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A Different Stifle Question
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Sue
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 Posted: Wed Apr 13th, 2011 09:00 pm
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I have a coming 5yr old warmblood gelding that has been in professional dressage training for almost a year.  In the last 6 weeks he is on and off again sore in his left hind leg.  He takes his leg and swings it out and around and when he sets it down on the ground it is way under his stomach instead of in line with his front leg.  The vet was out and did xrays on both hocks and stifles on both sides and all were normal.  He then did flexion tests with the stifle flexions being positive on both sides.  The vet said since the xrays were clean he could be just sore.  He advised more turnout time (he now gets about 12 hours a day) but it hasnt got much better.  The vet also suggested blistering his stifles or doing a nuclear exam to see if he could have possible fractured a hip or pelvis.  I do have a chiropractor work on him every 4 weeks and he gets noticeably better after his adjustments but it only lasts about 2-3 weeks.  I dont know if I should do the blistering, give him some time off or if there are some sort of exercises that he can do to help strengthen his stifles.  Im kinda at a loss of what to do.  Any suggestions??

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 14th, 2011 07:41 am
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Sue, I'm going to let you work out the answer to this yourself by asking you a series of questions.

We will take this by analogy. Let us say there's a teenaged boy with his first car. Like most young guys who have a car, he likes the feeling of speed and he also likes tinkering with the car. His parents very wisely get him involved with the local racetrack so that he gets to not only spend time with mechanics who know a little more and can teach him, but also confines his "speed demon" urges to the track rather than on the street.

To pay for the car and the insurance, the young guy also has a McJob, and to get to McJob he drives the same car during the week that he races on the weekends.

Now, one of the things that the older guys at the track have told this kid is that racing is hard on a car, and to race he'll need to buy upgrades to his tranny and also the drivetrain.

Unfortunately, however, McJob does not pay quite so well as to make that immediately possible. So although he's been saving up money, the kid hasn't made the upgrades -- and yet he's still entering the car in races on the weekends.

Now after a few weeks, he begins to feel like when he puts the car in gear there is this "slushy" feeling....and also there's a growling noise coming from somewhere in the rear....

....and yet, he still continues to go to the track on the weekends and enter various races.

Now, Sue, do you get the picture? Here are the lessons I want you to extract from this analogy:

1. You cannot make "structural upgrades" to horses -- by simply installing new parts -- the same as you can to cars.

2. You cannot place a strain on any mechanical (or biomechanical) system for which that system was NOT designed, and expect not to degrade the system, i.e. meaning ruin it.

3. Someone once said that the definition of "stupid" is to keep doing the same thing again and again, and yet expect to get a different result.

A major point that I'm making to you here is that "the lack of injections" has not caused your horse's problems, and therefore, injections will not cure any horse, even a horse with sore stifles. Quite the opposite: injecting joints is a stopgap solution at the very best, and has many downsides in terms of traumatising the joints. The joints in your body or in a horse's body have been sealed systems from the day of conception, and are simply not to be messed with lightly. I do not advise putting anything, including a needle, at any time into any joint, unless the future expected for the animal is "pasture sound only" or "broodmare only".

So injecting joints is not a way to cure any problem with a horse.

What WOULD be the cure? What would be the "cure" for the kid with the car -- OTHER than purchasing and installing stouter parts?

This is what I want you to figure out. When you do figure it out, it will mean a whole new world for you in terms of your life with horses -- maybe even a chance of actually fulfilling some of the dreams I expect you have. The way you are currently going, however, there is zero chance that you will. Why? Because going the way you are, your horse is going to wind up "pasture sound" or "broodmare sound" whether you inject him or blister him or not, and when that happens it won't be the so-called "professional's" problem -- will it! No indeed! They will just tell you that your horse was never really "suitable" anyway, and turn their attention to the next well-paying client.

In your original inquiry by private EMail to me, Sue, what you wanted was to know "what exercises" would be appropriate to relieve your horse's stifle problems. Part of figuring out the answer I want you to get is for you to realize that the FIRST step will be to STOP doing most of the things you are currently paying someone else to do with your horse. In short, you have been paying somebody else to "race your car" -- to ruin it -- without knowing how to protect the animal from the very training regimen that they advocate.

When you do get the answer and write it back here, why, then we can begin. You can begin: at the beginning: with your own horse: yourself. You have all the brains and skill necessary; any other arrangement, i.e. whereby you have somebody else ride or "train" your horse for you,  is merely subjecting the animal to being treated like an object, a vehicle for some kind of ambition. This has to evaporate before you will be able to commit to, learn, and stick with the only way in the world that there is to take a green horse and produce it as a finished pleasure ride. -- Dr. Deb

Sue
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 Posted: Thu Apr 14th, 2011 05:36 pm
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Maybe I am just slow but I dont get your analogy as to how it pertains to my horse??  I am no longer able to ride and the horse is for sale.  I unfortunately have to rely on someone else to do the riding for me.  I can not sell him like this because he wont pass a pre purchase exam.  If blistering his stifles isnt a good idea then what is?  Do I just stop having him riden until he feels better, are you telling me my trainer is bad or my horse isnt able to do the work???  I dont know why he is swinging his leg this way, I dont know why when the chiropractor works on him he feels so much better but it doesnt last?  I changed trainers and he went from working in a very collected frame to working in a long and low frame but that is when the weird leg swing started was just recently.  I dont know if this is just a strength issue and we need to keep working through it or if I am hurting him by continuing his work.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 14th, 2011 07:12 pm
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Sue, you flirt with directly stating the correct answers, by stating them in the form of questions ("???"). This says to me that, deep down, you really do know the correct answers.

Sometimes -- let me sympathize -- it feels very strange, or even disturbing, for the person to find out that they are living in a culture where what they have been told is "good" is not good at all.

One thing that will help you is to review the age of your animal. You report that he's four years old. I want you to go over to "Knowledge Base" at our main website http://www.equinestudies.org and download the PDF called "The Ranger Piece" or alternatively "Skeletal Maturation in Horses". This is one -- not the only one, but one -- root of the problem that you have caused to develop.

Even if you are unable to ride, Sue, you still must develop the ability to discriminate, because legally and also morally, you are responsible for every single thing that happens to your animal. What you need to discriminate is training protocols and procedures that will be good and beneficial to the animal, vs. those that will not. You are not discriminating at nearly a fine enough level merely by being able to tell that the one trainer rode the horse "more collected" vs. the other one that rides it "long and low". Obviously, to begin with, even if a given trainer were really excellent, he or she would ride the horse both ways with every ride -- because in every ride, there is a part where it is warm-up or warm-down, there is another part where the back and loins are being stretched while the muscles that mediate collection are being developed, and there is yet another part where new movements are being taught to the horse.

Nonetheless, no four year old horse, especially not a warmblood or part-warmblood, should be in full work or "full training" -- as you will understand from reading the suggested paper. It is never safe to make generalizations, but the point is brought home here really rather forcefully by the very fact that your horse is in the process of breaking down. And Sue, you are not going to be able to think, or to convince me, that he is breaking down "all by himself".

What I am challenging you to do here, Sue, is to discover for yourself -- out of your own thinking, your own observation, and your own reasoning -- what the actual CAUSE for the horse's difficulties is. Hopefully you will discover this before so much damage has been done that the animal will be completely unrecoverable.

If you cannot ride, it makes no real difference. We will find out what you CAN do, and then we'll go from there. -- Dr. Deb

Sue
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 Posted: Fri Apr 15th, 2011 09:11 pm
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If I knew what the "right" answer was I would not be asking the question here.  I dont feel that I am quaified to determine what the correct answer is.  That is why I sought out a professionals opinion so that I could find the right answer and correct the problem.  Professional #1 (vet) told me that the xrays were fine and he would recommend blistering or bone scan.  Professional #2 (chiropractor) told me that he thought he just wasnt strong enough yet and was using that leg to balance himself.  Professional #3 (trainer) thinks there is "something" wrong with the stifle.  All 3 of these answers require a different outcome:  less work, more work or different work.  My "gut" feeling is that I dont know which answer is the right answer and I dont want to do any more harm to him, I want him to be able to work comfortably. He will be 5yrs old in June and started his training in May 2010 as a 4yr old.   He will no longer go in a collected frame because he is afraid of it now.  The new trainer has taken the last 3 months just riding him long and low to try to get him over the fear of "being put together" again.  You can see in his eyes that he is afraid and his first response is to rear because he feels he has no place to go.  When he is turned out to pasture he runs and plays and rears constantly.  You would think if his stifles hurt he wouldnt be rearing so much.  For all of me he could have fallen down over the winter and injured himself.  I just dont know anymore what to do.   

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Apr 16th, 2011 08:15 am
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Sue, you are avoiding doing your own thinking and reasoning about this. So long as you continue to do that, you will be a victim. You will continue to be at the mercy of this professional, that professional, and the next professional, none of whom are likely to agree with each other. The reason for this is that they all have different points of view, different types of training and expertise, and also different objectives in their dealings with you.

Especially, it is true that none of them are really responsible for what happens to your horse. That responsibility applies to one, and only one person -- and that is you.

Now, you have a choice. You can use the main tool given to you by your Creator -- or, you can refuse to use it. That main tool is, of course, your ability to think and reason. In the act of thinking and reasoning, you begin to exert real control, and thereby take up your true responsibilities.

Therefore, once again I ask you to answer the following question:

WHAT is causing your horse to break down?

I see from your most recent post that the breakdown is actually not merely physical, not merely a question of the animal's stifles; it is also a mental and emotional breakdown.

Also, Sue, I am asking you once again to do your homework and read the 'skeletal maturation' paper that I told you to read previously.

You will notice from all of this that I am not by any means, or at any time, going to tell you what to do. Neither am I going to permit anyone else who corresponds here to answer you (yet).

What I am committed to doing is helping you figure out what to do -- I am attempting to empower you. If you do not want that, then please do not bother to write back here. If you do want that -- and any adult person should certainly want empowerment more than she wants anything else in the world -- then read the paper, consider what it says, and write back here with your further questions as they occur. -- Dr. Deb

ilam
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 Posted: Sun May 1st, 2011 12:43 am
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I haven't posted in this forum for a long time and just stumbled upon an old email I had kept, I had compiled a question posed on this forum and the answer I got from Dr. Deb at the time. This was in 2006. It really struck me how I am in a different place today than I was then .... and I do empathize with the original poster of this thread quite a bit, even though it was about a different topic.

I have learned the hard way is that "professional" does not necessarily mean a darn thing, neither does "experience". In today's world of information overload it is harder than ever to distunguish the charlatans from the ones that can teach something of value at the time that it is needed. Now more than ever do we have to learn to use our own judgment, i.e., take in the information, filter it, and then listen to our "gut", or intuition. I have heard many times that we all have that inner voice, but many do not hear it or listen to it. It is a learned skill, I think, to learn to feel it, a lot of this can be learned using the horse philopsophies taught here.

Many times I have asked questions and hoped for concrete answers only to get conflicting ones, and when I listened to the "professionals", I'd often err onto roads to nowhere or it would turn out to a mere band-aid, leading back to where I started. When I did find my answer, sometimes years later, and then looking back I realize that I had known the answer all along, but simply didn't give it any credence or didn't pay attention to it or argued it away in my head.

Isabel

Daniela LeBlanc
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 Posted: Fri May 13th, 2011 07:55 pm
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I am pretty new to this forum but can truly sympathize with the poster asking this question. My mare was showing mental/physical/emotional signs of significant breakdown before I even bought her. Now you might ask why I bought her? Because I knew she could help me learn how to help her. Now 2 1/2 years later she is a different horse (still mending but oh so much better) and I am a much empowered person. The first lesson I learned is to stop listening to "professionals" because they all want to make a living. I learned to listen to my mare. Your horse is telling you that what you are doing is not working. What's the very next logical step you should take without even having to know the second one? You don't need to be able to ride to be your horse's advocate. But you do have to put your priorities straight. And that means putting your horse's well-being first and you wanting to sell him/have him trained second.

Please do read Dr. Deb's paper. Being a horsewoman means to think, not necessarily to ride.

Daniela


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