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Super Moderator

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Posts: 3307
Status:  Offline
Posted: Wed Apr 5th, 2017 12:27 pm
Dear Forum readers: Recently I have been working with some folks who participate in a list for owners of American Saddlebred horses. I have been requesting photos of ASB's of what are considered the "old fashioned" type, i.e. heavier-boned, broader-bodied, less "extreme" in the length of the neck. Among several people who generously sent me photos was Casey B., who sent photos of her gelding Hero whose picture I post below with her permission.

Hero is only 12 years old, she tells me, although I would from his appearance have put him at closer to 18 -- in other words, instead of looking as if he were in the prime of his life (the prime of a horse's life is from age 8 to 12), Hero looks like an old horse. The primary reason for my impression that he looks older and more worn-out than he should is the obviously strained back. Casey tells me they purchased Hero from an Amish family, and that the horse drives 'very nervously' -- I do not think that this is due to anything the Amish did. Neither do I think that the strained back -- and the fractured croup and dock which you will see in the next post -- are due to anything the Amish did. These were all things that occurred before the Amish purchased him, and their purpose in purchasing him from his original breeder was exactly the same as Casey's: to help a horse who otherwise shows every evidence of nobility and generosity. The difference between Casey and the Amish is, however, that the Amish are not permitted to keep horses or other animals merely as pets; if the animal cannot well and safely perform useful work (such as pulling a buggy), it will typically be sold on.

Now, what I have said to Casey in private correspondence is, that if she would be willing, we will assist her in learning how to perform ground and under-saddle exercises that will prove physiotherapeutic for this horse. Casey not only shows me the photo of the fractured croup and dock, and the photo of the strained back, but also tells me that the horse manifests what she calls 'shivers' of the hind limb, i.e. periodic tic-like uncontrolled shaking which affects one hind limb at a time. She does not mention muscle weakness, stumbling, staggering, or falling down, but nonetheless received the "suggestion" (I will not say it was really a diagnosis) from her vet that the horse might have EPM. Readers of this Forum know that I don't believe that EPM is, in most cases, the cause of the sort of movement difficulties that are often ascribed to it, or used as excuses for retiring or even euthanatizing horses. But this is the profile that we will be working to improve.

So much for an introduction to our readership. I have told Casey to watch for the appearance of this thread, and, knowing that she is eager to begin, let's start with an interview set of questions which you, Casey, will please reply to:

(1) Do you know what 'untracking' means?
(2) Do you know what 'twirling the head' means?

It's totally OK if you don't, but I need to know, because this will tell me where your 'lessons' need to begin. Thank you very much, Casey, for permitting this dialogue in our forum, where it has the potential to benefit many other people.

See below for the first photo; readers please bear in mind that it is not a true 'conformation' shot, since the photographer was standing toward the front of the horse. This distorts the image, so that the front end of the horse appears larger than it should, i.e. the neck longer and the head larger; while at the same time the rear end of the horse appears smaller than it really is too. I chose this image out of several that Casey sent because it shows the back strain very plainly.

See  the next thread for the photo showing the horse's fractured sacrum and tail -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: 12YO ASB gelding Hero C Blinn Strained back.jpg

Super Moderator

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Posts: 3307
Status:  Offline
Posted: Wed Apr 5th, 2017 12:42 pm
Dear readers: My impression from Casey's communication to me is that she and/or whatever massage practitioners she employs have been under the impression that the misalignment evident in Hero in rear view are things that can be changed or improved by massage and/or chiropractic adjustment.

They absolutely are not, and we will not for that reason be concerning ourselves with this aspect of Hero's body. We will not NEED to concern ourselves with it, because these seemingly "gross" problems have very little functional significance. Our efforts, instead, will be wholly directed to those parts of Hero's vertebral chain which lie ahead of the croup.

To be specific, what is wrong with Hero's croup bone -- the sacrum -- is that several of the dorsal spines have been fractured. This is likely because the horse flipped over backwards and landed hard; and the likelihood is also that this occurred before the bones had achieved full adult mineralization which only occurs between the ages of four and six. In short, I think it happened when he was two, during one of the very first "breaking" sessions. Traditionally with ASB's, breaking-in is first done not to saddle but to harness, and my bet would go to the idea that the horse panicked, reared up, and flipped over when they were attempting to get him for the first time into a 'bitting rig', i.e. an overcheck device. It's also possible that he did this when they were trying to get him to stand tied -- pulling back and flipping over being a fairly common outcome of the incompetent approach that is commonly taken.

As to the fractured dock, I am going to vote that this occurred at the same time as the fracture to the dorsal processes of the sacrum, rather than the other alternative, which is that it is the result of a badly misdirected effort to 'break' the tail in order to 'set' it, as for high-tail or five-gaited classes at ASB horse shows.

Now, Casey, the questions for you to respond to on this one are:
(1) How many moveable joints does the sacrum (croup bone) contain?
(2) What bone articulates with the front end of the sacrum?
(3) What bone articulates with the rear end of the sacrum?
(4) What bones articulate with the upper surface of the front end of the sacrum?

Attachment: 12YO ASB gelding top view Hero broken croup.jpg

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