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!

Daily adventures while training my young horse.