BayDemon has asked for some input on how to progress and move forward with her mare, Dazy, and graciously allowed that to happen on Hooves, providing us with the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn. Please keep that in mind should you wish to add to the conversation.
Here is what BayDemon says about Dazy and the goals she’s set for her:
Dazy is a 9 year old quarter horse mare. She was an orphan foal. She also does not have the best work ethic, but she tries. Dazy has had a shoulder injury about 4 years ago. Vet couldn’t find anything wrong with her. She was also attacked by a cougar when she was three that resulted in some sutures in her fetlock. She is Investor bred on bottom, and has a few ROM earning horses on top. (Cutting, Reining).
My goal is to run barrels on her sometime this year. Issues that we are currently working through are bucking when going to the second barrel, and getting bendy to the right. She is very stiff on her right side and we are working on doing stretches and getting more flexible. It’s something that she has always struggled with. She can currently touch her knees with her head, and her belly stretches are getting better. She cannot currently reach her hips unless she really has an itch to scratch. Because of the current weather we are having, she has been a pasture ornament. She is usually ridden about 3 days a week.
Dazy is super smart, and she tries most of the time, until she gets frustrated. I started her under saddle as a 2 year old, when I put thirty days on her and put her back out in the pasture until she turned 3. At three, she had another 90 days on her and she was turned out until she was 4. At 4 I started teaching her the skills that would make her marketable in the event that I ever had to sell her. She was ridden by kids up until a few months ago when she started bucking. She’s been on a lot of trail rides, and has only been doing arena work for about the last 8 months.
The horse in question is an unconditioned, lightly used 9 year old that until recently was amicable about allowing children (typically unbalanced white noise makers unable to work through unwanted behaviors in a horse) to ride it.
Whenever a horse suddenly changes its behavior, the most common causes – in no particular order:
- Injury/pain/disease/lameness/sore muscles/inflammation/ulcers – all things related to unsoundness
- Diet change
- Management change such as; not getting turned out as much, change of pasture mates, change of stabling routine or location etc…
- Mental breakdown – ie., the horse that spends every waking work moment in a ring, going round and round and round, suddenly throws itself on the ground and refuses to enter the ring.
In other words, something happened a few months ago when she started bucking and it’s yet to be discovered and addressed. My first guess, without knowing all other details of how Dazy is managed and fed, and without seeing video of her moving and exhibiting the behavior, is that there’s a physical reason for the bucking. Let’s have a closer look at her conformation and conditioning to see if it gives any clues.
Nowadays, being of cutting and reining breeding can be almost like being a crossbred. Quarter Horse breeding has become so specialized that a top cutting horse doesn’t have to look anything like a top reining horse, and often doesn’t. I have no idea if this applies to Dazy or not, but it’s certainly something that people should consider with QHs.
I like to start by identifying a horse’s outstanding strengths. It puts the owner in a good mood to know that their horse has at least one or two redeeming conformation traits. 🙂 For Dazy we absolutely must acknowledge that huge hip (>34%) covered in powerful muscle, including the pants muscling. We must also praise her fantastic LS joint placement and her short loin. These traits are often seen in Quarter Horses, so it’s no surprise that Dazy should possess them.
She also has good substance, especially for her breed, and she shows proper forelimb alignment. It’s quite common to see calf-knees in QHs and pasterns that are too upright. Dazy suffers from neither of those traits.
Certainly there is plenty of power and speed potential in that haunch for a barrel racer, and there’s no worry about the steeper slope of the pelvis. Adding in the good substance and the right bone alignment through the forelimbs, the ability to stay sound when put on the forehand by speed looks well in-hand.
Dazy also has a well-constructed upper forelimb, possessing excellent length in the humerus bone (>65%) and an adequate shoulder angle. Note: in the photo she measures about 88 degrees for the shoulder angle, but she is standing with her front legs a bit too far underneath, artificially closing the angle.
She has a medium length of pastern with a short cannon bone. So far, all of that is suitable for barrel racing, and her short forearm is of no consequence for the discipline.
So far Dazy has a lot going for her for the discipline of barrel racing. Now it’s time to look at her weaknesses to see what, if any, issues they may present for her.
Starting at the front and working our way backwards, the first thing of note is the shortness of Dazy’s neck. Because the horse uses its head and neck to balance itself and rider, a short-necked horse loses some of that ability. This would become increasingly important when adding the speed and tight turning of barrel racing. The upper cervical curve is short enough that we need to call her hammer-headed. The set of the neck is just above the mid-point of the scapula, making it low to medium-low in set. This is not an ideal neck for a barrel horse.
Her back is short (approx. 43%), but her ribcage carries back really well (106%), which adds flexibility. Ideally, we’d like her to be a touch longer in her back with her ribcage carrying back this well, but as she is she should still have enough middle body flexibility to be able to negotiate the tight radius of the barrels, and the shortness of her back adds longitudinal strength.
Next we see that Dazy is clearly downhill built. This doesn’t interfere with speed, but barrel racing isn’t just about speed. The horse also needs to have the ability to collect and sit on their haunch as they come into the barrel, slide around it, and then thrust off its coiled haunch. A barrel horse benefits greatly from a closer to level build allowing easier shifting of weight from forehand for speed to haunch for collection. As much downhill build as Dazy possesses the task of sitting on her haunch just got exponentially more difficult.
Lastly we look at the hind legs. I had left this as the last to discuss in the conformation series because it’s one of the more complex aspects of the horse, and unfortunately Dazy represents a lot of that complexity. Without having to cover the entire topic here, I’ll highlight the main points as they relate to Dazy.
It’s important to know that the horse’s hind legs act as springs, unlike the forelimbs that act like pillars. The joints close absorbing and holding energy, the haunch lowers, then the spring uncoils, the joints open, and the horse dispenses energy to either propel itself forward, upward or both. For this action to occur, the hind legs have a ‘Z’ shape, some horses possessing more ‘Z’ than others. Dazy possesses quite a bit of ‘Z’ shape. When we also consider that she’s quite croup high the natural conclusion is that Dazy is over-angulated. That means her hind legs are too long for her body. Over-angulation is a fault, placing extra stresses on joints. Horses possessing this construction are more suited to dressage or gaiting.
Part of the extra ‘Z’ shape created is because Dazy is standing with her hocks partially closed. Some people are likely to call her sickle hocked, but she does not possess the other requirements of sickle hocks, namely misshapen and too small joints, as well, a sickle hocked horse cannot fully open their hock joint because the stifle is already wide open. Dazy, therefore, is not sickle hocked.
Horses with neck, shoulder, back, loin, hip or hock pain will also stand in this manner. Over-angulated horses will sometimes stand this way simply because they have no other place to put all that leg length, but also because they often have neck, shoulder, back, loin, hip or hock pain.
And sometimes it’s just an awkward stance.
For Dazy I think it’s a combination of her hind leg construction and having some discomfort.
But that’s not all…
Dazy’s hock is quite a bit forward for the little bit of joint closure that it has, in a location that is reminiscent of post-leggedness, the opposite of over-angulation. It is possible for horses to be over-angulated in part of their leg and post-legged in another.
A quick and dirty way to check for post-leggedness is to drop a plumb line from the point of buttock to the ground. If the back of the horse’s cannon bone (when perpendicular to the ground) falls in front of that line, then the horse is post-legged. If it (when perpendicular to the ground) falls behind the line then the horse is over-angulated.
In the following first photo I’ve marked the bones (note I have drawn to the thigh joint, not the point of buttock) and cannon bone as they currently are and dropped a plumb line. In the second photo I’ve attempted to show how the bones would be positioned if Dazy stood correctly behind with the back of her cannon bone falling directly on the plumb line. I acknowledge that this may not be entirely accurate, but I have made sure to keep each bone the same length. The purpose of this exercise is to help the reader see how the hind leg can change. Note that in this second scenario, Dazy’s croup would have to rise a bit to accommodate the opening of her joints.
Without going through the whole process of measuring for THL (total hind limb) length, and doing those calculations and the subsequent upper limb length and lower limb length comparisons (which will be talked about in the next conformation series article), I’m going to simply say that Dazy is over-angulated behind and that that is not the ideal construction for barrel racing.
A straighter hind leg is seen on racehorses because it creates a shorter, thrustier and quicker stride to power the horse forward. Viewing the start of races or the beginning strides of a roping horse coming out of the pen illustrates that hind leg stroke well. In a barrel horse we’d like to see that type of construction, perhaps with a slight change of bone ratio between the femur and tibia, and a lower set of hocks and stifles to accommodate the need for collection.
To summarize Dazy’s conformation for the goal of barrel racing:
There’s plenty of speed for that aspect of the task, but there’s real questions about whether or not she’s capable of effective and efficient turning around the barrels. Her ability to collect is hampered by her excessively high croup and downhill build, and while more angulation is required in dressage horses to reach high degrees of collection, the over-angulation in this case is not a collection asset. Her short neck somewhat limits her ability to balance herself and rider through quick changes of direction needed for the discipline. Being hammer-headed and with a neck set on the low end of the scale also makes collection more difficult.
I see Dazy being able to get to the barrel in a timely fashion, but struggling to shift weight rearward, sit on her haunches, and negotiate tightly around the barrel without losing valuable momentum and time. She’s more likely to use her front legs to slow and control her speed coming into a barrel, causing her head to lift, her base of neck to drop, her back to hollow and her hocks to trail. She’ll have to use her shoulder to throw herself around the barrel and as she comes out the other side, will have to use more foreleg to pull herself forward, rather than primarily propelling forward from coiled hind legs. This type of negotiation of the barrel often sees the horse going wide or knocking the barrel over, and without the hind legs coiled to push off towards the next barrel, much time is lost.
The last thing I want to address is general posture and condition. We can clearly see that Dazy is lacking in conditioning (at least when this picture taken). And certainly riding three days per week isn’t going to see her fit enough for barrel racing.
Performance horses require six day a week work with plenty of variety in workouts and turnout. While BayDemon may not be aiming for a full show schedule, it’s imperative that Dazy be fit as if she were. A speed event, such as barrel racing, requires more conditioning to prevent injury than a horse that’s simply going to do a few laps around an arena in a flat class now and again.
On the topic of posture, we can see that Dazy’s high croup and downhill build has put additional stress on her back, causing it to hollow and her abdominals to sag. That tightening of the back and weakness in the belly can cause pain and result in such things as bucking. They’ll also make engagement more difficult. As a result we see some over-development of muscling over her sacrum followed by some under-developed glutes.
In the following picture I’ve marked where this horse’s posture should be. Move what’s below the belly line up and fill in the back with it. And this isn’t an exaggeration. Dazy has low withers and they should be barely visible in her topline when she’s fit and properly conditioned.
BayDemon is on the right track with her stretching routine that she’s started. I’d recommend that a full gambit be done twice daily, seven days a week, for at least a 6-8 week period, at which time a reassessment of her posture and condition would be done to see if a reduction in frequency is warranted.
Dazy’s conformation isn’t going to change. She’s always going to be croup high, so any layoff from regular ‘correct’ work is going to see her condition return to its current state. It’s only a matter of time. Like some people, some horses have to do more throughout life to maintain than others.
I’d also suggest that training be concentrated in the area of engagement. Certainly classical dressage practices, following the training scale would be of utmost importance. Suppling exercises alone would resolve any stiffness issues to one side. I’d be inclined to turn this horse into an ‘English’ mount, meaning I’d work her in ‘English’ gaits – trot and canter, rather than jog and lope. I’d employ the use of groundpoles and cavelletti, and I’d likely also do grid jumping with a particular focus on verticals. Of course the ever awesome hill work would be in there as well. Notice I’ve made no mention of actually running barrels or doing speed work of any kind. I’d not bother doing any of that, until I’d significantly improved Dazy’s posture and ability to engage – as much as she’s physically capable of doing.
Perhaps others could offer very specifics in the way of exercises?
Finally, on the topic of bucking, it’s most prudent to eliminate any and all possible physical issues. It’s quite possible that the saddle is pinching with her current posture. Also make note that a saddle that fits her now, will not fit her in six months if the work done is correct and consistent. I’m most inclined to believe that she’s suffering some discomfort and pain in her back, and that’s the reason for the bucking.
I wish BayDemon and Dazy much luck and success going forward.
What a fantastic and thorough analysis of this horse. I am sure it will be of great use to Baydemon.
I was waiting for saddle fit to mentioned regarding the bucking, and it finally was, in the last paragraph. Saddle fitting is an area where I have evolved a lot in my own horsemanship, I cannot say enough good about the benefits of working with a trained saddle fitter to identify and deal with saddle fit issues. Teeth are worth checking into as well, discomfort from a sore mouth can come out in kinds of ways.
The comment from the owner about the horse not having much “work ethic”, to me, is also telling. Work ethic is a human concept. I have known many horses described as “lazy”, “sulky”, “poor work ethic”, etc., who turned out to have low-grade pain, discomfort or health issues. Horses can really be extradinarily stoic animals and often their discomfort does not come as a flat-out refusal to work, but as being not that keen about it. Like an office employee with an uncomfortable chair.
So my guess would be this horse has long had a subtle discomfort issue going on, resulting in the poor work ethic, that has become more serious recently, causing the bucking.
Best of luck in getting to the bottom of it and moving forward. Start with the saddle fitter!
Excellent points! Thanks for bringing them up. There were many other things I could have said making this article go on and on and on and on. Rather I thought a step by step breakdown of form to function was a good place for me to start, letting you and others cover some of the other things to consider.
Looking at foot trimming might help, see the article from The Horse about long toes and back/ hip pain. Another point from the article is a measurement we can use on line here:
“Additionally, “any horse where their hind foot coronet is slanted such that an extended line (following the coronary band line) hits them behind the elbows should be evaluated,” he said. ”
Dazy doesn’t seem to violate that rule, but the angle brings her just in front of the elbow, she may be a little long. The other important measurement we can’t see is from toe to apex of frog. Nevertheless, the perched under stance with the steep angle to the croup is pretty typical of back pain.
You may have to register to read the article, but it is free and a pretty good publication if you’ve never seen it before, it is the official magazine of the vets in the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners).
Saddles are always a prime suspect when a horse starts bucking, weight or conditioning changes, a different saddle pad, placement too far forward on the shoulder, insufficient gullet to give withers and spine clearance, etc. can mean the saddle pinches the withers, bridges between withers and loin with no support from the musculature either side of the spine, digs in the loin, etc.
Conditioning as well as lots of bending work to stretch her evenly and be able to step up and under evenly, ie, to straighten her, so she is more capable of tight and balanced turns. A lot of that can and should be done at the walk before cantering and then running is introduced. Performance horses pushed for speed without the training to turn well usually end up hating their work. The better cutting trainers tend to try to keep the novice/young horses on quiet, placid cows and be able to track along learning how to position themselves and turn long before they try to hold a cow from the herd. Many use a large round pen with just one cow to work along the fence. Obviously not how to train a barrel horse, but the same idea, lots of slow work to learn the basic skills, develop evenly on both sides before speed is ever introduced.
Thank you for talking feet. Hugely important, often overlooked. I’d love to see some changes made in that regard, specifically on the front (I have a few additional photos of Dazy from other view points), but who wants to read 25 pages? After a while it’s too much.
Bending, bending and more bending! I believe Bay Demon said that the buck happens between the first and second barrel….this is where the right lead gets changed to left (or should) and if she’s stiff or bracey, this could be causing her to buck. Without seeing video this is a stab in the dark but perhaps the bit used is too strong, the rider’s hands unyielding or the horse is stiff all over. I would go to a snaffle bit with this mare and to back to the basics. Teach her to soften to a lateral pull and ask her to leg yield (walk only) both directions with varying amounts of forward motion. Start with very little bend and a lot of forward at first and keep increasing the bend while also decreasing the amount of rein pressure to achieve it. I believe BD said the mare is stiffer on the right so I would do 2/3 of my leg yielding to the right (in left bend) to stretch the right side. Eventually, her short side will lengthen and become more supple. She should be able to cross over softly front and back in a smooth motion with even steps and tempo. Until she learns this, I wouldn’t even consider turning a barrel on her. The leg yield will eventually be the turn on the barrel but at speed and if both sides become equal and her muscling loosens up, she should be more comfortable over all. If you can’t readily pick up your reins and feel softness you shouldn’t proceed beyond that point until you do. There should never be a backward pull in the pattern, utilize legs to straighten and steer and hands in the turn to balance the mare and help her nose lead the way. She may be sore from being really stiff and these exercises repeated at low speed will help build muscle and softness and your bucking problem may just disappear completely when she’s more comfortable.
I’m glad someone commented who knows about barrel racing, because I don’t have a clue what specific things are going between the first and second barrel. Interesting to learn that’s where a lead change takes place. In the h/j world when horses have issues with lead changes we usually look to hocks,hips and back as the likely sources of pain or discomfort. Lead changes are often a canary in a coal mine type of early warning for problems developing – they take some athleticism so they can be the first sign of an issue in a horse that “seems fine” in easy work/ trail riding. Chiropractic gets mentioned in some comments below, it can be absolutely like magic for some horses. I watched one horse go from being completely incapable of a flying lead change at all (it had simply been accepted for a while that this horse “didn’t do changes”), to doing them smoothly and happily, in one adjustment.
I’d make my lead change coming right out of the barrel…the very first jump. *shrug*
But is what you would do, what is typical of barrel racers? Honestly asking, I have little familiarity with it. Just now, I pulled up a few random youtube videos of barrel racers and generally saw the lead change a couple of strides before the second barrel. Sometimes immediately before the turn. I’m wondering if there’s any connection between when the change happens and when Dazy typically bucks during her pattern.
No, it wouldn’t be typical, but then my whole training process would be non-typical.
Here’s a video of a few runs. At about 45 seconds there is some slow mo of a light colored horse. Slides too deep, loses a lot of momentum out the back end because he’s on his forehand, and then cuts the turn to make up for it. Rider has engaged the inside rein right into the turn. The lead change happens right about the 1 min mark and is executed by the rider counter-bending the horse and unbalancing it. Horse leans into the change and into the turn for the barrel. Video cuts away.
Next horse on this video negotiates the barrel so much better. Takes one less stride to get around it and see how the horse stays compressed and compact the whole way around. Part of that is that this is a squarer built horse…far more ideal than a rectangular, leggy type. On the leap out the horse has so much power from being on its haunch that the rider gets behind the motion and is tossed a bit out of the saddle. The rider makes the change in the general same place, but does so by first straightening the horse, then changing the bend, then changing lead. She uses no inside rein to guide the horse until well past halfway around. Again, the horse stays compressed and gets around tight and quick.
Next horse is butt high around all the barrels and therefore the turns are uneven = losing time.
Dark bay horse with purple shirt rider…another rider who makes the change by counter-bending and unbalancing her horse.
And so on…
So it seems that the change is past the middle point to the next barrel and that most use the change to lean the horse into the next turn, which is incorrect and costing time.
You can see the ‘inverted’ horses have the sloppiest, loosest cuts around the barrel. There’s a clip of a red horse, smallish, with a star that bends around the barrel rather than doing a motorcycle turn. When the shoulder drops too low and the high end flails out behind, all the momentum is lost out the front, the energy needs to stay in the turn with the horse ‘collected’, bent and with minimal yanking and cranking by the rider. Some of the horses make good times on sheer will and a fast rundown but tight turns can make up seconds. Ultimately, I can’t think of a discipline where rigidity and shoulder in is useful. A clean lead change on the straightaway will allow the rider to re-balance before the next turn without the simultaneous dive/lead change right at the barrel.
I ran barrels on a 3d (think that’s what he said) horse a few years ago. I’ve lost the edge to want to go that fast any longer, nothing like 30-odd years ago at the local fair. I do know now that in order to win, the horse needs to be thoroughly trained in body control and I think many people skip the basics to get to speed. The mare was fast but literally dove AT the barrels, she needed more suppling IMO.
OK, yes I would pass her up because she’s to down hill for me, but other than that, I like this solid looking mare. Would love to see some shots from front and back. I would ask,
What kind of barrel racing, upper level, just for fun, or somewhere in the middle?
Does she buck bareback?
Has she been adjusted?
If she’s only been in the arena for 8 months, maybe she just needs to slow down a bit.
Does she buck out on the trail?
Thanks BayDemon, I love these real life horse discussions.
Trailrider, thanks for the questions! As far as barrel racing, more for fun more than anything else, get her out and about. She prefers cattle work, and just has a blast doing it, but after years of growing up doing it, I don’t enjoy it. I grew up working cattle, and its just not my idea of fun. She turns into a different horse when there is cattle to be worked. I have worked cattle on her before, but its just because I had to, not because I wanted to. Wow that was completely off topic……..
I haven’t tried riding her bareback to see if she would still do the bucking. I don’t have those kinds of balls anymore 🙂 I am having the chiro out in 2 weeks to get her adjusted since everyone here has mentioned it, I was going to do it sooner, but its been a constant struggle finding a reputable one that travels to our area. When she is out on the trail, she hasn’t tried bucking at all at all three gaits. I hope this helps, and look forward to suggestions!
The first one I tried suddenly didn’t come to my area, even thought the website said she did. So yes, I was really worried about the other chiropractor that she sent my way. But I checked that this one was really had credentials and schooling, and had worked in the area for many years. Also, since I keep my horse at home, I was able to keep control of the situation, and ask many questions before allowing any work on my horse. If you board Dazy, make it plain that the chiropractor is not allowed near your horse unless you are there.
But as my farrier said as we were discussing my horses recovery, “I thought it was all a lot of hooey until I saw it work to many times.”
Thank you for another fascinating post, Mercedes. I just wanted to add, re the possible discomfort/injury, I’ve had two interesting experiences that might suggest something.
First – my old Arabian (38). From the time I bought him (at 10) he had a couple of peculiarities – he would often pick up his canter disunited – a quick boot would set him straight – and would usually buck into his trot-canter transitions. It was a long time ago and I wasn’t aware as I am now so I just put it down to his personality since in all other ways he was sound. After about ten years he started having back issues and I eventually brought in a massage therapist when vet, farrier, saddle changes and riding lessons didn’t help. She found deep down muscle damage in his haunch was causing him to compensate, using alternative muscle groups which, with time, caused his sore back. When this was corrected, his back was fine – and coincidentally, he stopped going disunited and bucking his transitions.
Second – the thoroughbred (20). He’s fit and in use as a hunter and trail horse. About three years ago we went down a steep slide which had about a two foot drop at the bottom into a dry creek bed. I should had turned back – but leave that for another day. He did it well and seemed fine but within the week started having problems. He’d start out dead lame and walk out of it. Tried all kinds of solutions but eventually came to the conclusion he had excited some grumbling arthritis and treated him accordingly. After about six months I was feeling disappointed but it really seemed to be his shoulder – so I got the chiropractor in – he had three vertebrae out at the base of his neck. This was something that never occurred to me, even though I feel I am pretty educated now and had the benefit of input from coach, vet, farrier etc. I guess what I want to say is with this kind of thing – think outside the box. Good luck to Dazy and BayDemon!
Well this hits me close. Last fall my 30 year old started having some undefined vague lameness, vet and farrier were at a loss. Had a chiropractor out, and the diagnosis was some vertebrae closer to his head was out! Now this was only last week, but there was immediate relief, and since I think I know what was causing it, hopefully there will not be a recurrence. Time will tell if these are related issues, but for this past week he’s sound and definitely feels better.
If we had a full set of pictures – I have half a set – we could look at spinal alignment and such, as well as muscle development on left vs right side. That would likely reveal things along the same line as you’re talking about.
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. It’s good for all to know and understand.
I really wonder what the chiropractor is going to say, I know shes stiff and doesn’t have great flexibility, and with her short neck, those neck stretches have been quite difficult for her without moving her feet.
It’s not the length of her neck that is causing a lack of flexibility. Refer to the recent neck articles. The problem is the hammer-head/head connection and the fact that her muscling is shortened by not raising her base of neck and telescoping her neck.
Also, you mentioned a shoulder injury. Even though it may be healed, it could have atrophied or tightened some of the shoulder muscling, which is directly connected to the neck.
I am going to get the chiro out in a few weeks, and we have been doing our belly lifts. I am going to up her workouts when it starts warming up, I will send Mercedes some updated pictures as she progresses. Right now shes pretty much turned out for the winter. We were working on hills which I really think helped to strengthen her loin which was weak in the beginning. Her hind leg issue has always been puzzling for me, so I am definitely glad its finally explained! She had a foal, who will be 3 this year, so I am sure that didn’t help her back or abdominal muscles, so we will keep on with the belly lifts. Her stretches are getting better, but I am lucky that she is so food motivated. When I was riding her 6 days a week, I can definitely tell the difference, so we will work up to it again. Mercedes thanks for doing a confo critique on her, I cant wait for the end results with some work and dedication.
BayDemon, she is a very cute mare. Mercedes did an excellent and thorough review. I’m no confirmation expert. I do know conditioning, and hills can work WONDERS. I find the longer the hill, even with a more gradual slope, the better. Good luck bringing her along. I bet the bucking will resolve with increased fitness.
I concur! Long, gradual slopes are the best.
Just make sure that your horse is working correctly when you do those hills…my old trainer did a lot of hill work on my OTTB to rehab him from a hip injury (bad muscle bruising that caused muscles to atrophy) but Mego had learned to compensate so well that he ended up with giant QH stifles and forearms, and still no muscles in his butt and hip areas. It basically took laying him off to field rest to ‘unlearn’ his bad working habits before we got him back to good.
Wait, I meant to say, my horse isn’t perfect and doesn’t crap glitter and rainbows? lol well, its back to the drawing board 😉
I think the overall takeaway from this is that soft-tissue injuries can be as capricious and long-lasting in horses as in humans. I am still dealing with inflammation and tendon adhesion in one ankle that was caused by having sciatica on only one side during pregnancy (apparently both sides would have been better?!). The child from that pregnancy just turned four! And unlike a horse, I can take my weight completely off my feet whenever I like.
Work on it every day, a little bit at a time, even separating sessions to the beginning and end of the day if necessary, and celebrate every tiny gain.
Yes, this is an excellent summation. It’s often heard that it’s better to break the ankle than sprain it. Huge truth in that, eh?
Absolutely! And, better a chipped bone than a torn muscle.
Also, my physical therapist told me that in humans, untreated soft tissue injuries appear to be accepted by the body as the new normal. That is, the tissues will become inflamed even without stress. Ice twice a day even when I felt no discomfort was the recommended preventative. I don’t really understand how it works, but it did seem to prevent the swelling during normal use.
Forgot the last sentence: How similar are horses in this respect? (The ice was applied as soon as I got up and also at the end of the day.)
The physiology of our flesh and blood, and all things related is the same.
http://ts4.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.5045200519431563&pid=15.1 I found this pic of a barrel horse in good body position turning the barrel – hind end deep under itself holding the weight of horse and rider and bending through the midsection and looking where it’s going. Mouth contact is minimal and only a touch of a motorcycle turn, balance is mostly even horizontally.
http://ts3.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.5052003744943202&pid=15.1 In contrast, a motorcycle turn and a left shoulder precariously close to hitting the dirt. The hind end fell out to the left due to lack of bend and getting deep under the horse to hold the turn.
http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4927273614904184&pid=15.1 Hind end lost, down they go.
I encourage you to try something called rolfing. It is a type of muscle therapy and it could really help this horse. There is a ton of information on Google About it.
This article was so useful to me, my welsh cob mare and day have a lot in common. I was doing ok until my girl was broken to harness now all her conformational flaws are coming out under saddle ( she is going great in harness though!). I’ll stick her on the FB confo confab so you can have a look.
Glad to hear the article helped. Link to FB?
There’s something about this mare that says hocks and hips to me (although I can’t pinpoint what), and that’s leading to other compensatory issues – maybe also gear fit/choice adding to the mix.
I’d also love a closer look at the feet (since I’m a trimmer) – I’m guessing there could be several imbalances that might look fairly minor, that are actually having quite a large impact. The hind foot cornet angle is an immediate thing to check though, since I like a line following along it to hit below the knee (rather than the elbow as another poster suggested). Anything higher is likely to be too steep for the coffin bone (i.e. CB tipped back, or at least, too far back for that particular horse) which in turn puts massive strain into the psoas muscles and hindquarters in general.
As such, if she was mine I’d be addressing overall hoof balance as well as working on the upper issues. Unfortunately it won’t be a case of fixing the hoof balance in one trim and everything’s fine – it will take a lot of interconnected work on all her issues to gradually bring everything back into alignment and health – peeling the layers off the onion, so to speak. During this phase, I’d mostly just do in-hand work to help her learn a better way of moving and using her body to release tension and strengthen as appropriate. And I agree, I’d forget about speed work and barrels for now – lots of ‘dressage’ work to teach her how to balance correctly, alter speed etc will benefit her far more in the long run.
A couple of websites I’ve found useful are http://www.sustainabledressage.net/ (especially the Shoulder-in Volte exercise) and http://www.deserthorseinc.com/articles.htm – they help understand what’s happening internally and how those exercises are supposed to be working, so you know if your horse is actually doing them right or just cheating .
With time, I’d like to see her standing more squarely, relaxing and lifting her topline. You may never get to a point where she self-maintains properly – she might need ongoing ‘remedial’ care for the rest of her life to prevent her falling back into her current issues. Hopefully though you can get to a point where a few basic stretches and exercises on a regular basis as well as careful attention to hoof balance, gear fit etc will easily keep her in a good way.
I’d also look at going back to basics and making sure Dazy really understands her cues/aids clearly – many horses I meet have been so confused by people using conflicting aids at the same time that they really don’t know what is wanted. I take them back to basics and re-teach them that each aid means one and only one thing, and it means that each and every time. Andrew McLean (http://www.aebc.com.au/) has a nice way of breaking this down if you’re needing a method to follow.
Wonderful, thorough posting. Thanks for taking the time. And yes, there are foot imbalance issues – as seen on other photos not included in this article.
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Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after
I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr…
well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways,
just wanted to say superb blog!
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