Earlier this month, I posted about Koda hunching in response to being asked to collect at a lope. It first occurred in January. After a spotty stretch of riding, that included some loping but without collection, it happened again. After describing the situation, some great knowledge & suggestions were shared by readers. I was reminded how easy things are to assume. It's always good to look for additional perspectives. Your responses are helpful, and often make me think outside of the box. As a designer by trade and a curious life learner who is always asking questions, it's a place I like to frequent. I'm the shopper who has to look at all the options, before selecting anything. The person who raises their hand in class, or shares idea's in search of a business solution. I want to explore all the options, and do what is in the better interest of my horse. I am still considering treatments, to what I've found out so far: We took a closer look to make sure my saddle still fits Koda, and think it does. I tried multiple ways to get a hold of the equine massage therapist that had worked on Koda previously, a brief "I'll call you back" response wasn't followed through. With a vet visit scheduled, I held off looking for a new masseuse to work with. In the interim, our trainer briefly checked Koda's back for soreness. She showed me what applying pressure on either side of the spine might reveal. Much to her surprise, he responded with some soreness. We lunged Koda and watched him move. He appears to also be sore in his hocks, the related sore area in his back. After explaining the hunching situation to our vet, he checked Koda similarly yet much more in-depth. He concluded Koda is showing soreness in his right hock, and a little sore in his back. Neither were categorized as bad. Regardless you were right, he wasn't just being a snot - he is sore. The vet said to either try bute & rest for 5 days to see if that would help alleviate the situation, or inject his hocks. I knew the latter would be his recommendation. Our vet already knows I am hesitant about hock injections, and was likely trying to give me another option with the bute route. I think the bute would likely be a temporary patch, but that could be said about any option. No one I know has a crystal ball, wouldn't that be helpful? The hock injections could be one and done, or a life long expensive route - not to mention the risks involved. I asked if chiro, acupuncture, massage or stretching/strengthening/supplements might help, all possibilities that could be tried. Altho in his experience (he has plenty, and is well respected) where hocks are concerned, his recommendation is that injections are the best treatment for sore hocks. We talked some about different outcomes and areas effected, with the various treatments mentioned. Their main concern with this situation revolves around my safety. It's good that Koda let's me/us know when things are bothering him, to avoid further injury to himself. However Brad, our trainer and I, all know Koda's personality well. He isn't the type of horse that takes care of his rider when things bother him, which could lead to much worse for both of us. I'm not a strong enough rider to make him do whatever regardless, and I don't like that path anyways. I don't want Koda to be in pain, or be the cause of pain. This is all very unsettling. Koda is a trail horse. I don't have to lope him collected, or lope him at all. However that doesn't seem like a good solution for a young trained horse, who turns seven in a few weeks. I've been searching for more info online, and so much of what I've found about hock pain revolves around using injections (mostly pro) as a treatment. Decisions, decision, decisions...any additional thoughts or resources to share?
Over the years I have relied on the expertise of others to guide me when questions arise with my horse needs, and this includes saddle fitting. However sometimes you need to take matters into your own hands, if for no other reason then to gain a better understanding and make wiser choices. Before we headed out to the barn today, my hubby and I watched a good video on saddle fitting. The basic related anatomy of a horse is explained by Dr. Joanna Robson, and shows you how to tell if your saddle could be causing pain and even bad behaviors. She is fitting for a hunt saddle in this video, but I learned a few things that were helpful for any discipline.
I also watched her Western Saddle fitting video for a refresher, both have good info and are to the point. Looks like supporting videos are hosted on their website, where I found a lot of other how to video's! Dr. Joanna Robson also has a book out "Recognizing the Horse in Pain". Has anyone read it? It sounds good. SO many books to read, my wish list is ever growing...
I am still obsessing over the influx of possibilities, the why's and how's of Koda's behavior, while waiting for some responses and yes, over thinking... We took a close look at Koda and my saddle, and altho neither of us are professional saddle fitters, my hubby & I both agreed my saddle still seems to fit him. I chose to ride in it, altho I did not lope. After a longer grooming session, we started with some ground work. I put a cone, a pole, and another cone in the middle of the arena stretching the length of it. We travel lunged walking around and over them, then did the same trotting. Koda was a little skeptical, we haven't done this since our horses lived at home with us. Then I hopped on and we progresses to a couple bends, some turns, and briefly rode around and over using the same gaits - and called it good. Poor guy was surprised when I got off after such a short time, but I made sure Koda knew he wasn't in trouble. I wanted to keep this a short, but sweet barn visit.
I would like to blame Koda's latest antics on Spring fever, but this last round surfaced during the deep freeze. We board at our trainer's barn, where earlier in the year she happened to catch Koda doing "it". You may recall on the second consecutive day of naughty behavior, she asked to ride him.
Since then I've continued a little loping each ride, but to be honest it's taken convincing. I dislike controversy. The last couple months we have been unable to consistently ride three times a week, some weeks not at all. It doesn't help the situation. I truly believe Koda needs consistent riding, I know I do.
Lately we have been loping without much collection, mostly half arena circles or transitioning gaits. I was trying to build back up, and get back to where we were with our riding. Before the hunching started. It was lovely, a place I thought both Koda & I were enjoying. I miss it.
We were progressing nicely, until last night. We had loped briefly both directions earlier in our ride with no issues. When I asked for a collected lope, Koda responded with a hunch!
I opted to get off and backed Koda up firmly, it produced the fear of god in his eyes. I got back on regardless. He was a wad of bundled nerves. Me too. We went back to doing successful things. Some bends, walking and trotting around cones. When the tenseness in his body (and mine) subsided, I tried again.
One step, two - hunch...after I managed to get him to stop jigging, so I could get off, I did more ground correction. But this time, I couldn't make myself get back on. I know I can't end rides this way, especially on a horse like Koda. My hubby said he would ride him. Gulp. It's not that I didn't think he could, he just doesn't know my horse under saddle. Nothing like handing him a time bomb. He got the same hunched response, but corrected it in the saddle and then loped. No, I didn't get back on Koda afterwards. I was toast after the second dismount. I began this ride in a really good place, but it sure didn't end that way.
I fully know I should have stayed in the saddle the first time, and not reward Koda's naughty behavior by giving him what he wants = less work. He wanted to be done with the ride, so he can go back to eating. Loping right away would have been ideal, but I needed to calm things down. Clearly a case of shoulda, coulda, woulda, but didn't. I have the knowledge and am capable of riding through most challenges, but.....I am so disappointed in the whole situation. I need to change my mind set, somehow. I am letting him push my buttons. Getting older has turned me into such a wuss. I just can't toss caution to the wind anymore. I could send Koda back into training for a tune-up, but it doesn't really solve the problem. Me.
When your horse responds with a hunch, how do you work through it?
You read their books. They make you think about how you interact with your horses. You really like their message, and it doesn't take long to know they are a rare gem in an industry littered with fakes. Once in a while, these gems travel to share their knowledge in person. Kate from A Year With Horses posted about one of those rare gems coming close to my area, Mark Rashid. Thanks Kate! In fact, he is presenting at no less then three clinics in my area - and damn it, I am going to make it to at least one!! I am hoping to audit. Koda has never been to anything remotely similar, and it would require my husband transporting us. I would be waaay too nervous to participate. I am sure Marks clinics are popular and filled at this point anyways. Auditing would be a good place to start. Do you have any auditing tips to share? Do tell about your auditing experiences, was it worth it? I wonder if you can take pictures? Of course if I brought my good camera, then I would be focused on getting good photos and not learning. It would defeat the purpose, but it sure would be fun! I have sooo many questions, much that depend on the clinician/facility. The price, remaining open spots, times, photo policy etc. Hit me up with your suggestions. I'll be hitting send on my email inquiries soon!
I have not frozen into a snowbank, altho I have enjoyed more family time playing in the snowy North Woods since our last trip. My horse update is limited at best, sad but true.Here are a few horsey tidbits from the past week (ish): • Koda & Nemo both needed teeth floated, shots & cogging done. Check. A big check. What I really meant is, it's done! • Poor Nemo had to be flushed again...you can read about his rare Calcium condition (guess it doesn't have a name?) here. It is concerning, to say the least... • I received sad news the great Hollywood Jill (aka Pistol) was laid to rest. She was Koda's dam & Nemo's grand-dam. A special Appaloosa, with a long list of accomplishments - none more important then being someone's heart horse. Thoughts go out to our friend Diane.
Pistol (L) Koda (R) June 2010
• Not much riding happening here. We really need to focus on finding some land, so we can have our horses at home... The last time we did ride, hubby did not rake the arena. Interestingly enough, the service door wasn't scary anymore. It's something about the light/air peeking under the door on the flattened sand. • Wisconsin is still a frigid tundra. Surprise, surprise.
Nemo (L) making friends in the frozen pasture December 2013
• Midwest Horse Fair is getting closer, 38 days away! Check out the presenters here (Ken McNabb is coming back!). Hopefully we won't still be wearing winter boots in April!!