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Saddle fit: How do you know if problem is saddle fit or a hurt back?

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  • cyberbay
    replied
    Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000105 EndHTML:0000003380 StartFragment:0000002292 EndFragment:0000003344Well, had another great ride on Thurs.!!

    And, well, not such a good ride yesterday, Sun. Same symptoms, but will say that they were much milder. Vet comes tomorrow.

    slp2: I got a lot out of your post, as my horse's symptoms seem very similar: doesn't want to walk downhill... there's a mild, short slope in the driveway and he's been strangely resistant to going down it when I ride him. So, we don't go down it. He seems to do fine when led to his paddock... also, it's been nagging me that he does seem to do better when NOT on his grass paddock, which is a bit sloped and does have a steep climb out of it back to the barn.

    And his canter has been strangely, well, forward, as if he doesn't quite want to carry. Hurrying the stride along... and the good days followed by a drop off the cliff (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little).

    T M'bird:
    Did your OTTB recover?

    Thanks, everyone, for your posts!!

    Leave a comment:


  • TequilaMockingbird
    replied
    How I could tell with my own horses was based on context and knowing the habits and background of that particular horse. When my OTTB went well in the same saddle (also a County) for months but would only tolerate someone on his back after 2 weeks off, it showed some kind of physical issue. He reached a plateau in his training and then after the 2 weeks off (was out of town) he could not stand being ridden at more than a walk without almost bucking. He was also 10 years old and off the track. Three different people (vets and trainers) told me it was physical but could not pin point the exact issue.

    I refer to my current horse as "the princess and the pea." She is very particular about saddle fit. She is also young and extremely sensitive about everything (on the ground and in the saddle). She is not what you would call stoic. When I was looking at dozens of saddles, I had to make sure to ride in a saddle that seemed to fit well for at least 4 days in a row. It seemed like certain fit issues didn't cause soreness until the third or fourth day. If they were making her sore, she would grind on the bit and refused to relax even on a loose rein. At least 3 saddles appeared to fit very well after the first couple rides but I still only found one saddle that passed this test after over a dozen trials. I promptly bought said saddle!

    Leave a comment:


  • Perfect Pony
    replied
    My guess is this is all related to his neck issues, and I am afraid to say what you are experiencing is very, very common. The clue is that he needs neck injections, and it made the biggest difference. Unfortunately neck injections rarely work long term or have any consistency in relief.

    Leave a comment:


  • slp2
    replied
    Cyberbay: My horse did not show a lot of uneven muscling due to her SI issues--most the of signs were in her performance. The way my vet explained it to me is that the trot is not too taxing on the SI (it does not have move a great deal at the trot). However, the canter requires the most movement from the SI--so that is a gait you might have more problems with. The poor performance at the canter can range from mild (lack of engagement or "push" from behind), to more dramatic: kicking out or bucking. The one thing that I noticed first was that my horse had a reaction to going downhill (even a slight downhill slope) at the walk under saddle. She was always happy when hacking out, but when she injured herself--we'd be toodling along just fine, loose rein, then if the trail sloped a little "downhill" she would pin her ears, snake her neck and do little mini bucks. Once we were back on level ground, we resumed with a pleasant hack. The vet said that going downhill also asks for more movement in the SI area. Those are some examples of the performance problems you might have. Some horses are pretty stoic so they might have an SI injury and will still perform "ok"--just not use their hind end as much and might have issues with some lateral movements. And like my horse--there would be days where she would be quite good---and that "correct work" would strain her injury and she would be a wreck for the next ride. It just wasn't adding up. The only way we finally found it was a bone scan + ultrasound of the SI to pinpoint the problem. It's a tricky area to diagnose--that's for sure!

    Leave a comment:


  • cyberbay
    replied
    Thank you again, everyone

    Well, I rode him yesterday for about 20min., at walk and trot. He was perfection. A hand taller, balance excellent, snorting out tension in a relaxed way... ya know, if you'd seen him, you'd be, "Now, refresh my memory? What is wrong with him?"

    I used the saddle that the saddle fitter had left for me (a brand I didn't completely recognize) and used a waffle pad with a soft center seam (as I did two days earlier when he didn't love our ride), but b/c of that ride, I added a sheepskin half-pad (s'kin under saddle with quilting down under flaps).

    The saddle-fitter is coming today for other horses in the barn, but I'm just not able to be there. She will re-check my horse, that saddle she provided, and review the s'skin + quilted assemblage.
    I asked about "is it the saddle or is it the back itself." She said (this all via txt) that only a 'good trial with saddle' will help you determine that. She may have had more to say, but txt'ing is annoying. His Schleese did break mid-summer, and saddler-fitter again noted that his back soreness, revealed by feeling his back, is consistent with that my saddle failure.

    MLady: How one is able to be 'absolutely sure' the saddle fits well I don't think is possible, even if you have a highly competent saddle fitter, so I do the best I can in this dept., which is the best, I think, anyone can. I have pondered a lot the idea that the injury -- if that is the issue -- is still trying to heal, hence, good days/bad day. When I say massage, he receives a thorough soft currying pre-ride, and then I will do some gentle compression/kneading massage on the major muscle groups. I keep track of his behavior and zero in on the areas that seem to want extra attn.

    slp2: vet has seen him (major clinic in New York metro area.) He, as I do, characterizes him as a horse with a lot of niggly issues (since forever). If any consolation, the few injects we've done have made him feel wonderful. Esp. the neck injection. But, as noted above, I have wondered if there is a soft-tissue injury behind all of this...
    --Did you see any other sign in your horse, such as uneven muscling? Or...?

    alto: I have thought about EPSM, etc. with him, but there has been no other evidence with this horse, no other symptoms. He is TB.

    Beowulf: I recognize the points you posted. A lot. That overall muscle reactivity...

    H. Bay: He's always been a wonderful roller, rolling from one side to other. However, I've not been able to see personally him roll as much as I did when I first had him (he rolls upon t/out), but I check where dirt is found on his body (and now, blanket).

    Thanks so much, everyone. Tomorrow, I ride again. Maybe it will be another good one...

    Leave a comment:


  • czgm7r
    replied
    As others have said back problems have many causes. Hock, SI issue, stifle issues,kissing spines etc. That is really for a good vet to determine the root cause. My horses have had similar issues - I first started with having the saddle checked by a saddle fitter(note this wasn't a wool saddle and has a flexible tree), then chiro, when the chiro would work for a while then need done again I called in the vet. The vet said saddle from where the pain was - turned out the tree had spread. it was replaced by the manufacture at no cost to me(this was only seen when the saddle was taken apart). To help with the residual soreness as the vet wasn't sure it was 100% saddle the vet did an SI injection and messtherapy. The mesotherapy worked wonders combined with the Chiro, as sometimes you need to get the imflammation down for the in order of the adjustment to stay. That was over a year ago and I haven't had to do any more injections. I also message her back, carrot stretches, and some other suppling exercises in and out of the saddle as a preventative. Her fitness has also been increase in the last 4 months as she is working hard on the flat and over fences. So I'm very pleased that she is no longer sore or it goes away quickly. Good luck. I highly recommend the messotherapy being you've had all the other things done and they didn't really help.

    Leave a comment:


  • Hampton Bay
    replied
    Somehow I've always just known. Usually certain movements or gaits will increase naughtiness in poor saddle fit IME. I have one horse who will not canter in a narrow twist or a tree with a flared front. The saddle pinches and its most severe in the canter. Usually I try a round of aleve (dosage based on weight, around 20 pills for a 1000lb horse). If a few days of that doesn't help, with a week or so off, then I'll call the vet if its not severe.

    The other thing I've always been taught is to watch when the roll. If they can flip from one side to the other they aren't too sore in the back. If they act like doing that hurts then you have something to worry about.

    If my OTC remedies don't help it, I look at injury. If the horse gets better then worse when I start riding again, I look at saddle fit, my riding, or the trim/shoeing. My filly has an old injury that causes her to weight the inside of her hooves more than the outsides. If I don't keep her shod to control the wear on the insides, she will get very sore over her withers, back, and neck.

    Leave a comment:


  • Dressagelvr
    replied
    If this were my horse, I would send him to a major equine clinic and have him worked up. Could be saddle fit, could be kissing spine, could be anytihing else.

    There are many great treatment modalities out there & chiropractic is certainly one as are shockwave, injections, etc. The problem is that until you have the primary cause of discomfort/lameness diagnosed, you're wasting your $$ on treatments and could actually delay proper diagnosis by masking symptoms.

    Leave a comment:


  • pony-girl
    replied
    Schleese saddlery has a lot of great instructional videos on the saddle and its impact on a horse's back. This is a video of a fitting not put out by Schleese but it is of a Schleese rep doing a fitting. Some of what she touches on reminded me of what you are describing.

    http://youtu.be/V3wdoURbrIA

    Leave a comment:


  • beowulf
    replied
    Originally posted by cyberbay View Post
    I've posted about my horse's travails a bit. Anyhooo, it looks like his issue is in his back. Well, IMO...

    So, we've tried a few saddles, with the County being a good one. But, my horse just keep reverting to his symptoms. Normally, he's a horse that works well connected over his back, yet, he has these recurring symptoms in the past months of dropping his back a bit (feels like it's under my seat) and won't quite take connection in the rein. Strangely, we would have good days, then 'symptom' days, then good days, then symptoms again...

    He just had the past week off b/c of a joint injection (part of trying to find the root of this ongoing problem of not going well), and I got to ride him yesterday when I got the go-ahead from the vet. Sadly, the problems noted above were still there...

    I've also noticed is that he seems sore directly on his spine a little bit behind where my seat would sit. This soreness is evident after a ride, and sometimes there is a little bit of soreness when I check the area pre-ride. When I massage the area, it improves quite a bit. It's usually sore on the R side. I also find a muscle soreness on the L side in the lumbar area.

    So, I guess my question is: how do you distinguish between the horse just not liking the saddle and him having a sore/painful back that the saddle only makes worse (but is really not the cause)?

    Another question: how much time would a bruised spine?? or sore muscle need to recover? I am also pretty sure that the quilted pads I was using, which had a stiff, plastic-y spine on them, may be the culprit behind that spine soreness...?

    Thanks for any thoughts!
    The area you described sounds more like it is from improper saddle fit, not a bruised spine. A sore or painful back is usually a symptom of improper fit. The problem with poor saddles that don't fit perfectly is that they don't just affect one area or muscle group - they tend to change everything. For instance, my guy had saddle after saddle reflocked and redone and still had SI issues -- everything from his thoracic trapezius down to his latissimus dorsi to the obliques along his ribcage became tight and he was extremely "defensive" when ridden.

    I would definitely have a chiropractor out first, and call your saddle fitter and discuss your options. Your chiropractor will be able to tell you the areas that are most affected by the saddle, and you can bounce these ideas off your saddle fitter.

    Leave a comment:


  • MassageLady
    replied
    How often are you doing the massages, are you allowing him time off along with the massages for that area to heal? Are you absolutely sure the newer saddle fits correctly. If he's still sore in the hind end from the injury, it will create problems with him engaging the hind end and not being able to lift his back properly. it sounds to me like he's never really completely healed from the injury and it's creating more problems-as it always does. I suggest, doing massages over the winter, allow him time off-and be SURE there is nomore pain before using a saddle on him again. Groundwork to help him build correct muscles as well.

    Leave a comment:


  • alto
    replied
    Originally posted by cyberbay View Post
    He has been muscle-twingey over his croup, and sometimes lumbar area for as long as I've had him, but these I associate with his damaged hind-end: jumpers bump (a lot less obvious from when I bought him), and stiffness in hind joints.
    Have you tried a PSSM/EPSM diet? this would be a very inexpensive "test" - just make sure you do some reading on it first, especially if your horse is a QH.

    Minnesota

    Dr Valentine Rural Heritage

    Dr Kellon Balanced Equine Nutrition


    Especially note what Dr Kellon has to say about fat sources & how breed may affect ability of horse to use fat as an energy source, inclusion of fats into the diet should be gradual.
    You may find a local vet that is very knowledgeable on this topic or just has read up on the basics, so perform your own due diligence.

    (I'm assuming that you did X-rays before injecting, you might also look into Tildren, Adequan etc - MRI is fantastic IF you've the funds and IF something actually diagnostic shows up - rather than just more grey areas.
    I've not read your previous posts, so perhaps these are all things you've already done/considered)

    Leave a comment:


  • slp2
    replied
    You might serve your horse well by a good work up with a good sports medicine vet (not every vet is great with lameness and sore backs), and go from there.
    ^ This.

    If you suspect an injury--you should have a vet evaluate this before you start looking at different saddles. It *may* be saddle fit--but it would be good to start with a vet.

    I have been right where you are--having very inconsistent performance from my mare and thinking it might be saddle fit. She was sore in the SI--and we tried SI injections, shockwave therapy, mesotherapy and a dozen saddles. It all continued to get worse instead of better. In the end, a vet that specializes in backs, found a tear in the SI ligament that had happened long ago and never healed correctly (there was scar tissue instead of normal ligament fibers). That old injury would flare up at times like an equine version of "tennis elbow" and that was the reason for the "bad days". Bottom line--I could've injected, used SWT, and bought the most expensive, well-fitting saddle on the planet--but it would not have helped her heal at_all. She needed to be on stall rest followed by a very regimented rehab program. Good news is that it is all healed and she is going great--no more questions about saddle fit. Good luck!

    Leave a comment:


  • cyberbay
    replied
    The other weird thing is that he never had a sore back until this spring and this whole issue starting... His back was very consistent in feel, both to touch and under saddle. I would never have called him a sensitive-back horse.

    I had used shims until this spring, which had helped a lot... Was wondering initially if shims were the problem when this all started -- as in, his shape had changed enough to no longer need them. Removing them didn't do anything long-term.

    in fact, that's another way of describing this saddle thing: no saddle change seems to be successful long-term.

    Oh, and i'm so with you about massage (and body work). I think it is THE best preventative. It reduces/eliminates pain, keeps joints from being overstressed, enhances performance, you name it. It is time-consuming...

    Thanks again for for your input!!!

    Leave a comment:


  • yellowbritches
    replied
    There are a lot of options out there. Shockwave isn't the only one. But I've been thrilled with the results I've gotten. Worth every penny. That being said, my horse's body seems to LOVE shockwave. It helped tremendously with a minor tendon injury, as well. Far more than it was expected to (he was supposed to get three treatments. We only needed one).

    If he is sore through his SI, have you considered SI injections? Mezzotherapy is another good option, which I've seen fabulous results with.

    I am glad to see he is getting massage attention. I think this helps SO MUCH and can make a world of difference.

    And while I understand that sometimes sore limbs can make sore backs, sometimes there backs just hurt. There may be an underlying issue (kissing spine, arthritis), or it could be he just gets sore. Don't forget to ride him long and low, warm up and cool down. Don't sit deep until he's very well warmed up, and, I've learned, canter before trot (light seat and stretching down) is great for the sensitive backed horses.

    Leave a comment:


  • cyberbay
    replied
    Txs, everyone!...


    The strange thing? Why these occasional perfect rides? Could it be b/c the saddle and saddle pad were not hitting the sore area that day?


    What do you think of him being sore in the SI?


    Ybritches: He has been muscle-twingey over his croup, and sometimes lumbar area for as long as I've had him, but these I associate with his damaged hind-end: jumpers bump (a lot less obvious from when I bought him), and stiffness in hind joints. IMO, he has improved a lot, and w/me being certified in massage, he gets a lot of attn.


    -shock wave has been amazing, per a lot of people. So, it may be my desperation move, given its expense.


    Kitt:
    -he does seem to like other saddles, but just not for very long . As in, the symptoms come back. This is a puzzler to me.
    -the ulcer thing could be a factor. He has been ulcer-y for the four years I've owned him -- girthy and not loving being groomed/massaged over pecs, by elbows/girth or low tummy. Weight always v. good, but for sure a self-medicator with grass, with symptoms going down in summer and up when grazing dies back. Last year, I used over the cold months a probiotic, proEntera, that I thought made a difference. So, am going to try R'dine.
    -we've drawn for Lyme.
    -we did recently inject stifle, neck, and RF in service of treating this thing. Hocks done in May.


    Saddle-fitter tomorrow...

    Leave a comment:


  • Kitt
    replied
    yellowbritches makes some very good points. I'll add that usually, if the saddle is the problem, you'll notice a difference if you try another saddle, esp. after the horse has had some time off. It might be worth it to get some input from a fitter and try a couple or 3 others, just to see how your horse reacts.

    That said, there are plenty of issues that can mimic saddle fit problems: hind leg lameness, repro issues (mostly in mares), ulcers, Lyme (if you're in an affected area), neurological issues, shoeing issues ... the list goes on. If a different saddle (one that fits, obviously!) doesn't make a difference, it's time to look into other possible causes. Keep us posted on how it goes, please!

    Leave a comment:


  • yellowbritches
    replied
    I have a horse with a sensitive back. While we've had fewer issues since getting a new jump saddle (which I ride in the most. He actually likes my dressage saddle, which is good since I couldn't afford two new saddles!), his issues weren't completely and totally saddle caused. The difference, I think, was WHERE and how he was sore. He tended to be sore all over and equally on both sides. It wasn't typically localized, and rarely in the saddle region (often in the loins, behind the saddle).

    I treated with shockwave therapy and smarter riding, plus massage (both regular visits from a therapist and invested in a massage pad). With shockwave, I saw reduction in his pain almost immediately, and had a different horse within a month. There was never an acute injury, so no "healing". We never gave him time off, and in fact both his vets and I agreed that sore backs do better with exercise, not rest, even if it means just lungeing. An acute injury may need different protocol.

    A poorly made pad can cause issues, especially on a thin skinned or sensitive horse. I love sheepskin, and I do think it can help when used against their skin.

    I also avoid constantly poking on my horse's back. He gets flinchy and tightens up if I do it too much, which can skew his response and make him seem worse than he is. Also, a lot of horses can seem worse directly after a ride than they really are.

    So, long story short, it depends, but I usually feel that if they are all over painful or are sensitive in areas away from the saddle, they are probably sore unrelated to a saddle fit. If it is localized under the saddle, especially in typical problem areas, it might be a saddle. OR, sometimes it's both. You might serve your horse well by a good work up with a good sports medicine vet (not every vet is great with lameness and sore backs), and go from there.

    BTW, I ended up with a County. We both love it

    Leave a comment:


  • Saddle fit: How do you know if problem is saddle fit or a hurt back?

    I've posted about my horse's travails a bit. Anyhooo, it looks like his issue is in his back. Well, IMO...

    So, we've tried a few saddles, with the County being a good one. But, my horse just keep reverting to his symptoms. Normally, he's a horse that works well connected over his back, yet, he has these recurring symptoms in the past months of dropping his back a bit (feels like it's under my seat) and won't quite take connection in the rein. Strangely, we would have good days, then 'symptom' days, then good days, then symptoms again...

    He just had the past week off b/c of a joint injection (part of trying to find the root of this ongoing problem of not going well), and I got to ride him yesterday when I got the go-ahead from the vet. Sadly, the problems noted above were still there...

    I've also noticed is that he seems sore directly on his spine a little bit behind where my seat would sit. This soreness is evident after a ride, and sometimes there is a little bit of soreness when I check the area pre-ride. When I massage the area, it improves quite a bit. It's usually sore on the R side. I also find a muscle soreness on the L side in the lumbar area.

    So, I guess my question is: how do you distinguish between the horse just not liking the saddle and him having a sore/painful back that the saddle only makes worse (but is really not the cause)?

    Another question: how much time would a bruised spine?? or sore muscle need to recover? I am also pretty sure that the quilted pads I was using, which had a stiff, plastic-y spine on them, may be the culprit behind that spine soreness...?

    Thanks for any thoughts!
    Last edited by cyberbay; Nov. 19, 2013, 09:15 AM.
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