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.