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ESI Q and A Forums > ESI Q and A Forum > Questions and discussions for the ESI Q and A Forum > Old shoulder injury - can we talk about the functional effects on the neck/poll?

Old shoulder injury - can we talk about the functional effects on the neck/poll?
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Redmare
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 Posted: Wed Feb 6th, 2019 01:32 pm
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Dr. Deb, as usual, thank you so much for you detailed response(s) and encouragement. I am so grateful that this online classroom exists and that you are so willing to give information and help so freely.

I've been on the gelding a couple more times since I last posted as temperatures have yo-yo'd, he continues to slowly get better about the forward. He has only offered the canter on the right rein, which I find interesting (edited to say: perhaps not so interesting after all! If he prefers to weight the left hind, it makes sense he'd find the right lead canter a tad easier, because it is the outside hind that I'd be asking him to initiate the transition off of, even if my "ask" in this case is not much more than "hey, here, yes, go forward, please"). I also find it interesting that now he has taken to offering the canter, being allowed into it, getting nervous, we have the "you don't need to do that" conversation (although it is much more subtle now, he has not offered or shown he's thinking about bucking, just that he's concerned or still muddled as to his feelings about being so forward) and when he breaks from the canter into the trot, he goes a few strides of trot before he goes to canter again. I think he may actually be coming down, realizing his balance is too much on the forehand and speeding up to regain his balance...it's a bit of a knife's edge, because I do not want him to continue so on the forehand, but at the end of the day I feel it's better to ALWAYS allow him to think that the way out of the situation - at least for right now - is freely forward, even if I'm going to eventually be educating him further on the MANNER of how he goes forward later on.

I have also extrapolated some of what we talked about earlier in this thread about the 'S' curve he carries in his neck tracking left and have started to use the corrective upward left rein to get him to remove the kink from his poll and just create the 'cranky C' as you called it. He has not appreciated this one bit - even though it meant I was literally telling him "here, you can do what you wanted to do before and throw all your weight on your right shoulder if you'd just remove that kink right there". I have been using this same correction to get him to stop weighting the right shoulder so heavily when he is in the right rein, and it's worked beautifully in that respect, so I do think that his irritation with my trying to remove that kink whilst in the left rein is because he genuinely has some pain when he releases the right side of his jaw and relaxes evenly into the bend. I've been doing some massage work on his right poll for about a month now - what started as a desire to fly backwards if I even so much as placed my hand behind his right eye has turned into him begging for me to help him release the tension he holds there, which is so, SO wonderful to see coming from such a defensive horse.

I am very excited to try the cavalletti work - I was actually reading just the other day about ways to help horses with a jarring, jack-hammer-y trot (which, oh boy, does this horse have) and the author of the article discussed using pole work to encourage the horse to engage, lift and release the thoracic sling, so I'm thrilled that this is something you suggested we start playing with and that it appears I'll be killing more than one metaphorical bird by doing it.

Thank you so much, again - I'll be sure to try and get some pictures of our work to share.

Last edited on Wed Feb 6th, 2019 01:38 pm by Redmare

Redmare
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 Posted: Sat Feb 16th, 2019 10:47 pm
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OK Dr. Deb, back again, and hoping you may have some wisdom to offer. I enjoy this gelding immensely, but he has me downright befuddled at times. I had to look up the term "Gordian knot", and I have to say, that is a fantastic description of this horse!

I have done lunge work 4-5 times in the last 10 days or so. I borrowed a friend's lunging cavesson with the three-ringed noseband so that I could have a bit more control over the lateral flexion in his poll. This has worked very well. I have introduced him to the cavalletti work as you suggested and he has done fairly well with this.

I have only gotten on after cavalletti work twice, the second time being today.

The last two groundwork sessions, I have had to spend quite a bit of time educating this horse surrounding a particular thing he likes to do. Tracking to the left ONLY, he tends to get irritated and bolt forward into a canter with no cue or indication from me that I'd like him to make that transition. For a while I've ignored this, not encouraged this frantic change, and just waiting until he settles back into a trot on his own. This wasn't working, so a couple days ago we spent a solid 20 minutes having a discussion around this agitated desire to bolt off. I pulled another trick from Mike Schaffer and when the gelding did this, I ran parallel with him and let him hit the arena wall. It took him quite few tries at this before he realized he could keep trying it, or he could knock it off and just carry himself in the gait I had asked him to adopt. We ended that particular session with a few circles of calm, stretchy trot, at which point I called him into me and called it a night.

This lesson appears to have stuck as he did not offer to try it today. He's starting to make some really lovely, fluid transitions, especially from trot to canter, and he's starting to do so without a grumpy, irritated expression on his face (even just being out on the line, in addition to transitions, this gelding carries a grumpy, irritated expression and when asked to carry his energy up, his expression gets even grumpier - I have made a note of this but not "done" anything about it because I believe it is largely due to his ill feelings about A) going forward freely, and B) the likelihood that he has twinge-y hocks when he does. I imagined it would take care of itself in time).

So I decided to get on and figured we'd play with some easy, large figure eights and drifting lines at the walk. Much to my surprise, it was as if we were back to square one (not even, more like square negative five!) He was crabby, touchy and two or three times, from the walk, decided to take off into a crabby canter and immediately attempted to buck. I did not ask for anything any of those times - I was just sitting, going along with him at the walk. I finally got him soft enough that I could get one soft(ish) upward transition to trot, let out my outside rein and just kept the inside rein short enough that I could bend him if I needed to and let him go forward in a decent trot for a few minutes. During that time I could feel him wanting to go into his buck-y canter - it did not feel to me like a desire to go more forward, but more like a desire to be rid of me. This is the first time I have ever felt this from this gelding. We ended the day with some fetch, but I felt a bit disheartened and quite perplexed when I put him away.

There are a few things I can think of that might explain all this:

1) what I have been asking of him these past couple weeks has been - in his mind - too much, either physically, mentally or perhaps both, and he is saying "Redmare, I can't do this much"

2) this is a, in a somewhat to-be-expected way, non-linear progression of a horse who has deep, deep insecurities and confusion about what forward means, what balance means, and he is (exactly as you said in an earlier post, and this metaphor has stuck with me when I work with him) "bawling like a hungry steer" and genuinely mad because he cannot fathom how this is a better deal for him...OR...

3) there is a potentially a tack fit issue at play (and this may be in conjunction with either #1, #2 or even both). I only mention this because I have noticed that his fits of bucking happen only in the right rein, and I have noticed that his saddle has started to slide back a bit during the course of our rides. I put it on him today with no pad and took a look, and I do think that he may have bulked up enough in the past year or so that the saddle may be possibly pinching him behind the shoulder, and now that I am demanding from him that he not go crooked, he's finding he's getting bitten by the tack when he does get straight.

I know you like students to have specific questions when they write in, and I am trying to formulate exactly what I am asking, but as we have talked about, this horse has so many layers of junk it feels sometimes as though I'm playing a perpetual game of whack-a-mole! So I suppose I am asking - does any of what I am writing in about strike you and if so, do you have advice as to whether I should just continue to proceed as I have been and gauge him daily, or if I need to change course. I am going to see if I can borrow some saddles and try him in ones other than what he came with and see if that makes a difference, but deep down while that may be a piece of this, I don't think it is "the big picture", so to speak.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2019 08:12 am
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Redmare, of all the possibilities you present, the first one I'd go for is: you're trying to do too much, or accomplish too much, in a short time. My main advice is for you to listen more to what the horse is telling you and stay BEHIND that line where the grumpy expression seems to need to manifest.

The sudden, unexpected and un-cued running off/bucking smacks exactly of one of two things: either this guy has a 19th rib on the right side, which is catching him a good muscle-spasm at odd times -- this feels to the horse exactly like someone is stabbing him in the back with a stiletto. Or else, there is indeed a tack-fit issue and we can sure hope that it is that rather than the other, because tack fit is more fixable.

Not that the other isn't; I witnessed Tom Dorrance teach a very competent and experienced rider, who had a horse who would do this and who did indeed have a 19th rib, to "feel it coming" and how to ride out of it, how to deflect it, so that she never got the horse into a position again, where he felt the "stab". And I learned so much from watching Tom teach this that -- I also had a neighbor who had a horse of the same bloodline as the first gal, who also probably had inherited the 19th rib, and who used to regularly buck its owner off. And she asked me to ride him and, as I said, I learned this so well by watching Tom that I also learned to feel it coming and how to just make sure we never went into any bend deeper than the gelding could handle without getting his ribs crossed and thus inducing the spasm. This does NOT mean we were "tippy toeing" around what the gelding liked or did not like; it means that I learned to PAY ATTENTION TO MY HORSE while riding him, so that I was constantly tuned in to his feedback. This is helpful not only on those that would run and buck, but on any horse, as it is the REAL basis for safety on horseback, helmets be damned!

LIkewise, at the Tom Dorrance benefit I borrowed a horse to ride because I did not have a truck or trailer or any way to haul my own horse to Fort Worth to ride under Ray's eye that week, so I borrowed the first one I could get ahold of, off another person who had brought in two. And this horse's owner was all about telling me this big sob story about him, that he'd been jumped on by a cougar as a foal and had a lot of scarring on one side so he couldn't turn right. Load of bullshit. By the time we got out of Ray's class, and that was about an hour and a half, I had him doing ten-meter turns to both hands very fluidly. One cannot accomplish this without constantly monitoring the horse's reactions.

Every ride we take is a conversation. It begins oftentimes with the rider laying out proposition "A" or asking question "A" of the horse. The horse then responds with "B". Or maybe "X", "Q", or "P" -- one never knows! But what is essential is that the rider know whether it WAS B, X, Q, or P -- and damned helpful too, if the rider has a good response in her toolbox which would be the appropriate reply to B, X, Q, or P and obviously it ain't gonna be the same response. We respond to his response, in other words, and so the conversation proceeds.

So my main counsel to you, again, is -- slow down some and just get into the mindframe of "let's see how he'll respond to this one single 'ask'". Do ONE THING at a time, and have a very clear, single focus for each ride. In other words don't say to yourself, "oh, let's do some lateral work" because that isn't nearly specific enough.

The devil is in the details here I think. Yes he is having twinges of pain -- not enough to quit riding him over and remember, it is actually good for what ails him to be ridden because it forces him to move those achy joints, and the more he moves them the less they will ache. The worst thing in the world for this horse would be to just stand around in a pen or stall.

And yes he is confused and all that, but if you'll slow down as I mentioned, and just pick one single thing each session to work on, the confusion will change into enjoyment.

The other suggestion is for you to make your sessions shorter. Don't get tempted to repeat anything "to reinforce it" -- the horse is going to see this as punishment, because if he gets it right the first time, why then, he got it right and that's where you quit. Horses do not need to repeat things over and over in order to learn them, as anyone who has ever owned a Houdini that has taught himself to open gate-latches knows.

And by all means, if you haven't got a copy of Dave Genadek's "About Saddle Fit" video, then go to http://www.aboutthehorse.com and purchase it for cheap money. He sells it at cost and it's the beginning of everybody's empowerment on how to "tell" when a saddle fits or doesn't. I can't give you any more help on that than your own eye and hands can say -- you'll have to feel, look, shift things around, try other saddles, and maybe talk to Dave on the phone.

Keep writing in, please....and be cautious for your own sake, because even though you are a much more competent and qualified trainer than many others, I don't want you getting hurt either. If you  have doubts as to your ability to tell ahead of time what this horse is going to do before he does it, then stick with ground work as a sure way to iron out the difficulties, even if doing it that way may take somewhat longer. -- Dr. Deb




Redmare
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 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2019 04:42 pm
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I am generally a fan of Occam's Razor when it comes to problem solving so I'm going to venture (at my own peril!) that this horse does not have a 19th rib, given all I know about him and the timing of this presentation of random bucking/attempted bucking fits. BUT - I will keep that in the back of my mind, given this is probably the first time in his life he's been posed the sorts of questions I'm asking him regarding bend and straightness.

I am ashamed to admit I do not own a copy of David's DVD - I'll order that this week.

Yes, I am probably doing too much, in more than one sense. As I read your response, I couldn't help but smile because I remembered a clinic I audited a year or so back where someone had a beautiful custom-made Wade saddle, and when she rode by us I noticed that tooled on the back of the cantle were the words "Do Less". I remember smiling then, too, because I knew exactly what that meant, and her horse demonstrated she lived those words. I will continue to endeavor to do the same.

Thank you again for all your help. Hopefully next time I write in I'll have some pictures to share.


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