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Joined: Mon Apr 16th, 2007
Location: Texas
Posts: 282
Status:  Offline
Posted: Mon Nov 9th, 2015 06:36 am
Dr. Deb and other friends:

We have a lovely classic Arab mare who is uncommonly athletic (Dr. Deb, she is the grey in the pix I sent you a couple of weeks ago). Always a challenge to ride because of her extreme quickness and literal-ism (she will not fill in -- you better know how to ask), she has become very difficult and angry under saddle, to include throwing of head, crow hopping, and coiling as if to begin to rear.

I had noticed growing trouble like this. Today and Friday it was much worse than ever. Today our trainer and I tried a number of approaches and palpitated her in various spots. here is what seems to be going on:

a) Loins just ahead of the pelvis are quite tender --- she shrank away from light palpitation;

b) this seems to be reflected in trouble bending and turning;

c)Occasionally, but just occasionally she will squeal and kick when touched on her rear belly anywhere from center up to flanks -- but no the vertical flanks themselves.

It may or may not be significant that this mare has not been observed to have gone into heat during the least year. As she is kept in a stall at night, we'd have seen it.

I'm going to have the vet examine her. Will post what he finds. In the mean time, has anyone else any potentially helpful thoughts?

Obviously she will not again be ridden until we get to the bottom of the problem.


Joined: Fri Jan 15th, 2010
Location: Bath, Somerset, United Kingdom
Posts: 223
Status:  Offline
Posted: Mon Nov 9th, 2015 03:36 pm
Hi Joe,
I agree about a vet check, but I would also add to check, double check and triple check her saddle fit.
This sort of horse will not tolerate a saddle that is less than 110% right. Even a saddle that is cleared as fitting by many saddle fitters may not be up to her exacting standards.

Kuhaylan Heify

Joined: Fri Jan 30th, 2015
Posts: 87
Status:  Offline
Posted: Mon Nov 9th, 2015 09:01 pm
Dear Joe; I would suggest a visit with Dave Genadek too. He's knowledgeable and a good teacher and able to teach how, since a horses body is a system of reciprocating systems, what effects one body zone often effects others.
best wishes
Bruce Peek

Joined: Mon Nov 3rd, 2014
Posts: 12
Status:  Offline
Posted: Tue Nov 10th, 2015 07:04 am
There are a variety of disorders involving the ovaries that can present as pain, particularly in the loin, and persistent anestrus (failure to come into season). Treatment varies, of course, depending on what exactly is wrong.

Joined: Mon Apr 16th, 2007
Location: Texas
Posts: 282
Status:  Offline
Posted: Mon Nov 16th, 2015 03:17 am
Thanks to all for their comments. She was vet checked on Friday. Turns out, she does come in season but is not, as the vet said, overt. She was ovulating last weekend when the most trouble occurred. That, combined with some saddle bridging that was causing undue pressure on the ovaries seems to have been the largest part of the problem.

That said, she is still troubled internally somewhere behind the girth. there are times when she will not tolerate having her belly touched and is generally sensitive -- resulting in angry tail and other negative behavior.

I forgot to ask the vet about ulcers. Does anyone think this likely?
Super Moderator

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Posts: 3307
Status:  Offline
Posted: Mon Nov 16th, 2015 11:22 am
Joe, stomach ulcers are not going to be the source of the reactions you describe.

I too owned a mare -- Sadie, my Quarab -- who never showed "heat behaviors" such as squealing, grouchiness, touchiness, kicking, squirting, tail-wringing, and the like. Nonetheless she ovluated regularly in the normal manner, and was able to become pregnant (though she lost the foal) after the age of 20. So her reproductive organs and hormonal system, we may conclude, were working just fine.

The pain you're describing will have one of two origins:

(1) A "messy" ovlulation, in which the cyst doesn't detach from the ovary and/or has an extra-thick capsule, so that there is pain and noticeable bleeding when it does finally rupture. In this case, the origin of the pain is intra-abdominal. If your vet performed a rectal palpation, an engorged/nonruptured cyst or more than one cyst would have been one of the things he was trying to feel. There are also other possibilities, such as an aborted pregnancy that has failed to shed, ruptures or tears to the uterus, nonovulatory cysts/benign cysts, etc. We'll have to depend on his report to find out about any of this.

(2) Pain originating in the bones or muscles that support and span the horse's back, in that section between the pelvis and about where the cantle of the saddle would sit. It is far more likely that the horse will evince tenderness by shrinking away from palpation if the back itself is the source of the pain. An ill-fitting saddle is of course an obvious culprit, but don't discount the possibility of a fracture of the lumbars -- has she cast herself in the stall recently? This can result in fracture to the dorsal, articular, or transverse lumbar processes and the horse would then definitely act as you describe.

If it turns out to be the saddle, bridging may not be your only problem. Go back and review Dave G's "About Saddle Fit" DVD -- paying particular attention to the section on rigging. Have you been overtightening the front girth in order to compensate for the bridging, or for the fact that the saddle wants to "walk" backwards because it's actually too narrow/doesn't have enough flare in the fore arch? If you overtighten the front girth, it will make the rear part of the saddle want to "swim" back and forth across her lower back, which will indeed quickly make any horse sore. One sign that this is what is going on: saddle the horse in the manner you had been, and then longe it for a few minutes. Then carefully remove the saddle and pad. Are the hairs in the loinspan criss-crossing? That's the sign that the saddle was moving sideways.

"Tetchyness" in the lower abdomen, down by the udder, might be a sign that the mare just hasn't had all the parts of her skin-map properly explored and made to be OK. But, if she truly had not been touchy in that zone before, again Joe, is there any possibility that she's pregnant, even getting late in the pregnancy? In which case it would be the onset of lactation that is your difficulty, particularly if this is a first pregnancy. Otherwise, once again one has to choose between "referred pain", i.e. the origin of the pain is the muscles and bones of the lower back, or it is just a painful heat.

Pauline Moore may want to weigh in here with a suggestion that you get her on chasteberry, if it turns out the vet says her problem is ovulation/heat cycles.

Once you and your vet get this figured out, I would also suggest a project -- no matter what type of saddle you ride her in, you need to get her broke to using the rear cinch, or else use a saddle that has a Y-fork rigging so that front and rear tension can be separately adjusted. -- Dr. Deb


Joined: Mon Apr 16th, 2007
Location: Texas
Posts: 282
Status:  Offline
Posted: Mon Nov 16th, 2015 07:47 pm
Dr. Deb:

Thanks for your detailed response. It makes perfect sense. Dr. Kerin found no abnormalities; only evidence of a very recent ovulation. There is no chance of pregnancy; she hasn't been within a mile or so of a stud in a couple of years, and of course, a very experienced horse doc found nothing.

On the other hand, based on your comments here, I do now suspect that the saddle is a problem, as apparently is every saddle I own. IN fact, I shifted out of an earlier saddle because I thought it too tight in the withers. She has such a short back that our stock saddles are too big. We have been riding her in a Stubben close-contact saddle with Stubben's widest tree, and hoping. Have called and talked with Dav about ordering a saddle, but in a slow year the cost is not inconsequential, and we'd still have a delay of some months while it was made.

She is a challenge to fit. She has withers, although they are wide, but then has the characteristic wide Arab barrel and slight saddle back. The Stubben does seem to all of us to fit in the withers. However, I have been tightening it down as you described. Nevertheless, with Dr. Kerin pointing out what I now feel a bit dim at not seeing myself, the bridging was putting weight right onto the loin span.

As to the belly, this mare was 8 years old before we go her and started any training. She had been more or less trained to the most basic halter requirements. She had been kindly treated, but not handled much. She is friendly to people and loves to be scratched and rubbed -- even INSIDE her ears.

HOWEVER, when we got her she had not been trained to have her belly or udders touched, or her hind legs handled. When anything touched her underside much behind the girth she would squeal, flatten ears, and try to cow kick. When her hind feet were being cleaned or trimmed she would kick straight back almost as if by reflex.

Through a lot of handling and brushing (she likes the medium brush), she got past most of that. She no longer even resists foot cleaning or trimming. I almost never have trouble under her belly or cleaning between her udders. But every now and then for reasons I do not understand she indicates annoyance or squeals and kicks.

Yesterday Jake rode her rather than me (he is the trainer). He weighs slightly more than half what I do ( I am not fat, just big at 6'5", 225 lbs). He also used his Californio style stock saddle which flares up a bit and did not touch the loins.

Zameela came nicely to hand for Jake. However, she continued to be touchy behind the girth. She moved away from touch,gave angry tail in response to leg behind the girth, and showed other signs of being bothered. Jake concluded that she was still uncomfortable internally and suggested possible ulcers. Hence the post.

It is worth noting that the mare has had little work recently. Due to my travel she had not been worked for two weeks before the blowups last week that started our real concern. then she and I had one good ride on Wednesday, one a little rocky on Thursday, and open rebellion on Sunday when we found her back so tender. Of course, she was not ridden at all last week until vet checked on Friday, and then I waited until we could try a different saddle on Sunday.

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