Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Horse Chiro - not a career expo featured job, one imagines

This afternoon I got Heidi Douglas, vet chiro from Rockhampton QLD, out to look at the older neddies (I smugly call them 'performance horses' despite their only performances being more like 'endurances'). I was really curious about the differences between chiropractics and bodywork (there were many) and wanted another opinion about Rose and Jedi, mainly to see what differences there might be there too (there were few).

Suffice to say, Heidi is a seriously competent woman. You don't ride solo around the majority of Australia without some significant know-how and independence, so I liked her already. She was more taken with Uno than anyone else (she's coming to look at him next time - more on that later), but was able to give me some really good feedback on Rose.

Firstly, she found no issue with her elbows, at least she said practically nothing about them. She seemed non-plussed by my description of previous diagnoses. She listened to my description of Rose's pelvic injury and how she seemed since then. And then she said the following:
  • Rose's sacro-illiac joint is being prevented from a full range of motion by her brain. After her injury, her brain continued to tell her body that the joint must be protected and not moved excessively. So, she moves while holding her pelvis, and her rib cage, as still as possible.
  • Her rib cage was also quite 'stuck' and she was trying not to inflate her lungs to full capacity due to the same kind of problem.
  • There appears to be no other issue, no permanent injury or pathology, no symptoms of pain or chronic discomfort. All the same stuff Bec Walshe said.
Heidi gave me two exercises to do with Rose. The first is to help deepen the neural pathways regarding the free movement of her sacro-illiac joint. And the second is to help her inflate her lungs and basically stretch out her ribs. Awesome. Heidi will see her next time she's down in a couple of months.

Jedi was even more interesting. The funny humping and groaning he does when I saddle him may well be due to spasming muscle under the saddle and in the girth area. I cannot for the life of me remember its name....I probably wouldn't be able to spell it anyway! She gave me an exercise to help relieve the spasming, and once again train his brain to allow that muscle to relax. He also has stiff ribs and I will need to do the same rib cage expansion work with him.

Heidi told me about 30% of horses suffer fractured ribs during foaling - the rib cage is so well-developed and the birthing is so quick and powerful, it's not unusual for some damage to occur to the widest part of the foal. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a problem for a horse running around the prairie doing his thing. But stick a saddle and a person on top and all of a sudden there's pain.

Heidi thinks it is highly likely Rose had a fracture of this kind, and that Uno is a prime candidate too. Given the size of both of them as foals this does not surprise me!

What a great experience, and a very genuine person with logical, evidence-based theories. Bodywork has been fantastic for my horses and I still think there's a place for it in my management, but I'm ready to add Heidi's expertise to my bow.

Sam Lyle clinic in a few days - will blog! 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The only way is up!

What a great week it's been. A really positive horsey (and life!) week. I'll start at the beginning....

I had written Rose off as completely unrideable, even perhaps unable to have another foal. I thought her pelvis injury was really problematic - the way she is always resting a leg and looks so stiff and ungainly as she walks around. I also thought the osteoarthritis in her shoulders was enough to put her out for good. Such a big horse and with that constant wear and tear on that joint, I thought she'd be lame every time I rode her.

So, I bit the bullet and booked her in to see Bec Walshe at the Canberra Equine Hospital. I'm not sure if I'd begun my blog by the time I last took a horse to see her - Assegai the eternally grumpy gelding - but I've always found her knowledgeable, pragmatic, confidence-inspiring and very affordable. I'm sure there'll be some surprise out there for the last part but Bec only charges $100 for her time - usually an hour or so. Money well-spent, as it's turned out each time.

I fronted up on a gorgeous autumn day with the wonderful Rose. Unloaded herself, grew to about 18 hands as she looked around the CEH, then quickly settled as I gave her a wither scratch and stood close to her. I think, after having her for most of her life, Rose and I have a good bond. It's nice. :)

Bec gave her a pretty rigorous workout - lots of trotting on the bitumen road, fanging around the round yard and flexion tests. She was in two minds about the elbow action of the osteoarthritis. She described it as being 'loose action of a big young horse with low muscle tone'. I don't agree. I do think it's osteoarthritis as described by Sharon May-Davis. BUT, given the elbow flexion and serious trotting down the sloping bitumen road with no soreness, no unwillingness, no resentment, I am far more confident in Rose's soundness. The condition may degenerate over time (more likely will degenerate) but I wanted to know if I could ethically ride her right now, and that question has been answered.

The pelvis is altogether another thing. It was hard getting Rose to stand up square - she is quite set on resting one hind or the other while standing. But there was never a hint of unevenness or pain during the tests and exercise Bec had her do. Lots of strength work was the prescription. She's uncomfortable, yes, but see what a high-protein diet, riding and hillwork, poles and cavaletti do. Fair enough, said I.

So, poor Rose has been in pretty constant work since that day. I've ridden her three time for about 10-15 mins each time, with no soundness concerns or jacking up. Quite the opposite, actually. She is so trainable and so balanced for a big, unfit, green-broken horse. We only just started our first trotting work this week and she's doing really well.

I've bumped up her diet considerably to try to put more muscle and weight on her. She's now on Hygain Ice, Breeda, Micrbeet (couldn't get Speedibeet and Micrbeet is unmolassed, at least), Easiresult and lucerne chaff, with Equilbrium and MSM. I'll be phasing the Breeda out over the next week. She looks like this at the moment:
Her characteristic hind-leg resting and all bones and sinew. Not the most flattering pic, to be sure, but it's clear how much topline and muscle she needs to build. Lots to work on! And she's exhausted, poor love - look at that yawn!

Young Jedi is now clipped and recovered from his mysterious lameness. I do wonder if it was me shaving just a bit too much off his outside bar on his off fore hoof. It looked uneven so I took the rasp to it, not more than a day after Kirsten the Wonder Trimmer had been. Probably shoulda left it alone!

He's really starting to work in a forward, consistent frame, not getting too freaked out most of the time and producing some lovely cadenced trot work. Still being a bit of a tool in canter but that'll come. We had a tops jumping session today and I'm really looking forward to the Sam Lyle clinic next weekend. First Prelim clinic.

I've decided to sell Jedi by the end of the year, if I can. I want to concentrate on Rose and keep doing my judging/competing gigs. It really helps me afford to compete and I love giving back to my sport in this way. Not to mention that Jedi will help pay for my dressage arena!!

He's the gorgeous boy now. He's starting to look and feel like a real performance horse:
You said you had carrots...

Uno looks like the love child of a mule and a giraffe. He's just awful-looking right now! He's very fluffy, all legs and belly, SO unattractive. Just hoping he turns from ugly duckling into a swan. And he's gone back to being a complete Fantapants.

Luckily, he's got the most gorgeous temperament like his mum!

Here he is just before dinner:

Timmy is turning into a bit of a stunner. He's going to be a serious performance horse for a junior with skills or a small adult. Absolutely gorgeous. But so annoying!! He's always getting in your face and your space, pulling rugs off gates (or trying to pull Jedi's off his body!!), chasing dogs and chickens and kids just to play with them, breaking whatever he can. Such a teenager!

He's rising 3 so I'll back him in Spring and see what happens. I'm happy to keep him around. He's a VERY good doer and really very sweet. And Uno loves him. :)

So, next things coming up are the Sam Lyle clinic next weekend, then Berrima is hosting it's XC/SJ weekend and we're just heading up for the day to have a run around the Prelim SJ and XC courses. Manu Mclean is up in a month so I'm stoked I got a lesson each day on each horse. Better start saving!

Julia the WOW saddles lady will be coming back from Badminton where she watched her and her husband, John's, horse Algebra go around. Pity he and Nat Blundell had a stack but so many did. Less than half even completed the XC. Now that's a statistic I haven't seen for a long, long time. Anyway, Julia will be coming out to fit Rose for a dressage saddle (got some money from selling Charles' motorbike until tax time comes around), very exciting.

I've got a saddle fitter coming out in 3 weeks to look at whether the Pessoa jumping saddle might fit either Jedi or Rose. If it does, fantastic, I can get the WOW jump saddle fitted to the other horse. If not, well, Rose might not be doing too much jumping for a while. Then again, the WOWs are so forgiving, I'm using both the WOWs on both the horses with no problems. Just not the perfect fit for both.

And this week coming up is my last week of studying before I get admitted as a lawyer. I'm stoked. And exhausted!

Til next time!