don't even know what it is yet. Something deep down, some instinct - that may well be wrong - is telling me it's a suspensory injury, probably in both hinds, but I am obviously hoping it is something easier to treat than this. I should know more by tomorrow, but in the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for her.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Not quite as I'd hoped

Today I had a lesson with Jane. It was...interesting. She is happy with the saddle and it does seem to fit well, although I now no longer have any idea whether saddles fit or not. I lunged Echo for five minutes before the lesson and she was great - no crazy galloping or anything. When Jane arrived, I tacked up and got on.
As I said yesterday, she has been starting to overbend in trot and she's never done this before. It's only been in the last couple of weeks that she's done it. It ties in with the Bowen lady saying she was really tight around her withers.
I am finding it hard to know what to say about the lesson. She trained with Phillippe Karl and I have only a limited knowledge of what he does. She was getting me to lift Echo's head up, then ask her to flex, so that her head carriage was much higher. I'm not totally convinced by this, although it did seem to combat some of the overbending problems. I did find it made her a bit stuffy in her wither area though, as if she was finding it harder to walk. She said not to worry about the angle of her head too much - we just want to get her neck coming out of her shoulders at a better angle.
In walk, this was ok - we did lots of halt transitions, and they did get better and lighter in front. However, in trot, the overbending got worse and worse. She had us racing around at a great speed, trying to lift her head up, so that she could bring her hindlegs more under her...but it didn't really work like that. I felt like I had nothing in my hands at all - I just couldn't get her to stretch forward at all. Towards the end it got a bit better and my hands were nearly at her ears, but it didn't feel like it used to.
I can't work out what it is that made me not enjoy the lesson. Echo has gone much much better in the past and I didn't really agree with her method. She also kept telling me that the reason she is so overbent is because of the way she has been trained, from the hand first. If you've read this blog before, you'll know that I have trained her myself and I really don't hold the front in. There is a lot to improve in my riding, but she was going really well before her year off, so I can't really accept that. She was talking to me as if I didn't know that a horse needs to work through from behind...which was a bit odd.
In addition, she charged nearly twice what I was expecting (moral of the story - always ask how much a lesson will be before booking it!) and I could have had a lesson with Carl Hester for that price! But the saddle is good. I think. But then when I said I wanted to buy it but would have to sell my saddle first, she got a bit funny. She said she knows someone who might like it, but she would sell it for £50 less than the one I am buying, and then she'll take 20% commission. When I said I would rather sell it myself on ebay, as I can't afford that, she said she wouldn't let me borrow the one that fits unless she sells my saddle for me. I was really shocked - she's got me in a really difficult position, because I really want this saddle and want to be able to keep the work going now, so I need to hang on to it. So I have to let her sell it, and pay over £100 that I don't have.
I feel really disappointed. Not only was it a bit of a rubbish lesson that cost me a fortune, it's going to cost me loads to get the saddle.
Right - here are the photos and video. The video isn't great, as the camera goes out of focus when it zooms in and out and you can hear the zoom mechanism working...but hopefully it will illustrate some of our issues.
This was in walk near the beginning:
This one shows (rather exaggerated) the overbending problem!
Nothing on the end of my reins!!
This isn't too bad, but it was quite near the beginning of the lesson. Am struggling to upload videos so for now, click on this link:

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tears, tantrums and...tentative progress!

Since my despairing last post, things came to a bit of a head, then got rather suddenly better. I am so grateful for all of your suggestions about what the problem might be. Lots of people queried what food she gets, and I had a chat with the yard manager about this, but found that she is still only getting a scoop of chaff (without molasses) and a bit of water three times a day. She has a supplement called Digest Plus, made by Baileys, which is a prebiotic and supposed to stop ulcers. She has a big pile of haylage in the field during the day, and then hay twice in her stable - once when she comes in and once at about 8pm. She was getting half hay and half haylage in her stable, but I've asked if she can have just hay to see whether the sugar in the haylage is having an effect.

Having written that last post, a friend at the yard had an instructor in to help her find a saddle and start giving her some lessons. She has been looking for a more suitable saddle for Echo but I didn't hold out too much hope - she seems to be so hard to fit! My friend said she didn't mind sharing the school, so I decided to lunge Echo while they were fiddling around with saddles at the other end. I took her into the school and Jane, the instructor, asked how I was getting on. So I promptly burst into tears. It really annoys me, but this is my reaction to everything at the moment - what an idiot! I think Jane took pity on me, so I explained how I was feeling a bit nervous of her and she said to just lunge it out of her. I wasn't supposed to lunge, as she had had another Bowen session, but it had got to the stage where I thought I would rather be safe, and hacking her out in straight lines in walk didn't feel safe (or very productive as she spent a fair amount of time cantering sideways with her head in the air - hardly the relaxed long and low it was supposed to be!)

I was worried about lunging her, as last time she had gone so crazy that I had to stop - I thought she was going to hurt herself. Having Jane there made me a bit more confident, so I put her on a circle and she promptly galloped flat out - in that really ugly two feet at a time gallop - dragging me in a huge circle and getting faster and faster. This was the point where I previously would have stopped her, but with lots of encouraging shouts from Jane at the other end of the school, I kept going. It was as if a switch flicked. She suddenly stopped galloping, put her head down and trotted quietly. Five minutes of craziness had returned my horse to me.

Jane had a look at her and thought she might have a saddle that would fit her - it's a dressage saddle made by Lovett and Ricketts - not a particularly grand make, but it fits! It sits nicely behind her (enormous) shoulders and seems to fit the odd shape of her back. Jane had a look at me lunging her in it and was happy that it didn't move and sat in good balance. She is a HUGE perfectionist and won't accept a saddle if it isn't perfect, and she was happy with this on Echo. I think I had worried her, so she asked if I wanted her to lunge me on Echo, but she was like a different horse - back to the Echo that I know and love, so I was happy to just get on and ride.
She felt good - she could move through her shoulder and seemed much happier. She was obviously also knackered from all the galloping, so that helped!

I was so so relieved. I know it's only a small step, but knowing that my horse is in there somewhere was a huge relief.

Jane said I could borrow the saddle for a while and then have a lesson to see whether it's working for us. I was planning to work her as much as possible that week, but then it snowed and the arena was totally out of action for over a week. Yesterday was the first day I was able to ride and I knew I would have to lunge her again first. I don't want to have to lunge every time, but as she had had 10 days off, I thought it would do us both good. She did gallop a bit, but not as wildly and not for as long, so that seems like a positive step. I put the saddle on and got on - and she was great! It was really windy and there are tall trees by the school that hide nasty horse-eating monsters, but Echo didn't notice them at all. She went very well - we walked and trotted on both reins and did a bit of leg yielding in walk. It's interesting actually - for the first time in months, she was happy to leg yield to the right - really happy.

If I am being fussy, she did feel very overbent, and in her last Bowen session she was really blocked behind her withers - although all the tension had gone from her hind legs, which, given all the foot balance issues, is remarkable. Teresa, the Bowen specialist, said I should work on getting her properly long and low, not tucking her nose in. I wondered whether it was her bit, as I had in the last few months changed to a fairly thin loose ring sweet iron snaffle with a central lozenge. She found it strange at first, so I wondered whether she was still not keen on it. I have put her back in the loose ring single jointed snaffle that she always had in the past, but she is still overbending and not really taking the contact forwards. Early days though.

I was hoping to ride today but work commitments stopped me; tomorrow I am having a lesson with Jane and I am really really looking forward to it. I will try to get someone to either take some photos or some video for me to upload.

I have also possible found someone to ride Echo for me a couple of days a week, so that she can get some rather more consistent exercise. She's a teenager whose horse has fractured his pedal bone and her has months of box rest ahead. She's a tidy rider and is keen to have some lessons, so it could work out very well for all of us...I'll let you know how she gets on!

I will try to update my blog more regularly now, as I know I have a lot of very kind, loyal followers who would love to hear more regularly how Echo is getting on. I have just got a new laptop after months of a terrible old one that could barely do anything on the internet. It has been driving me mad and made me so reluctant to even switch it on! But this one is fabulous. So I will do my best.

But your loyalty and interest is very much appreciated.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


Ok. I have been putting off writing a post for a while, as things haven't really been easy. It must seem like all I ever write about are problems, but that's sort of how it feels at the moment.

The saddle has been...ok. I don't think it's perfect - she has moments where she feels great, and moments where she feels like she is really uncomfortable with it on. Her feet are also ok. Not great yet, but improving - these things take time. And lots of it.

The day before I went up to see my family for Christmas, I rode Echo in the school - we had been doing quite a bit of riding and hacking - mostly in walk, but she had been really good. I rode her in the school on this day and she was great. I was just about to get off, when she shied really violently. I don't know what spooked her, but it got some of the other horses in the fields around too. I let her listen and look for a moment, but it was nothing, so I rode her in a circle, taking her past that place again. She shied even more violently that time and went totally rigid underneath me.

Since I was about to finish anyway and there was a really novice rider in the school, I thought it best to get off. She is normally fine to lead after spooking, so I went to lead her across the school to the gate and she reared, and started bouncing off all four feet at once. Echo has NEVER reared - ever. I stood her still, spoke to her, tried to calm her down, then went to walk off again - and she did it again, then cantered sideways all the way to the gate. I was quite scared to be honest - that was not my horse at all. I got her out of the gate, thinking that she would calm down then, but she did it again, this time rearing at me with her front feet. I had to let go of her, as I only had her reins to hang on to and her feet were coming too close to my face. But then I envisioned her causing havoc on the yard so I launched in and grabbed her reins. A guy at the yard who had just been long-reining his horse ran over and took hold of her, and put a lunge line on her.

She calmed down pretty quickly, but I had been really scared - this really isn't like her at all. I know she's had lots of time off, but the whole time she was out of work when I was living with my parents, I trusted her completely - thought I knew every reaction she has in her - I've had her since she was a yearling for goodness' sake!

The worst thing was that I then had to leave her for over a week and couldn't sort out whatever was wrong.

When I got back, I lunged her a couple of times - the first time she went crazy - probably to be expected, although she's never really been crazy on the lunge before. The second time she was great - really calm - and then the third time she was totally wild and I had to stop, for fear that she would hurt herself.

Despite the fact that her saddle has only just been fitted for her, someone at the yard was a different person out to get their horse a saddle. Although not a saddler, this woman is a BHSI and apparently (according to lots of people, including my farrier) is amazing at fitting saddles. I just asked if she would take a look at Echo's and she immediately said 'well, that doesn't fit at all.' She explained that Echo has quite a shaped back and modern dressage saddles all have flat panels - it will be putting pressure on her lumbar region (where she gets sore) and digging into her shoulders. It does make sense. But I could have cried.

So...she is looking out for a saddle that she thinks will fit her better. In the meantime - I didn't know what to do. I started off not riding, then got a Bowen specialist out to treat Echo's back. This is someone that a good friend of mine has been badgering me to try for a while, and it does seem like it's done something. She was really tight through her lumbar region, but when the Bowen specialist, Teresa, had a look at the saddle - guess what! She didn't think my saddle is that bad a fit.

I decided that if she thinks it's ok, I would start riding her again gently in the saddle that I have and see what happens. If the BHSI finds me a different one, I will happily try it.

After the Bowen therapy, I was advised to only ride her in straight lines for a few days, so no school work. Great - particularly when I have a horse that I have suddenly become rather a lot more nervous of and which hasn't been ridden since before Christmas. But, I didn't want to waste my money by doing the wrong thing, so I dutifully hacked out, on what was possibly the most stressful hack I've ever been on. We saw everything that we could possibly not want to see: a huge field of pigs, all standing right by the track, who decided - all 60 of them - to bolt away from us as we rode past; a giant turf lorry hurtling towards us on the track; a truck pulling a bouncing flat-bed trailer appearing beside us out of nowhere.

Echo was very good, in fairness to her. She was scared of the pigs, but that's understandable. It just wasn't very calm. I then went out with someone else two days later and it was just as eventful; I had to get off her at one point to get her past a huge tap by a reservoir that was hissing madly and spurting out water - she probably would have been ok, but she wanted to give it a wide berth by going onto a turf field - and the farmers charge you by the hoof print for that!

I rode in the school on Sunday, in what can only be described as a gale, and then hacked out today. It was much calmer out - except that Echo felt like a coiled spring and spent the first 20 minutes pretty much passaging along - feeling like she was totally solid through her back and neck and not listening to me at all. She calmed downeventually and we did do some trotting today, so that was really good.

It WAS a really positive ride today, but I am just finding this all so stressful at the moment. I feel like I don't know my horse at the moment and it's making me nervous. I've never been nervous on Echo - not even when I backed her. She's just really unpredictable at the moment and it's really, really upsetting me.

Perhaps it's the saddle. If she is still uncomfortable, that does seem to have a huge impact on her temperament. I know she's had loads of time off and it will take time, but I don't feel like I'm making things any better at the moment and I don't really know what to do.

She's having another Bowen session hopefully at the weekend, which will be interesting, as if she's tight again then I will know that something is wrong - she'll have been ridden about five times since the last treatment by then, so if the tightness has come back then I'm guessing there must be a reason for it.

In the meantime, any words of advice or encouragement would be gratefully received - 'cos I don't really know what the hell I'm doing right now.

Daily adventures while training my young horse.