Building back (first ride since the fracture)

First ride on Big Guy in probably over a year. He’s been on rest for 7 months since the pelvis fracture and the three months before that we were in a temporary boarding situation that did not have a safe place to ride.

Honestly, I didn’t want to ride since that was post-Barn Manager fiasco with The Monsters who employed me. Those first six months I was in recovery myself – both mentally and physically – as I had been rode hard and put up wet – and was, in hindsight, at the point of collaspe – or perhaps just being one of the Walking Dead.

Now back to today: I’ve been hesitant to ride him because I know all to well how a rider’s obsession to get back into the saddle is sometimes to the detriment of the horse. I did not want him to be in pain. I was not sure he was ready for it either.

Hubby met me at lunch and helped me mount. Big Guy has reverted to his old tricks of dancing around the mounting block. I am sure he was thinking WTF!? after a year off too. He has always wanted to be retired; as things go he may pretty much get his wish if things don’t start improving…

Once in the saddle, all the stirrups were wrong so I just dropped them. Riding him, I could feel how hesitant he is about stepping out which watching him I could only guess at. His hind legs minced.

He also reverted to his favorite posture, learned so long ago by his former owners, of going behind the bit, getting heavy, and thus on the forehand. He has the neck of an eel and is pretty elastic in ducking for that pretty picture that Hunter Under Saddle people seek for that Kodak moment in the showring. GAG.

Now I’m in a dilemmia about this – because the method of correcting this evasion is to demand more forward movement as it comes from the hindquarters – but that is the very place he had injured!

We did some walking and feeling each other out. At one point he reverted to his favorite stunt – ducking head, way behind bit, taking the bit between his teeth (so to speak) and bowing for a duck and run. However, he just didn’t have the energy to carry through with anything but three steps and I (bit of a pat on the back there), held my seat (now with no stirrups) and perserved.

Hubby (my budding Animal Communicator) said that BG wasn’t sore but just uncertain that he could really do it so fretted himself into a fit. That’s his special sort of resistance, which comes out of a petulant “I don’t wanna!” coupled with uncertainity and lack of confidence. It drives some of his riders crazy but it doesn’t offend me.

Just rode 15-20 minutes and have decided to re-do my training on his riding part. Will just add it into a regular workout and keep it very short so I can build up his confidence that yes, he can do it and get stronger too!

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8 Responses to Building back (first ride since the fracture)

  1. It is strange getting a horse going again after an injury at the back end. That is where I am with Doru too, though not as severe as what you had to deal with. I used to have a big draught gelding that had a similar hind lameness, which went on for months and then quickly (or so it seemed) cleared up. It’s frustrating because one doesn’t really know what is wrong inside, and cannot do anything dramatic to help. They seem better one day then worse the next. Oddly enough my two have been happy enough to walk around for hours but were not happy to trot. So I have a lot of sympathy for the issues that you are managing with your horse.

    • This is the first time I’ve had to bring a horse back from such a large injury. The vet said that he can easily stand around in pasture, look like he is bearing weight, but in reality not. When Hubby was rasping his hooves, he said he could see quite clearly he was not loading weight evenly on the back (hubby had read through ramey’s book and then saw what the trimmer had been telling him to look for).

      So the vet said lots of caveletti work and with that I need to make sure he is properly loading from the back and not fudging, which BG is notorious about doing as he loves being heavy on the forehand and clunking around.

      We’ll see if I can help him! hope so…

  2. I’m sure that, given time for him to heal, you will bring him back.

    What I find strange is a horse that walks very evenly (looking carefully from all angles) and is quite sound to ride at the walk, but is uneven at the trot.

    I asked the trimmer for an opinion, however he thought that Doru was balanced between hind legs.

    It just shows how elusive hind leg lameness can be if it isn’t something obvious lower down.

    Were you told to do lots of walking, or to avoid walking? Here the standard advice is simply to shut a lame horse in a stable for however long it takes.

    • Initially, if your horse is dead lame or lameness is presented it is to go immediately to stall rest until the vet can exam and determine the lameness.

      If it is an abcess (which BG has had before), after that was determined, we went to soaking but I did not keep him on stall rest (small paddock and field). With an abcess the horse goes dead lame suddenly but then once the abcess breaks feels pretty good again (comparatively). BG’s abcesses did not break out the hoof but the coronet band and happened about 3-4 months after I got him. I was told by some horse rescue people that it is not uncommon for TB’s to suddenly abcess once they come out of being on deaths’ door as the body then relaxes and starts to void.

      With the pelvis fracture he did need to go on immediate stall rest and was on it for 3 months. Then we opened him up to a small pen that gradually got enlarged. It’s not a silly horse so I let him out to limited pasture (alone) probably quicker then I would another horse. Now he’s allowed pasture as long as he doesn’t worsen.

      The main fear at this stage is that he might get silly, feel too good, and re-damage. I did read about a TB who had healed, went back to work, then re-fractured and had to be euthanized. So though it has healed it’s vulnerable if he gets too frisky and why he is not on a lot of pain killers. I want him to KNOW he is NOT capable!

    • An exceptional book on Lameness issues is this one: http://www.amazon.com/Lameness-Recognizing-Treating-Horses-Ailment/dp/1592286674/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233096414&sr=1-1
      It has been right every time and has been a great help to me throughout all of BG’s lameness issues. Extremely comprehensive.

      It seem from the vet’ recent comments, that a horse can easily disguise lameness at the walk. What I look for is: toe dragging (this could be very slight but you will see the rounded part of the toe is abnormally worn and smooth), during a sharp turn they take a misstep; the rocked back position of the laminitic horse; the pulses in the coronet band; tender hoof when pinched; and more subtle signs the horse lays always on one side to the point that his elbow gets way too calloused on that side (very evident in BG’s case at this time).

      At a trot, of course the infamous head bobbing and generally one leg not stepping under in the same manner as the other.

      The real difficulty as you pointed out is now that you know there is a problem, WTF is it!? And that seems to be a huge gray area. I have heard that stifle injuries are extremely hard to determine.

      I do know that because BG was accepting weight on the leg, but refused to walk, they determined immediately it was in the hip or higher area.

      There’s a new tool I have seen here that uses infared technology to detect hot points. The point is you compare the right to the left, and clear asymmeterical patterns in heat shows there is a problem area to be investigated. I have not seen it used, but there is a horse at my barn that I think needs this – he has reoccuring back inflammation and something just aint’ right.

  3. These are helpful thoughts, thank you. It is very kind of you to discuss my horse when you have so much to think about yours.

    I have a feeling that two things have been happening at once, one of which was a misalignment that the chiropractor corrected. The other issue isn’t arthritis, as he didn’t stiffen on box rest. It isn’t nearly bad enough to be a broken bone. It may perhaps be connected to a click that comes from one hock (however both my horses have the same click as they walk, and the other is extremely sound.) I have looked carefully at him walking, and the action of both hind legs seems identical. But I do need to look for very subtle signs such as a slightly more rounded toe, as you rightly say. He rests one hind leg a bit more than the other, but does rest both from time to time. He never does turn around very well on the spot, usually moves the front and just pivots the back, there again he is a big draught horse.

    It takes me back to another big horse that I owned, who had a similar issue (worse, in fact). We never did get to the bottom of that, partly because I lived in a place with limited vet facilities, however a period of rest and light work got that horse sound. Both he and Doru were worked by former owners from around 2yo, and both did draught work and logging for a living.

    I do wonder whether I am dealing with a muscular issue? Something torn or strained, that takes time to heal? It makes me think also of the time when I recovered from torn muscles in a shoulder. The arm didn’t work properly for months, then almost overnight felt much better and regained its former functionality.

    I shall have a look for that book, it sounds really helpful. Perhaps more useful than a vet who says that he doesn’t know what is wrong but asks how much I am willing to spend on tests?

    • It’s raining here so I am down and out bored out of my mind! though it is good to have rain in July since we are usually burned up by that time 🙂

      On the clicking – that sounds like it may be joint related. Do you know for sure it is the hock that is bothering him? Did he present this lameness only when the shoes were removed? and then gradually went back sound? Sorry for the questions but I do not know all his story.

      Sometimes clicking happens if the horse if forging – the back hind striking the forefoot during the movement. If you can’t catch it my eye, you can with a video camera.

      Another thing you can look for is to see if the hoof is flared. BG’s left hind has a huge inside flare and this means he is not taking weight evenly upon that foot. A flare is where the hoof, set on the ground, fans outwards instead of just growing normally downwards.

      The natural hoof people really stress the movement to keep the hoof healthy. OTOH when Dear One had foundered we had to do what we needed to keep her comfortable and that wasn’t necessarily walking.

      On hocks, I did get hock x-rays for Big Guy at one point. Dr. Cowgirl takes 3 per leg. One outside, one inside and one diagonal. It did show that he had a bone spur again but it’s location would not interfere with movement; he also had the hocks fusing (for his age, not surprised) so that is why we did injections like 3 times in 18 months and by now he shouldn’t need them any more.

      He does have lack of joint fluid in the hock, specifically the one that had been operated on years back, so I have had him injected with HA (but there are a wide variety of things to try)

      What is Doru’s age?

    • Sorry more stuff (and my keyboard is still sticking!)…. on muscular damage, yes I could see that. Like you wrote, it will take much longer to heal then say, a bone break. I am told that BG’ is not in pain per se but his muscle is totally weakened and only by his short trots and workouts can he get it stronger but it will take longer.

      After walking him for 40 minutes, 4x a week, I know now that he is going to need to work harder if he wants to improve. That bit just got him strong enough to move – not move well by any stretch of the imagination!

      On issues: bone, muscle, joint are the three to rule out. X-rays would diagnose the bone or joint issues (possibly on the later); and I think muscle is far harder for these vets to figure out.

      Another thing I have noticed on BG is Hot Spots. I pass my hands lightly but firmly over his coat and I have discovered several spots that are unusually warm… this also seems to be where he likes to be massaged at.

      With the chiropractor what my experience was that it can help but you have to keep it up until the muscle follows and changes too. So for Big Guy he got 3-4 treatments in one year and then didn’t need very much again. He gets very locked up in the shoulder, and I am seeing that pain manifest again – probably way too much weight being born on the front to relieve the back so I’ve got him an appt. mid August.

      The chiropractor I used in the past showed me how knots would form in the area between the hip and the spine. That area should be relaxed and bounce/jiggle like a trampoline but if you run your fingertips quite firmly from spine to hip you may feel a deep knot. That is what I use the Trigger Wheel to work out
      https://horseideology.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/horse-massage/

      There is also a double fisted massage I use on his hindquarters (will video that sometime in the week) and I also massage his inner hind leg (groin muscles) as these can become extremely tight (on this video) http://commonsensehorsemanship.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/horse-behavior-during-grooming-and-massage/

      After a workout, I also use a brace on Big Guy. Mine is Vetrolin but you can find all sorts of homemade mixtures (a brace is a very diluted liniment)
      http://www.farnamhorse.com/aqha/vetrolin_email.htm
      The problem with using liniment is that it is very easy to overdo it and really get the area damaged – I avoid full strength because the horse cannot tell me if it is too much.

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