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!

Daily adventures while training my young horse.