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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.

Redmare
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 Posted: Wed Mar 13th, 2019 05:15 pm
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Back with an update, although it's less of an update as not much has changed, but that in and of itself is useful, I think.

So this gelding continues to be buck-y - as much as I have tried to stay behind that point at which he thinks he needs to buck, I haven't always been successful. He also has taken to shaking his head when I put the saddle on - the saddle fit has been addressed although after investigating it further I don't think it was as much a factor as I thought it might have or could have been - if anything, it was more a factor for ME because this horse gets very upset if your balance is off and you don't realize until you sit in a well-balance saddle how much you are fighting your own tack (and how much of a problem this might pose for your horse!) So I see the head shaking (and this happens whether I tie him or tack up at liberty) as more of an indication that this horse is generally not looking forward to being ridden, which I'm hoping to slowly change.

What HAS become really, really obvious is that this horse's jaw/poll are a serious bother for him - I now wonder if part of his drastic response to the "womp lesson" is because in his eyes, he literally does not know/feel comfortable arranging his body parts in a way that makes going forward easy and so my pretty firm demand that he get forward off my leg was quite unfair. There is very obviously a serious block, both physically and energetically, at his right jaw and even with continued work on the ground to teach him how to release and twirl his head left he holds pretty strongly onto that desire to travel (and even stand, when at his leisure) with an "S" curve in his neck. Basically every time I go out to see him I do some kind of manual work on that area and lately it's been met with a LOT more lip/mouth flapping/play, jaw "switching", head tossing/nodding or shaking, yawning, etc. At this point, I see any indication from him to try and release as a good thing, even if it's just him bobbing his head after I take my hands off him - it's movement, and at this point it's beneficial.

Dr. Deb, I've done the Google search through the forum for horses bucking in response to TMJ/poll pain and found a thread or two on it but it didn't sound like this is likely to be a direct reason for the bucking. I had his teeth checked and floated about 10 days or so ago and there was nothing other than routine work to be done, so it's not tooth related. I've gone back to basics and really put more focus on setting him up for straightness - we've talked about this horse needing really concrete examples and my gut tells me I haven't been setting him up well enough to, say, go from walk to trot STRAIGHT, which has contributed to his bogginess to the leg and then his frustration when I womped him.

I am curious if you have any suggestions/thoughts on the TMJ/poll updates - I've been riding this horse for the better part of three years and throughout those three years that anatomical area keeps resurfacing. I think I should probably pay it some good attention now.

Last edited on Wed Mar 13th, 2019 05:51 pm by Redmare

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Mar 14th, 2019 12:58 am
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Redmare, I'm running out of options I am afraid. My very first reaction to this report of yours would have been to say "check the teeth" -- not for something simple and small like "points" but for a protuberant rear cheek tooth. Horses sometimes develop these so-called "hooks", which can become so high above the normal level of the chewing surface that whenever the horse closes its mouth, the "hook" gouges the opposing gum. Be aware that not all practitioners, especially not all veterinarians, have the training to recognize this; and some veterinarians, I am sorry to say, refuse to acknowledge that such a condition would be something abnormal and requiring treatment --  the treatment being the reduction of the offending tooth to the proper level and/or its extraction. If your practitioner does not use a speculum and IV drugs to facilitate thorough manual examination of the mouth, all the way to the back, then I would encourage you to obtain a second opinion from another and more qualified practitioner.

Note that it is rare for a horse to develop rear "hooks" without also developing corresponding, although sometimes smaller, "hooks" at the front end of the cheek dentition. So for example if the grossly protuberant tooth is the last cheek tooth from the lower jaw, there will almost certainly be at least a small "hook" also on the first cheek tooth of the upper jaw. Almost always also, this is bilateral; indeed I've never seen a case where it was unilateral apart from some other injury, i.e. a fractured jaw and that's not what you have.

I bring this up because you yourself can examine the front end of the horse's mouth -- just don't put your hand in there where he can bite off your thumb. Either wear a miner's head lamp, or else have a friend standing behind you and to one side with a flashlight. Part the horse's lips with one hand and, using your other hand, draw the commissure on one side back into a "grin" which will make the anterior aspect of the first cheek tooth visible. If you see a hook, i.e. the front end of the upper cheek tooth overhanging the front end of the lower cheek tooth -- you have excellent reason to be calling for that second practitioner. Indeed more than excellent, because this particular configuration, if indeed it goes with a big hook at the rear of the mouth, not only makes it difficult and painful for the horse to turn its head, but is also extremely dangerous to the rider insofar as the mouthpiece of the bit can ride up the tongue/bars and get caught under the overhanging front "hook". Horses with this configuration, if the bit gets caught under the tooth this way, not infrequently suddenly rear and may even flip over backwards.

The other thing I want to say to you is, don't feel guilty about whomping him. You are not being unfair; you are in the process of diagnosis and that means, you are going to have to be provocative, sometimes, in order to get feedback from him that helps you figure out what's going on. You whomped him in order to help him. It is never wrong to ask horses to properly rise to the leg, and I don't care what their medical status is -- they still must be brought to a viewpoint where they care about what you care about MORE than they care about what they care about. If you get into feeling guilty, even if the horse is in fact experiencing significant pain and not just twinges, you're going to start conveying to him -- whether you intend to or not -- the sort of tentativeness that will cause him to up the ante on his end. You do not want to get to this place, because if you do, you'll have to kill him as a rogue -- and you know this.

We have had a very few really intractable cases over the years. Harry Whitney had a horse called 'Turbo' that he could just never get right -- the horse came in as explosive, and we tried everything we could think of, but Harry at last felt it necessary to lead him out into the desert and shoot him -- because he was a misery to himself and dangerous to everybody, including Harry. One cannot ethically sell a horse that one knows is dangerous.

One other suggestion we might try -- shy of shooting yours -- is to have a wee consult with my New Zealand sponsor, Jenny Paterson. Jenny has been involved with trace-nutrient research for a number of years. Her experiments are not "official", in that we are not talking here about formal double-blind testing. However, there is a good amount of anecdotal testimony from Jenny's customers who use her proprietary mineral mixes and follow her recommendations concerning pasture management, to say that their horses become "normally" calm and flexible after the management changes she recommends. The change is sometimes quite dramatic.

So, the next thing for me to ask you is -- you have been massaging and/or manipulating this horse. Does his muscle tone feel "normal" to you? Are his reactions to light touch, or sudden touch, or IM injections given without the horse being tranquilized -- are these reactions what you would call normal? Is he "explosive" or hyper-reactive just when you are interacting with him on the ground? Is the stiffness you notice at the poll related to muscle-tone which seems abnormal to you? Does he ever exhibit tetanic or clonic-like muscle-tone, like as if he was "tying up" only not in the hindquarters but in the neck? Has the vet who did the dentistry mentioned to you that it was hard to open the horse's jaw, or that he didn't seem able to open the jaw all the way or as far as other horses? When you longe this horse, I know you've said he sometimes goes with a long fluid stride, but are there other times when he seems proppy and stiffly short-strided?

Also: can you correlate his bucky-ness with the condition of your pasture? This would be, can you correlate it with the season of the year -- is it worse in spring, fall, etc? Second, can you correlate it with rainfall -- is it worse in summer when the pasture grass is dormant, but then you get a rainstorm and the grass "wakes up" -- is it worse after the rainfall? Jenny is going to ask these same questions if/when you speak to her. Do EMail her by writing info@calmhealthyhorses.com and tell her that I sent you. You can also review her website by going to http://www.calmhealthyhorses.com. And yes she is in business to sell her minerals, but a more  un-greedy person you will never meet, similar to our friend Dave Genadek in the saddle department.

Meanwhile -- be careful. I'm not thrilled with the fact that the horse continues to buck, because the last thing we need is for his only helper in this life to get hurt. As I advised before, I would sure put the emphasis on ground work and make sure to have him very well softened up before you consider getting on him per any given day. Sometimes this is all you can do until the horse gives more evidence so that we have a clear direction for what to try next. Let me know what emerges when you talk with Jenny, and anything you find by a second oral exam. -- Dr. Deb


Redmare
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 Posted: Thu Mar 14th, 2019 06:07 pm
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Thank you for the reminder to not feel guilty - I wouldn't say I feel guilty over whomping him, but I do have a growing sense of frustration/disappointment that I haven't been able to get through to him to help him. But that's really more about me than him, and I need to remind myself that all of this is indeed diagnostic.

I will have another dental practitioner out - this gelding was sedated used Dorm gel for the most recent float but the layfloater did not end up putting the speculum in because the horse did not appear even close to fully sedate even after 50+ minutes post-administration, and she didn't want him fighting the speculum as he's already so defensive about you messing with his head/mouth. She did the kind of exam you are suggesting I do and manually floated down a couple sharp points but said she did not see or feel anything further. However, it was not anywhere close to the type of exam you are describing, so best I have a vet out to do the IV. I will take a look in his mouth myself tomorrow as well.

As for your questions:

Does his muscle tone feel "normal" to you?
- Throughout most of his body, yes. In his neck and his right masseter/jaw, no. It's ropey, "piano keys", we call it, similar to what you feel on a horse who braces on the top of his neck and develops that hard, striated trapezius. His neck, despite having taken a nice shape over the last couple of years, is also hard and kind of "lumpy". Even gentle grooming there causes him to stiffen and move his head and neck away from you.

Are his reactions to light touch, or sudden touch, or IM injections given without the horse being tranquilized -- are these reactions what you would call normal?
- Again, area specific. We have no problem with IM injections given anywhere or touching any area of this horse's body until you get to his R side neck and face. He tends to immediately brace/lift his head and neck or move them away from you when you go to touch his face. He will often try and avoid contact with his face by ducking around with his head, bringing his chin to his chest to avoid you making contact, etc. When you go to firmly take his head in your hands, he often twitches his lips up.

Is he "explosive" or hyper-reactive just when you are interacting with him on the ground?
...this is hard to answer. Sometimes, often, even, yes he is. He does not often relax when tied - he stays rigid and alert instead of dropping a hip and cocking a leg and letting his ears go into a 'V'. When you untie him to go to doing something, he starts off quite "yellow" as we say out here - not sensitive, slow to get going, etc. When you raise your energy up to say "Hey, you paying attention? I asked you a question" he gets resentful and that's when the ears go back, he gets cranky and often gets over-reactive. This is what I mean when I say it's been hard to stay behind that line of where he gets resentful. It is the same way when you correct him strongly, both on the ground and under saddle. It's almost like it sends him into a frantic tizzy that he can't find his way back down from because he's almost not processing the release, just focused on the correction that occurred prior.

Is the stiffness you notice at the poll related to muscle-tone which seems abnormal to you?
- It certainly doesn't feel "normal" in the sense that it doesn't feel like normal, healthy musculature. It feels almost swollen - not like a hot soft tissue injury in a lower limb, but like a persistent fullness to the area directly behind his ears through the rectus capitis group that he really does not like palpated.

Does he ever exhibit tetanic or clonic-like muscle-tone, like as if he was "tying up" only not in the hindquarters but in the neck?
- I have never seen this on him, no.

Has the vet who did the dentistry mentioned to you that it was hard to open the horse's jaw, or that he didn't seem able to open the jaw all the way or as far as other horses?
- In not so many words, but yes, she did say he felt quite resistant to having her put her hand in his mouth, which is why she didn't end up using the speculum to float him because he was not fully sedate and was on the border of fighting her when she went to do an oral exam. As much was obvious just watching - he wanted to keep his head high and tried flipping it up and away or backing up when she went to open his jaw to view his mouth.

When you longe this horse, I know you've said he sometimes goes with a long fluid stride, but are there other times when he seems proppy and stiffly short-strided?
- At times, yes. But it almost always correlates with when he gets budged up in his neck. For example, I might have him on a 20 meter circle around me asking him to step out onto the outside pair of legs and soften his nose down and rotate his inside eye towards me so he's slightly laterally flexed at the poll. He finds this difficult and gets stuffed up and cranky in his neck before he releases and relaxes. This in turn changes his gait from forward and relatively fluid to stiff and short for the few strides it takes him to figure it out.

Also: can you correlate his bucky-ness with the condition of your pasture? This would be, can you correlate it with the season of the year -- is it worse in spring, fall, etc? Second, can you correlate it with rainfall -- is it worse in summer when the pasture grass is dormant, but then you get a rainstorm and the grass "wakes up" -- is it worse after the rainfall?
- I can't correlate it at all, because this only started happening with the "whomp" lesson a few weeks back. This horse has otherwise never shown a propensity for bucking (which the exception, early on, of needing those little crow hop bucks to get enough airtime to organize his feet in canter...it's been some time since he's needed that). Right now, of course, the ground is frozen and there is no pasture. His hay is grown on the same farm he lives at - I can even actually say that his hay has been coming from one particular field all winter, although I know that even in one field vegetation can vary quite a bit.

Kuhaylan Heify
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 Posted: Sat Apr 13th, 2019 04:23 am
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Can't find the new topic button.. Rats.
best
Bruce Peek

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Apr 13th, 2019 07:22 am
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Bruce, look at the upper right-hand corner of the Forum Home Page. Cheers - Dr. Deb

Redmare
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 Posted: Thu May 16th, 2019 06:21 pm
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I thought I'd come back and update about this gelding, as we are making good progress although I've taken a different way of getting there.

We have talked before about how this horse really - more than any other horse I have ever worked with - needs concrete examples. In that same vein, he also needs, I'd even say requires, perfect preparation. He does not have any tolerance for poor balance from his rider and if he feels ill-prepared for something you ask of him his response is to immediately get defensive. He is not particularly generous with his rider, although this is ever-so-slowly starting to shift.

A few weeks into this lesson of forward-when-I-ask and I was still getting frustration from the gelding and bucking in the canter. So I called a friend of mine who is quite talented at being that "second set of eyes" on the ground - she watched us go and helped me make some small but very meaningful shifts in my position so I was more with him. This has helped tremendously in all our ridden work since.

This friend is also very familiar with and practices horsemanship in the way of Ray Hunt, et al, and as we were chatting in the parking lot after my ride mentioned something that put into perfect clarify what I had been FEELING but unable to actual put my finger on. She said his upward transition to canter reminded her of those old cartoons where the horse gallops off but all you see is a blurred cloud of frantically moving limbs. I ruminated on this comment for some time because that is literally what the transitions feel like - you haven't even asked and he anticipates it so much it's suddenly already happened and he's crooked and messy and getting ready to buck.

So we've spent the last couple of months working on transitions of all kinds. I had recalled a thread from this BB where Dr. Deb mentioned using your "plasma leg" to channel energy down to the horse's outside hind in the upwards transition to canter and have been using this imagery in my riding to help him understand what leg I'm talking to and how I'm expecting him to use himself. It took several sessions of him fussing and backing and flailing about and doing everything he could think of to not specifically weight the leg I was talking to before he started to give up and at least try and offer what I wanted. I think this it part and parcel to his sore hocks, but it is also I strongly believe a function of how unsure he is.

I've been playing with this imagery/feel and asking for transitions initiated from specific legs in everything from a turn on the forehand to leg yields to transitions to trot from both the walk and the halt. It has DRAMATICALLY improved his transitions in the halt, walk and trot. I decided from the get-go that I would commit to not actually asking for the canter until this gelding could give me an "almost-canter" from the halt - i.e., that I could, from the halt, ask for him to not only weight but push off from the outside hind with enough power that his forehand rose up like it would in a canter depart, and he would continue forward in a trot. I got my first inkling of this - without frustration coming through on the horse's end - in a ride earlier this week.

I have also, as much as I've been able to with all the rain we've been getting here in the Northeast, take this horse out on decent hacks. We do anywhere between 5-8 miles in a hack, all at a marching 6-7 mph walk. This has also done wonders for this horse physically.

I've attached a still from a video my husband took about a month ago of some of our trot work. This has been quite the journey but it's been immensely eye opening and very rewarding to see this gelding go through so much physical and mental change.

Attachment: Soni2.jpg (Downloaded 97 times)

JTB
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 Posted: Tue May 21st, 2019 07:50 am
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Thank you for sharing the update, Redmare. I was wondering how the gelding was going and it is nice to see the journey continues. Please keep us posted as we are learning lots from this thread.
Kind Regards
Judy

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 Posted: Tue May 21st, 2019 09:53 am
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Redmare, before I could reply to you I needed to go back through this whole thread to see whether we had talked about hustling. Turns out we had not. It is always extremely helpful to get a photo posted. Your descriptions are always excellent but even they can't tell me what one glance at the image you posted told me.

One of the primary, simplest, and commonest causes of anxiety in ridden horses is that the horse feels that it is being hustled. What I mean by this is that the animal feels that it does not have enough time to get its feet where they need to be before momentum, or the swinging action of the other feet, cause it to either lose its balance or else interfere.

When I say 'lose its balance' in this case I specifically mean that when we hustle the horse, we are actually pushing him off balance from back to front.

When I suggested to you early in this conversation that the gelding needed to go FREELY forward, I did not mean that he was to hurry. What I meant was that we need to get the 'brakes' to come off, so that the wheels turn fluidly. But it is SOOOOOO easy to fall into hustling the horse in the effort to get the brakes to loosen up.

However, nonetheless -- there is NO relationship between speed of movement and getting the horse to loosen up, turn loose of itself, and let off the brakes. The 'brakes' are under the control of the animal's Birdie -- in other words, by metaphor, its will and its desires. So that, if we go to pushing pushing pushing to GO FORWARD in the ucky dressage sense of that phrase, we are actually making the situation worse, because when we hustle him, we make it harder for him to maintain his balance, we reduce his confidence, we may frighten or at least worry him quite a bit, and none of those is going to cause him to want to be with us more than he wants to be anywhere else -- which is when, and only when, the brakes will fully come unstuck.

I have made a tracing of your video still which should help to bring this home to you: you're pushing him just like a dressage rider and that needs to stop immediately. I post in the following a photo of me and Painty horse trotting in collection, on draping reins, with total power but also with complete relaxation and inner OKness. No hustle at all.

I don't know what your friend told you exactly because you didn't say -- i.e. did she tell you to half-stand in your stirrups in order to get weight off his loins? Is this what you see me doing on Painty? No. I sit flat down on my fat butt. My spine is vertical, which to the rider feels like they are leaning back just a hair; sit so 'straight up' that the abdominal muscles are a little bit engaged. At the same time, the small of my back is flat. I sit all the time as if I were seated behind and below my horse; that way, he is always ahead of my leg and this gives me the greatest potential to get him to respond full-heartedly to very light aids.

Also note differences in the position of the hands. You do have a bend in the elbows and the thumbs up -- that's the right way -- but I would advise still more bend in the elbows. Your hands need to be carried at the level of the natural waist, i.e. above your horn, at all times unless you're specifically doing something with a tool or a lariat that requires you to reach down.

It is absolutely, categorically not possible to raise the base of a horse's neck when either: (1) You are in any manner, even subtly, pulling his head down; or (2) When you disallow him to have his forehead on such an angle that the projection of a line drawn down his forehead falls in front of the fore hoof, at all moments. In other words, you are pulling him together, and this must also stop immediately.

If you ask him to go, and he goes but starts to speed up, TURN. And using only the inside rein, hold him to this turn until he regains his balance. Then, go back to the lightest possible feel on both reins. This is the only way the horse will ever learn to maintain its own balance, that is, the only way it will ever achieve self-carriage.

I am pleased that you're working more with transitions. I suggested this in the 2nd reply in this thread, way back on the first page. The trot is a lousy gait for teaching either self-carriage or collection, but it is especially lousy when the rider is hustling the horse. SLOW DOWN. SLOW WAY DOWN. Find a speed (miles per hour) and tempo (number of footfalls per minute) at the trot that the horse can do and (1) not lose its balance or only very rarely, and (2) where he feels relaxed the whole time.

The idea is to get him to trot UP not speed up. You want more bounce and no hustle. Softness must be there before anyone can have a license for speed.

When he's in a soft, relaxed trot then ask for canter. Canter twenty beats and then transition down, dropping right through trot into walk and make it a very "forward" or vigorous walk. Rest there, then get the soft powerful trot again and repeat.

I think now we are getting close to knowing what's been bugging this guy -- the simplest and most obvious of all errors, and I am very sorry that I did not perceive it just from your initial descriptions. But the photo tells me more than anything else could possibly other than coaching you directly in person. Cheers, and see photo below -- Dr. Deb



Attachment: FORUM Redmare difficult gelding trot sm.jpg (Downloaded 72 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue May 21st, 2019 10:00 am
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Painty and me in 2003. He was in his 27th year when this photo was taken. It took a long time to get Painty OK enough to manifest this much softness combined with power. Note the great coiling of Painty's loins and the deep bending of all the joints of the hind limb. Had I asked him to canter on specified lead, he could and did take the canter with equal power and softness in the next instant.

Please note the subtle difference in shape of Painty's neck vs. your difficult gelding....I am causing Painty to raise the base of his neck by touches of my calves against his sides, which causes him first to raise his back, second to coil his loins, and third to raise the base of his neck. Note the very long 'topline' through the neck that this produces, and that Painty's head HANGS plumb vertical. I say 'hangs' because that is what it is literally doing -- just loosely hinging off the front end of his neck.

Attachment: FORUM Deb Painty Powerful Relaxation sm.jpg (Downloaded 70 times)

Redmare
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 Posted: Wed May 22nd, 2019 12:24 pm
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As usual, I thank you for your honest feedback (and certainly no need for apologies - such are the limitations of not seeing someone in person). I certainly have NEVER set out to intentionally hustle him, and I understood you earlier in the beginning of this thread when you did mention that we are not interested in speed at all (as I think I also did mention at some point that I feared that the horse felt like I was rushing him given how he acting every time I had to womp him, even though that was not the lesson I was aiming to teach him). So yes, I think I understand better now - as you say - how easy it is to unknowingly cross that line of hustling the horse when you are trying to teach him to come off his internal brakes.

Your explanation as to the rider positioning is very helpful - my friend did not describe anything like what you suggested (though looking closer at the photo I posted I know why you picked those things out) Her recommendations were more about helping me relax my hip flexors and lower leg so it becomes more secure while properly engaging my abs. I have had to retrain myself as to how to properly engage my abdominals after a recent round of physical therapy for chronic pelvic floor pain that had started to creep into my psoas muscles and I sometimes found riding aggravating so I unwittingly developed some poor posture habits. You bet those habits were becoming annoying to this gelding.

That said, his transitions upward have improved tremendously. What I now need to focus on, as you said, is maintaining the slow, soft trot (or slow, soft whatever-gait-I-am-working-on). That's the part I've missed. I have not purposefully been hustling him, but I haven't been insisting that he maintain the cadence of trot I get for the first few strides after the upward transition, at which point he's more liable to lose his balance and quicken forward.

I will certainly be back (with photos, as they are obviously incredibly helpful!) with updates as things continue to progress.

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 Posted: Wed May 22nd, 2019 03:29 pm
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I should clarify - I HAVE been able to get soft, self-maintained upward transitions from halt --> walk and walk --> trot...what I have NOT been good about is ensuring the horse continues to carry himself this way after a few strides, when he tends to lose his balance and start to rush, at which point I end up holding him to some degree or, as you put it Dr. Deb, "pulling him together". I have not insisted that he maintain his own balance by turning him on a circle and allowing him to find it again. I did this for a long time earlier in his riding and I didn't seem to get anywhere with it, but I have tools and understanding now that I didn't then.

I meant to ask in my first reply, Dr. Deb - I did ride this horse last night after having read over many times and thought about your latest response. I got a very different horse in terms of steadiness and softness once I did as you suggested, but this gelding does (always has, I don't think I "installed this") have a tendency to want to get too deep, even on a soft feel where there is no backward traction on the rein. I do not want to get nit-picky about his head - is this something I should ignore for the time being and just focus on letting him "find it" himself, or is there something I should do to discourage him from ducking behind my hand?


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