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Should I Wait to re-Start this Horse?

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  • Should I Wait to re-Start this Horse?

    Sorry...this may get long-winded.

    Last year, I started my Appy mare (see beach pictures) under saddle. Lightly started- maybe 12 rides. The barn where I was at had a small arena, and i had to take her out to get her canter on her, thus the beach excursion.

    Shortly after that trip, I had a couple more rides back at the barn, and she was acting a little cold-backed. Never really exploded, but clearly unhappy about my presence up there. She then began to show signs of a hoof abscess, and it took 6 weeks to finally blow.

    At that point, I was involved with a rescue drill team, and I put the mare out to pasture with my other mare. Over the summer I tried working with the Appy mare, but mentally she was really not right- her world was way too big, and she was returning to her past wild horse ways. So since it wasn't fair to her to be sporadic about it, I decided to wait.

    Now, I have her at a new barn, with an indoor. She's handled by at least 6 different people in a given week, which has been awesome for her, as she's never been good with strangers.

    My latest issue with her is that it appears that she's not always sound. She's got that high/low thing going on. Her "low" hoof is the right hoof, and on that side her shoulder is much more prominent. Her high hoof is the left. I've had the vet look at her before when I thought she was off- and the vet didn't think it was much at all. In her case, she'd take, say 10 good strides and then a few off ones, if on a longe circle. She's been barefoot since I've had her, but her hooves have not ever changed. So, I met this really good farrier who works on a fellow boarder's horses who is coming out in March to also assess my mare. *yay* I can't wait to see if he can help her out- if he thinks she needs the help.

    But lately her attitude has been great, and she's been sound. I of course have the itch to get working with her again- but I wonder if I should just wait. She really is a neat, smart mare- picks things up super fast, and I don't want to ruin her experience. Looking back at last year, I'm thinking her cold-backed ness may have had to do more with this high/low thing along with her bigger shoulder- she just wasn't balanced. She's so green, that any imbalance can cause frustration to her.

    I want to be fair to her, so I'm willing to wait it out. At the same time, I feel like I should be doing something with her. What can I be doing with her in terms of exercises that can help rebalance her?
    My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage

  • #2
    Your horse is right sided and uses the right side quite a bit more than the left, hence the difference you see in hoof shape. The more difference I see, the more unbalanced a horse typically is side to side.

    The best way to approach this is to strengthen the weaker side to get the horse more evenly balanced side to side muscle wise.

    I doubt being cold backed is related to that, but it could be contributing factor. With a cold back I'd suspect any of the follwing first:
    • EPSM
    • Tack fit
    • Ovarian issues in mares
    • Hind end issues, including hooves and joints
    • ulcers
    • Selenium and/or magnesium deficiency
    • Horse does not want to use abs correctly to support topline
    Which hoof is she off on usually? Is the high hoof trimmed correctly heel wise or is it generally left too high. Do you have any hoof pictures too share of both fronts?


    • Original Poster

      Woops- I've been around COTH long enough to know I should've addressed those bullet points in my original post I blame it on having the flu.

      I've had this mare since 2005.

      EPSM -- she was on the diet close to a year- no change.
      Tack fit -- she goes best in a fhoenix, I suspect because nothing digs into her shoulders, but also professionally fitted in a duett, 36 cm. Doesn't like it, though.
      Ovarian issues in mares -- this could use more exploration, but i have had her on raspberry leaves for years- this is the first winter she is not on them. Don't really see a change, but maybe I will once heat cycles come back. Toying with keeping her off the leaves just to see...
      Hind end issues, including hooves and joints -- could use more exploration...but she's not exactly a willing individual when it comes to strangers playing with her. it takes her months to trust a new worker. Our vet who is a chiro- the most gentle being on earth, was only able to get to her withers. Another body worker, was able to do her whole body...initially there was a lot more relaxation, but that waned quickly-like 2 days. LOL
      ulcers -- been treated, no change.
      Selenium and/or magnesium deficiency -- is on both Selen Yeast and Mag. -- big attitude change with the mag added- remission to be exact.
      Horse does not want to use abs correctly to support topline - could very well be.

      I dont think she is truly cold backed- back then, in that instance after our ride, she was very tight under saddle- acting as if she were. And riding in the treeless, you can definitely feel every.single.muscle. contracted!

      And in terms of additional diet info: she's not on any grain. She gets hay pellets, equipride(not the full dose), remission, selenium yeast.

      Another noteworthy bit about her: every winter, when she is not on grass pasture, she has a really hard time digesting and processing hay. Doesn't matter what type of hay, soaked or not. Her manure is softer, less form, sometimes liquid. sometimes formed but with liquid spurts after. Doesn't matter if she gets a pre or probitoic. The only thing that changes her manure back to normal is fresh grass and less hay.

      Regarding her hooves: I can try to get pictures. She's had the same hoof shape for as long as I've known her. I actually remember noting it when I first met her. They never seemed to bother her, until she was actually put into work. She's always had the same 2 trimmers- no hoof change at all. If you try to back the long toe on the dominant side, she'll go lame faster than you can say it.

      So, what can I be doing to help her strengthen the weak side? I have that book, straightening the crooked horse, and while i get what they do- its not exactly an instruction manual, and i do run the risk of doing it incorrectly.
      Last edited by myhorsefaith; Jan. 16, 2009, 10:34 AM. Reason: adding bit about hooves.
      My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage


      • #4
        Another noteworthy bit about her: every winter, when she is not on grass pasture, she has a really hard time digesting and processing hay. Doesn't matter what type of hay, soaked or not. Her manure is softer, less form, sometimes liquid. sometimes formed but with liquid spurts after. Doesn't matter if she gets a pre or probitoic. The only thing that changes her manure back to normal is fresh grass and less hay.
        Does this start in late fall?


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by BornToRide View Post
          Does this start in late fall?
          Well, yes- the moment she's off grass...which is usually fall.
          My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage


          • #6
            My gelding does that too. He started this 3 years ago and was really bad. He had some this year too, but it was not quite as bad - he dried up sooner. He alwasy gets excessive liquid with his poop.

            He is out on pasture , but there's not enough grass to offset the grass hay he gets all year - no chanes in hay either that would account for this. Not sure about your horse and how much grass she gets from pasture.

            Have another client whose Tenn Walker has it really bad - none of her other horses are affected. I am now wondering if the affected horses get into something they should not in the fall and winter, like plants they should not be eating. Could this be a possibility?


            • Original Poster

              the more grass my mare gets, the better her poo is. she's 100% solid when she's on 100% grass. if she gets hay, chances are, her poo will be looser. If she's on 100% hay, its always loose and disgusting.

              I've used biosponge in the past, and it'll help to a certain extent. Also psyllium, with the same results as biosponge. I've been meaning to talk to my vet about trying some kaopectate on her- but i'm afraid of causing an impaction.

              Through the winter when she does have this loose manure- she has the tucked up grey-hound look. Not thin at all, but tucked up near the flank area.
              My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage


              • #8
                Maybe I've missed it somewhere in your posts but.

                How old is she?

                What kind of hay pellets (content) does she get?
                Sounds to me like maybe she's allergic to something in it or it's too rich for her, if that's the ONLY diet change throughout the seasons. One of my arabs does absolutely horrific on any type of alfalfa content, as an example - same type of reaction.

                What's her water intake like in the winter? This may sound a bit nutty, but I have run into (rare) boredom drinkers.

                Also, I have appies & arabs, they need to be doing something in my experience. Because they are terribly smart and idle hoofs make for 'let's find trouble!'

                If she's sound, get her moving. If she's been checked over, which sounds like you've done so, work with a trainer or someone experienced who can help you set up gymnastics to help her learn to balance better.

                Green does sometimes equal unbalanced, but letting her sit won't help her learn to carry herself better either:/ I made the mistake with one of my guys years back who felt very funky to work with, he was so unbalanced. I ended up letting him sit much much longer then I should have. And then still ended up having to sort him out!
                Originally posted by ExJumper
                Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.


                • #9
                  I would recommend the book "Right from the Start: Create a Sane, Soft, Well-Balanced Horse". For various reasons I couldn't ride my just-backed young mare (who is built much like yours) much last winter so I did a lot of groundwork with her. Not only did it really help us bond, it helped her trust me to help her figure things out. I was also busy with other horses this summer so my mare was mostly turned out like yours, but when I started to ride her again it was amazing how much she already knew just from the groundwork.

                  I also think some riding would be fine, but I would take it very slowly. My mare also had a tendancy to hold her muscles tight and this would cause her to tire very quickly, so I would do lots of walking on a long rein encouraging to stretch her head and neck to the ground, loosen her back and swing. "Dressage in Lightness: Speaking the Horse's Language" by Sylvia Loch is another good book.


                  • #10
                    Unfortunately, from your descriptions, it's hard to figure things out. High hoof , low hoof- has she a club foot, or are you saying that she drops one shoulder more than the other when she trots? Re: the occasional bad steps on the longe. Could there have been stone bruising or irregularities in the footing?

                    On the beach shots , I only see a horse that appears to be tolerating a strange environment well. Her back my well have felt tight. "Nessie" could be in that surf.
                    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                    • Original Poster

                      Going to try to reply to all q's:

                      rainechyldes: she's 9. here are the types of hay and hay pellets she's tried: orchard, timothy, teff (no pellets, just hay), and alfalfa. no real difference on any one of these.

                      Her water intake- does not appear to be excessive- but then again, i have not paid a lot of attention, and the BO has not said anything to me- and she would if there was a change. She's good like that.

                      yea, I know i shouldn't let her sit- but i also know i don't want to do anything to harm her either. I've been toying with the idea of putting her in training- but not knowing if she'll be sound the whole time has put a damper on that. Plus I have not found a trainer i like-- yet.

                      Flying Hill: I will look into that book- thanks!

                      Merrygoround: I know, i am going to try to get pictures. I do not think her "clubby" hoof is an actual club foot- i do think she is just right-sided like BTR suggests. She does have a shorter neck...and i often wonder if her short neck has something to do with it. She has to put one foot forward in order to graze.

                      Nope- the footing she has been on has always been soft dirt/sand.

                      The beach shots: i completely agree about her tolerating. That was her very first time out of an arena, with a rider. Very first canter. Very first extended trot. It was full of firsts- so her level of comfort can be questioned, for sure. She was tense at times, but she did relax once she figured it out. She was VERY green in those pictures. But very brave- once she got used to the water, she actually willingly jumped into the waves, I just tagged along, lol. And because I was riding in my treeless, i could really feel when her body relaxed. Initially This is why i want to do something with her- she's so courageous.
                      My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage


                      • Original Poster

                        Just a quick update: said horse is going to go spend a week with a well respected colt-starter, starting Sunday.

                        It is a short amount of time, but no choice because he's going back home until April But the guy is simply awesome, and in a week's time he should be able to give me some idea of what to do with my Appy Princess.
                        My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage