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.


Anonymous said...

Glad she seems to be improving! You might want to consider getting a saddle pad with shims so you could adjust the fit on each side and at the front and back. We have Mattes and Thinline pads over here - don't know what brands you have available.

Suzie said...

Thank you - it is a huge relief. I'll look into saddle pads with shims - I know you can get them here, just not sure where. I'll investigate, as that might be the way to get round her problems.

Wiola said...

That's fabulous news! :)
I don't know about Echo but one top dressage trainer once told me the same as your vet told you: that some horses' conformation and built will make them sore if certain type of work is asked.
However, I think if we go by traditional dressage principles, where you move slowly and let the horse build strength progressively then my feeling is, the work should not make them unsound. Some of Olympic dressage horses from 30 years ago were hardly an uphill built-hindlegs-under-belly button type...
When you feel she's ready I would definitely look into some classical trainer in the area who doesn't push for quick results.

Re saddles: as you know Kingsley had similar issues with saddle fitting and eventually we got him a jumping saddle on a synthetic tree and flexible panels (second hand Vega Equippe by Amerigo). I also rode in slightly odd type saddles used for rehab a lot at Rockley Farm:

Re shoulders - I am told me a lot of shoulder issues and imbalance/soreness of the back stem from medio-lateral balance problems in the feet.

I'm looking forward to follow Echo's rehab, all crossed for you :) x

Kelly said...

Glad to hear the news was good from your vet!

My mare also has muscle imbalance due to her front club foot. I now have a County dressage saddle that I had custom made for her - expensive, but the improvement in her way of going is remarkable since this saddle. I am due for a 3 month check on the fit and am anxious to see if her muscling has improved.

I agree with Kate that a pad with shims could be helpful in Echo's case, also.

Suzie said...

I will definitely be taking it slowly with her from now on - and I will look into Classical trainers.

In terms of saddles, I am hoping to borrow a pad with shims from someone at the yard. The only ones I could find online were Nuumed pads - and they are £90!

I've heard about reactor panel saddles - someone at the yard has one they don't use, but I think it would be rather a narrow fit for her. I'm going to get a saddler to look at the one I have and go from there. In the meantime, I'm hoping to ride bareback a bit over the weekend.

@Wiola - that's interesting about the imbalance in the feet. I am going to write a post about Echo's strange right foreleg, as it turns quite drastically in from below the knee. She has a huge dish to the right, but according to the farrier, is landing pretty evenly on the foot, so there isn't really anything we can do in terms of the foot itself. Also, I am worried that if we start trying to correct it, it could make things worse...
But it is interesting. I'll take some photos and video and show you what I mean.

Wiola said...

I will be very interested to see the videos :)
From what I understand it's not about trying to correct the foot but to let the horse grow the hoof capsule she needs for her particular limb action.
Some really great observation on skeletal issues are described on this farrier's website:

achieve1dream said...

I think bareback (where ever you're comfortable doing it) is a good idea. Since you're already seeing a difference in how she's standing and her posture then I would continue doing the Yoga and physio until she's evened out more. There's really no sense in fitting a saddle to her right now when you're goal is to get more even muscle distribution. That's just me though and one reason why I haven't tried to find a saddle for Chrome yet. :)

I'm glad things are looking up and you have a great team working with you and Echo to resolve these issues. I think you're on the right track! Keep up the great work!

Oh and I know they are expensive but you could look into treeless saddles . . .

Daily adventures while training my young horse.