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Possible Appt with Dr. Bennett for lame performance horse
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tracer
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 Posted: Mon Aug 6th, 2018 07:35 am
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Horse carries some what of a reverse arc
Head and nose away from turn and usually carried high
Neck, Shoulder rib cage and back bone braced or leaned towards turn

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2018 03:55 am
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OK, pretty minimum in terms of words but I think you do get the picture: the reason the horse crashes into/runs by the barrel is that its body is carried in an arc so that it is hollow on the left. This makes its right shoulder and ribcage stick out, i.e. they are on the convex side; and the animal bears too much weight on the right pair of legs, especially the right fore. The head is carried off to the left as a side-effect or reflection of what the body is doing.

Now, for dressage horses and other activities where the horse is never asked to go at racing speed, this is a no-brainer. If their horse is carrying itself down the long side in the same crooked posture as we see in almost all barrel racers -- or even one-tenth that crooked -- then the rider will not have that much trouble fixing it, even if the habit is ingrained, because the momentum and speed are so much less. It is a true observation that in the horse who has not been addressed as we would address one in our school, there is a near-perfect correlation between speed and tension. "Tension" means, essentially, that the horse is feeling fear; so that fear becomes emotional tension or "not-OKayness", and that in turn translates to bodily stiffness/bracing. So in short, in most horses, the faster they are asked to go, the more their "flight" reaction kicks in which is the product of fear, and the more tense and braced (and crooked) they become.

Therefore, simply keeping the pace slow is already a help.

The problem with the horse that carries itself crooked is that, by definition, if the plan of the rider is for the horse to turn right, then the horse would ideally respond by flexing its spine to the right, so that the right side is the concave side and the left side is the convex side; and the animal would, and should, carry more weight on the left pair of legs. Unless he DOES carry more weight upon that pair of legs, he is not flexing through the ribcage to the right.

So the dressage enthusiast who is a member of our school, will think to slow down the moment the horse seems to be bracing up. We definitely do not want the rider to slow the horse down by pulling back on the reins -- especially not by pulling back on both reins equally (a "square feel" or a "square pull"). Instead, the preferred technique is to pull on only the inside rein, and leave that outside rein bloody well alone until the horse is much farther along in its training. Troubled and green horses are best ridden upon the inside rein primarily or even exclusively, so you must not listen to the bad advice of many dressage instructors, which has the green student on the green horse hanging onto that outside rein from Day One.

What I'm saying is that, if the horse is offering crooked carriage as he proceeds down the arena track while going clockwise in the arena, then the smartest thing to do will be to cause him to slow down, and you do this by pulling on the right rein. Now, this is telling him to do exactly what he has already shown you is difficult for him to do, so don't expect him to actually BEND to the right when you pull on the right rein. All you are trying to do is cut a pretty big turn -- 15 or 20 meters, wide and fat -- so that it will not matter too much that the horse not only goes crooked down the long side, but he'll also do it, at first, on the big fat circle. Just hang in there, and don't let him come off the circle UNTIL you feel him turn loose to a degree and slow down to a more comfortable speed. As soon as he does this, no matter where you happen to be facing, you drop all pressure from either rein, retaining only enough feel to keep control, and let him head off in whatever direction he happens to be facing.

And you repeat this every single time, without exception -- that means you have to never let your mind drift off so that you miss it -- you repeat this every time he speeds up past a real comfortable, loungy kind of trot.

Once he's pretty reliable keeping this comfy pace at a trot, you can move up to a canter -- and then the game will be, how slow can you go at a canter, girl?

When you take the horse onto that big fat circle, even though the animal is not yet capable of turning loose enough to actually flex his body correctly through the spine, you help the animal because turning on the circle -- so long as it is not a little circle -- forces them to adopt a three-point balance. In other words, it helps them get their balance and keep it, and this is a major factor in their not offering to speed up without you having told them to. I repeat: the one and only reason that horses speed up gradually, or speed up when their rider has not asked for an increase in speed, is that they have lost their balance from back to front. And this is easy for them to do, much more likely, when they are tense and crooked to begin with.

Now, I do want you to go get your horse and do this. If she's currently lame, you'll have to decide how much, if anything, you can do; and if the answer is, 'I can't ride her at all,' then go find another horse and practice this advice on that one. If you can ride your mare, the rule of thumb is, begin at a walk, and if all is well, then you have license to move up to a trot. And if you can at least trot to begin with, we are launched just fine.

Let me know how it goes. And by the way, this IS how we are going to get her sound, by beginning with full understanding of what we are doing, from the beginning. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

tracer
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 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2018 06:31 pm
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Hi Dr. Bennett,

I feel I ride like this on all the horses. I’m one to remind them to not “push” on my hands or legs, trying to be particular and not critical. When asking them to stop I also put a “little“ bend in them, trying not to pull on my reins evenly or braced. I like to have them engaged with their mind and body. I know if they can’t hold straightness slow they sure won’t get it with speed. I walk A LOT. The more I’m able to work with an individual the more we are on the same feel. I do this on the trail and in the arena. I also like to use various obstacles to bring out the crookedness in horses. One of my favs is the ball. The horses are curious about it and a little scared. I can move different parts of their body ( getting them straight) while not making a big deal of any of the exercise. It’s the closest thing I have to following a cow. As they learn to get straight they get more brave and we are able to start pushing the ball.

As far as, Tipsy, she was never one to have a shouldering issue. One of the first braces I noticed in her was from her withers back to her hip. I have tried to be diligent about giving her gentle reminders ( hands, calf,heel and touch with my spur....only if needed and rarely) to move her rib cage, loin and hip away from my pressure. I know I can always get better with my timing. I try to release even if I think she’s thinking about what I’m asking.

I will to do what you ask to the best of my understanding. I think what your saying is to get her to slow down by following her nose,using my direct rein only, no legs. All 4 corners of her body being even in stride and cadence....balanced. Release and resume with request.

Thank you
Tracy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2018 10:45 pm
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Tracer, don't make this more complex than I really asked. When I write directions, you may take them absolutely literally; there's nothing between the lines. So, what I asked you to do was: every time you feel her speed up, turn her into a big circle using only the inside rein. Never mind legs or any other aid; just use the rein.

You note in your last reply that your mare's brace is mainly from withers to hip. Yes, this is true for most horses. The whole point of twirling the head/creating release through the jaws, poll and neck -- and at the other end of the body, of untracking/stepping under the body shadow with the inside hind leg, which "twirls"/creates release through the loins, is to GET TO the ribcage, which is usually the main part that is stuck.

So just make it simple, as in paragraph one above; and after you tell me how she reacted to that and what you felt, then we'll go on to add more in the way of twirling the head and untracking, so that you gain a better understanding of how to coordinate your aids. Happy riding. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Aug 14th, 2018 02:35 am
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Tracer, have you done the exercise I asked? You realize, of course, that I'm compelled to work blind here, and this makes your ability to get good and useful advice from me entirely dependent upon your reports and descriptions.

But -- even if I were with you, Tracer, we would be doing these exact same things. No different, because in order to figure out what is going on with your off-and-on lame mare, it is necessary to tease the problem out into its component threads. And this is best done by riding "one aid at a time", as I asked you to do.

So I do hope that the reason we haven't heard from you in some time is because you've been busy, or it's been too hot to ride, or maybe fires are near you and you have other concerns. I'd much rather hear that than that you gave up in frustration, or because you felt that by my asking you to do something very, very simple that was some kind of judgement or put-down. I'm merely asking you to "follow procedure," and do as you have been asked, even if you don't fully understand why as yet.

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

tracer
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 Posted: Tue Aug 14th, 2018 06:10 pm
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Hi Dr. Deb,
No I’m not giving up! I’ve only been able to ride her once and plan to go out today. I also am having a hard time describing what I feel. We are walking and I rode bare back maybe 3-5 mins. I should time this. She is responsive when I pick up my rein to guide her to the right or left. I realese the rein as she softens into the direction requested. It seems it takes her about 5 steps into the direction before she slows to a stop. She does not seem braced she feels stiff in her back bone and hind. Her toplene is level and I feel no resistance in her mind. I don’t feel her leaning into either “turn” .

tracer
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 Posted: Wed Aug 15th, 2018 06:21 pm
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Riding Tipsy yesterday ( 7/14) was interesting. I rode her bare back again. Mounting her from the mounting block bothered her as she lifted her head high when I pushed on her withers getting on. I sat down gentle and we waited calmly a few seconds and then moved off. She was slower to respond to my requests of turning, disinterested and very mellow( she normally is. I think it’s her nature to be calm though, it somewhat concerns me as her life for the last 2 years has been in a 50 ft round pen and either hand walked or ridden slowly.) once she turned and softened in the face and neck she still seemed stiff in the back from the withers to her hip. She was slow to stop. The first couple of stops she did she release her back, it would sink, hollow out. We did this about 5 times. She stop hollow out then begin to stiffen her back muscles. When she’d walk off she’d raise her back. The last time we stoped she hollowed out really badly so I pushed my self a tad back off her withers, then immediately dismounted and began to rub where I was sitting. The moment I pushed myself back she threw her neck and head up and twitched both sides of her wither and back. I noticed when starting her to the walk she departed mostly on her left front.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Aug 15th, 2018 11:52 pm
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OK Tracer, good reports and helpful observations.

Would you say that she feels the same when asking her to circle to the left (using, once again, as much as possible only the rein to ask her to turn) -- vs. when asking her to circle to the right? In other words: whatever she does to the right, is it the same as what she does or how she feels when going to the left?

From your last post, I now also need to ask: have you had any problems at any previous point with "rubs" or hair loss from a saddle?

Are you riding her bareback now because you thought that would be a good idea as far as feeling/observing her back muscles, or because you were already aware of a saddle-fit problem? Has any veterinarian that you've recently seen suggested saddle fit as a possible cause or contributor to your mare's ongoing lameness issues?

Let me know....Dr. Deb

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 Posted: Thu Aug 16th, 2018 03:37 am
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I think she is even going in both directions. I did not feel anything obvious, though I was highly tuned to her back this time.

I wanted to really try hard to feel her. I’ll use a saddle next ride. Saddle fit was not discussed as the reasons for her lamenesses.
No real concerns about the saddle at this point ( as she become more fit and toned I believe I’ll need a new one). However, when I first looked at her for purchase she had a quarter sized fluid filled pocket in the middle of her spine directly behind the whithers. No soreness at all. I was able to change pads on her and it went away. I thought nothing of it. I was using the trainers saddle at this point too. When I purchased her I began using my saddle which was too narrow for her in the shoulders. I went through several Saddles and pads trying to find something that worked. The trainer ended up selling me Tipsy’s saddle as it was the best at the time. I think this saddle is a tad too wide, great for her shoulders, though I believe it sits on the spot mentioned above. She ended up getting the filling again :-(. I got a quality pad and I use a Navajo blanket over it and it seems to be working for what I’m doing with her at this point in rehabbing. Neither the 2 chiropractors nor my massage therapists say I have a saddle fit issue.

Thank you,

tracer
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 Posted: Thu Aug 16th, 2018 03:57 am
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Dr. Deb
I forgot to mention the test results on her Vit E and Se. are good. No deficiencies. No PSSM 1 either. I don’t know why the vet didn’t test for PSSM 2 and I just overwhelmed and forgot to get it done. Next on the check list.....ugh!

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 Posted: Sat Aug 18th, 2018 04:54 am
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Hi Dr. Deb

The ride 7/16
I used my saddle. Tipsy was much more forward and had good energy. She started on her left again more than the right. No hollowing the back out when stopping and it took her a long while to stop. She would stand quietly , though, until I asked her to depart. She was easier to turn to the right. It seemed more even and balanced from nose to hip and all 4 feet tracking in a even stride length. Going to the left however was different. She was a tad more resistant. Her top line stayed level. It was her tracking that changed. This is hard to explain..... she did not feel sore or lame, though she stepped short on her left front and it was less fluid going in that direction. Like she was shouldering the turn, but her head was in the direction of the turn. I think she seemed to hit the ground harder as she di this, too.. Kind of like she pegged it in the ground. No head bobbing and no distress.. it felt like a brace and I would have liked to use my inside calf on her to move her ribs and hip..... I didn’t..... I just felt what was going on ;-). She seemed to get better the more we rode.

Prior observation befor riding. I started stretching her about a week ago. She has allowed me to place her right front foot out and in front of her left. I keep it low and on the ground. She really has relaxed the shoulder. This particular evening she did it like it so much..... it didn’t “push” it with her. I also jogged her around me in a few circles both directions. She still Pushes of her left hind slightly different than her right. I’ve been thinking about why she’d step different to the right than the left when riding. I’m wondering if it her right shoulder or her left hind is uncomfortable.
Anyway.... you are caught up on my riding :-)

Tracy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Aug 18th, 2018 08:12 am
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Good report, Tracer. It's easy to get caught up in a welter of detail, but I am picking out certain important threads here.

1. Yes, what you are feeling "might be a brace" IS a brace.

2. When she turns and her head and neck swing over to whichever side you're using the rein on, yet it feels like she's braced, it is because she is not really flexing to the given side. Instead, she's bracing through the poll (as well as the neck and back). You will notice if you look close that whenever it feels this way, even though you think she's "turning" through the head and neck to the left (or right), what is really happening is that she's leading with her jowl. This means that when you pull on her with, for example, the right rein, and her head swings over to the right, her forehead is still facing either forward or to the left. This is what learning how to "twirl" the head fixes.

3. Until you get this part fixed by learning how to catch "leading with the jowl" every time it happens, and by learning to twirl the head, your mare will have zero chance of getting rid of the brace which we have already identified is happening through her ribcage in the section of her body that is under the saddle.

4. To learn all about twirling the head, I will now ask you to do two things:

1) Go back through your back issues of "The Eclectic Horseman" and find the series of articles by me, published several years ago, that deal with twirling the head and the technique and anatomy of spinal flexion.

2) Use the directions (given in a thread near the top of the Home Page of this Forum) as to how to use the Google search function to search this Forum. Enter keywords "twirl" or "twirling the head" and read the previous threads on this subject.

5. In addition, I would also say your reports above definitely do indicate that your saddle does not fit. Tracer, you cannot make up for a mis-fitting saddle through the use of pads. The soft, watery-feeling bump your mare comes up with at the base of her withers is called a "hydrocoele". Hydrocoeles are swellings, somewhat like windpuffs, which occur to the sac surrounding the bursa which lies at the top of the dorsal process of each vertebra, and they are signs that the animal is hollowing its back through that section by holding its back muscles tight when ridden. She does this when wearing the saddles you've noted don't fit her.

For information on how to select and fit a saddle, again you can search this Forum where the topic has been extensively discussed; and I also want you to go review materials posted at Institute friend Dave Genadek's website (http://www.aboutthehorse.com). I also want you to know that it is both Dave's experience and mine that barrel racers have more saddle-fit problems than any other class of rider we know -- this being because most barrel racers really do not understand how to teach their horses to flex evenly, using every laterally mobile intervertebral joint, before asking them to work at speed. No manufacturer deliberately makes a crooked saddle, and a horse that carries itself crooked will not fit any well-made saddle. Understand what I'm saying here? It isn't the saddle that doesn't fit the horse; it is your horse that doesn't fit the saddle.

Before you go looking, looking, looking as you are a bit prone to do, searching desperately for causes and explanations, Tracer, I want to remind you that really, you haven't begun at the beginning -- by fixing basic stuff. You are able to talk the lingo of so-called "natural" horsemanship yet again, you get lost in details. As a result, you try this, that, and the next thing without really learning what to feel for, or how to ride better. I suspect your veterinarians have been trying to tell you something similar, too; they're glad enough to be paid to perform all the multiple lab tests, but they've told you already that isn't where they see a cause. I bless them for their professionalism and honesty in this regard, for not offering you a five-syllable word as a "diagnosis" just in order to get you to quit bugging them.

Obviously you cannot expect a horse to work sound or stay sound when no. 1 it doesn't flex fluidly into turns to either direction, and no. 2 the saddle is bothering it. The short-stepping or preference for one hind leg that you note is indeed partly innate -- most horses manifest such a preference -- but the horse when uncomfortable from some other cause will go straight to its pre-existing preferences and this magnifies the crookedness and the resulting "offness".

So now you have a bit of homework reading to do. After you've done that, you'll have more questions for sure, so write in with them please and any other thoughts. -- Dr. Deb


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