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The Saddle Experiment

Dusty thought Eeyore was dealing with saddle fit induced muscle pain and prescribed a new saddle. I was not convinced but there is no way I’m going to turn down a new saddle when offered with no strings attached (he specifically said he didn’t want me to sell Gem’s Thorowgood to buy a new one). Plus it sorta made some sense with the quick recovery with time off, the new issue with the T8 sliding forward over his neck, the onset of pain halfway through a ride and his new found affinity for stretching once the girth is loosened. With everyone closed until Monday anyway, it was worth a try.

Saturday afternoon I drove down to Aiken which is a single right turn out of my drive followed by two boring hours of driving straight. There is a nice used tack store there that has a lot of inventory and a free trial period. The most I would be out would be the price of shipping it back to them. Seemed harmless enough.

There were several in my made up price range of $1500 or less and I sat in quite a few. In the end I brought home two Kieffer saddles: a MW 17.5″ Norbert jump and a W 17″ GP both with cut out for extra wither clearance.

Sunday afternoon I hooked Eeyore up to the lunge and had Dusty watch from the rail. He was intermittently lame at 1/5 on the RF going right. He’d go a full circle no issues then take a few bad steps and return to sound for another circle and a half before showing another few bad steps. At that point I was ready to cash in my chips and call the vet in the morning upon opening to set up a lameness eval.

Back in the barn Dusty convinced me to try the saddles out. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see if they fit him since I had them and he wasn’t full blown three legged lame. The MW was way too narrow. I didn’t even bother getting a picture it was so obviously not a good fit. The wide GP though. I really liked the looks of it and decided to at least walk around in it. I was a bit worried it would be too small for me as I am usually a 17.5″ but it was worth trying.

The panels sat behind his hunky shoulders nicely and followed the contour of his back like a glove

Plus it would appease the hubby.

We returned to the arena and I climbed up and asked him to walk off. He took a few stubby steps and then blew out and gave me the most forward, relaxed walk I’ve gotten out of him. No lazy, behind the leg oaf. No coaxing. It was an immediate difference.

The right side looks even better and tucks nicely where it should

I had him pick up a trot left and he felt amazing. No tantrum, no sucking bad. Dusty encouraged me to try going right. If he took a bad step I could stop immediately and call it a day. He picked up the trot and….I’m not sure. During the ride he felt really good. The trot was rhythmic and he was relaxed. In fact during and after I was convinced he was sound as he felt pretty great. He is always fussy with his head probably because I’m a rigid steel beam in my arms and don’t give him the ride he needs, but otherwise he felt really really good. Plus he likes to try to stop and walk and reacts by either lifting his head or dropping it when I boot him forward, so it can be hard to tell.

But in reviewing the videos Dusty took…I’m not so sure now. It’s hard because he is fussy in the bridle so looking for a true head bob when he isn’t super lame is hard and I can drive myself crazy looking at the footage all night long. But…it looks a little off to me. I don’t know. He is truly lazy, feeling good or not, and asks to stop or drop to the walk and he looks way better when he moves out versus sucks back and barely trots but I don’t know. I also am really, really good at making a sound horse look lame to my eye. I spent years of Gem’s life thinking she was lame and the only thing that stopped that was her flying through the 100 with all As. After that my brain shut up. One thing was certain: he was way better than Friday when he was very obviously head bobbing and the only thing that change was the saddle. I’ll take an iffy, maybe maybe not gait versus the head bobbing 3 legged lame ride from Friday.

Here are some videos. I don’t have speakers at work and the sound was off on my phone when I watched them so I have no idea if you can hear a cranky, bred Wyatt in the background or the husband making fun of me. I’d recommend turning your sound off because neither of those things are enjoyable.

Going left:

Going right:

 

 

Going right on a smaller circle:

 

He was slow and trudgy but that is him on a good day. Big man doesn’t like to move when he doesn’t have to. But he was relaxed, responsive and not fighting me which wasn’t the case last week leading up to the lameness and there was no question he was 3 legged lame on Friday.

In fact he felt so good I asked him to pop over the vertical he refused to actually jump over last week. He popped over happily.

I called it a day after that and returned to the barn. Dusty palpated his back after and he was a little reactive in the loin region but after trying again he was fine.

It looks good on him too. It’s a rich dark brown which matches his bridle I got from Michelle

I don’t know. He moved better and was happier in this saddle and for only $200 I’m going to keep it. I’d prefer a 17.5″ and I’m not crazy about the spine clearance in the rear of the saddle but it is better than the Thorowgood and didn’t budge. It’s only $200 and not worth the $50 it would cost to ship it back.

But…in reviewing the video I’m not sure if he is normal or not. Opinions?? It looks like he mostly is but then I see some off steps but that could be the complete crap I’m riding him in. I just don’t know one way or the other.

I’d love for it to be a saddle issue but ugh. He felt sound. He looks..I have no clue. I’m planning on hopping back on again tonight and seeing what I feel and how he acts with two days of riding in a row. I’d expect him to be worse if it is soft tissue after being worked the day before. If Dusty is right and he has muscle soreness from the T8 pinching him that wouldn’t magically completely go away either so some intermittent bad steps could be residual from that and don’t forget the crap right front hoof. Having a chiro/massage person out could really benefit him, but not if it is an internal hoof injury so…yeah. I just want to ride my horse.

Farrier is set to come out the 1st but I may cancel that and schedule a lameness eval instead or push my luck and try to schedule the vet in the am and the farrier in the pm after they give recommendations but who knows if that will work or not. If he is sound and I’m seeing things that aren’t there (which could be the case) then I don’t need to shell out a bunch for a lameness eval on a sound horse so ahhhhh!!!!

The plan? The ever changing plan? Ride again tonight unless the pending storm comes (its dark as all get out right now with a black threatening sky and lots of wind but I don’t care as long as it stops for 5 pm) and see how he feels. If he still feels really good I’m going to keep the farrier on the 1st and add in a chiro/massage appointment for that day as well. If he feels questionable, make a vet appointment instead. Oh…and drink a whole lot of alcohol in Chicago when I don’t have to drive and have no child around.

33 thoughts on “The Saddle Experiment”

  1. I could see what you meant about going to the right. Definitely something there, but it was intermittent. I think you’re right in getting a lameness eval done, if only to have some answers.

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  2. laughing at the Wyatt commentary…..;) E looks pretty damn good but move him forward out of that pitty patter appy jog tonite if he still feels good. 🙂 And for 200 bucks I would buy the saddle too for now. You can easily make that back if needed to sell.

    I would keep the farrier appt, and make a decision about vet versus chiro after riding tnite.

    HE doesn’t LOOK lame to me. But i can see where you see it a bit but I think its cause he is doing that pitter patter jog!! I could totally be wrong. I am no vet and don’t play one on tv.

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    1. its hard getting him out of the pitter patter trot and its more my fault than his because I ask him to go but then block him with my rigid riding and he slows way down. I need to get better at letting him go forward when I ask instead of shutting him down.

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  3. Can you try moving him forward some more? Even if it’s in hand? It would be easier to evaluate his trot if he were moving out a bit more. Think FORWARD trot. It makes it easier to see beyond the lazy shuffle trot. It’s so hard to see anything when they’re not really trotting (I have a lazy one too who likes to be lazy).

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      1. That’s why trying in hand might be easier? You don’t need to worry about YOUR role (aka nerves, what if he wants to canter, what if I get rigid, what if I do this….). Just see if Dusty can video and jog his as quick as you can down a few long sides. Walk the corners so you don’t trip. But take you out of the equation. See how HE moves. Give him a tap if you have to. 2-3 long sides won’t hurt him based on how he plays in the pasture… Then hop on and ride. If you have time, try it again AFTER you ride just to see if anything changes after he loosens up. Just curious.

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      2. He is fine on a straight line. I’d need to do it on a circle as well to really see as that is when it comes out. Honestly, I’m thinking screw it and get the vet out on the 1st when I’m home and off work and be done with this nonsense.

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  4. Hmmm. I can see what you mean about that teensy bit to the right. It does look like there might be something there, but it’s super difficult to tell. I’d do a vet appointment too, just to rule out anything else. Sometimes when you have a few variables it’s just a matter of testing them out one by one until something gets a hit. Good luck!

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  5. I do think he’s slightly off as well – mostly just ouchy and a touch more on one side than the other. Actually reminds me of how Phoenix used to go lame. At first you would be unsure because it was so here and there (mostly turning right) and sometimes he would feel better because he was doing something he enjoyed more or the footing was nicer that day. For P it always blocked to the foot, we would x-ray and make some shoeing changes and he would be good to go for another couple years. There was never any super obvious issue on X-ray, just a slightly long toe or something each time. For whatever reason he just was super sensitive if things weren’t exactly right. For P new balance shoes made a world of difference because they changed his breakover. This helped not only with his comfort but we stopped having pulled shoes as well.
    Not sure if any of this is helpful to you but wanted to put it out there just in case.
    Good luck!

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    1. Very helpful thank you! I’m hoping it is just his foot and a sore toe when he pushes off a certain way which is what it is looking more like to me. I set up an eval for the 1st at 10 am and the farrier is coming out afternoon so anything they recommend he can do right away

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  6. I see what you mean but only because I was REALLY looking for it. My first thought was shoulder. Clearly saddle fit is at least part of the issue. He could have some residual soreness from compensating for it. Free advice is probably worth just that but I don’t know if I would call the vet right away. I would ride a couple days and see. And also canter him (undersaddle or on lunge) to see.

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  7. He’s super cute and just has this look on his face like “are you seeing me doing the thing?” hahaha. No vet here, but he just looks pretty body sore to me. Sort feet + saddle fit issues can build into problems that may take some time to resolve.

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      1. not sure if this is an option for you, but magna wave might be a good option too. The really good practitioners can usually give you an idea of where it might be worth looking deeper.

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  8. I can see something too. Hard to tell where it’s stemming from exactly, with his pokey little trot (lol he looks like he’s having a grand time on his leisurely stroll) but there’s no doubting that the right front is stepping shorter than the left. You can see it both directions. Seeing what it looks like on the lunge line, on hard and soft surface, would definitely help though. At this point it sounds like having the vet look at him would be worth the peace of mind.

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    1. I love his pokey little trot but yeah Trainer gets after me telling me he is acting like a tourist on vacation while I’m up there. Oops. I’m used to my hyper reactive little mare where a single breath from me that she thought could mean go blasting away was taken as such. I’ve got a lot of adjusting to do myself.

      I made an appointment for Monday the 1st for a lameness eval with the farrier in the afternoon. At this point I don’t think it is some major soft tissue injury but I’m also a little tired of driving myself insane over it all and figure the vet can pin point it and make recommendations based on what she sees. Its been the RF all along so unless it is really a LH issue showing up in the RF we can pretty easily hone down the exam to that.

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      1. Yeah, I mean honestly even if the vet just finds some residual soreness in the foot or something minor, it’s worth having them take a look. Staring at a horse for that long, trying to guess at lameness… that’ll make you crazy!

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  9. I see the hitch in his RF in both directions, both at walk and trot. He’s not head-bobbing lame and he is not 100% consistent, but he is short-striding on that right front about 75% of the time in those videos.

    And yes: subtle lamenesses like that will make you crazy because it starts to feel like you’re imagining it. Lily’s annular ligament strain presented just like this, with the red herring of an initial bruise in the same foot which prolonged the correct diagnosis.

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    1. His lameness eval is set for Monday morning. I’m still leaning towards muscle soreness paired with bad gait mechanics with the front right looking the way it does, but at this point I want professional eyes on him to make sure I’m not overlooking something else.

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  10. Definitely a little hitchy, but I think shoulder too- and I think that seems like a really good call on the saddle- even if it’s not perfect, it seems like it’s better. (I’m also immensely jealous of your cheap saddle shopping ability. :D)

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    1. yeah the saddle is a bit smaller than I’d like but is a step in the right decision and for $200 I can use it to bridge until I get him sound. Then I’ll seriously start saddle shopping and can sell this one on.

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