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Shifting Saddle(s) and Left Side Pain - Thoughts? UPDATE: Probable Cause Found

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  • Shifting Saddle(s) and Left Side Pain - Thoughts? UPDATE: Probable Cause Found

    Sigh. I think this is going to be long, so I apologize in advance.

    Here are the facts:

    Horse was going fine, seemed happy, no major saddle fit issues. Sound, willing, no obvious back pain, all of that. Horse did just get a new saddle, which he seemed to like and which objectively fit him quite well.

    Horse started getting a little grouchy in general about a week and a half after being ridden in new saddle consistently. Ear pinning when blanketed, ear pinning when tacked up, still going fine under saddle and sound.

    About two weeks after grouchiness started, horse became very ill (temp of 104, etc.). Diagnosed as probable anaplasmosis (ehrlichia) and treated with IV Oxytetracycline. Horse recovered but was out of work for about a week due to the illness, and then brought back very slowly.

    All seemed fine. Horse was less grouchy, no fever, things seemed to be going better.

    Suddenly, about one week after being brought back into full work, saddle started shifting to the right dramatically (as in, left stirrup would seem 2-3 holes shorter than right despite leathers being new and on the same hole on each side). Saddle was visibly way over to the right to the point that the left panel would sit on his spine.

    Horse is (and always has been) slightly larger behind the left side of his wither than the right side.

    Attempted shimming of the smaller right side did not produce a non-shifting saddle. In fact, did not seem to help at all. Horse started to get crabby under saddle by this time as well, though not too bad. He is WAY more crabby as soon as you dismount and are standing at his left side than he is when actually being ridden. He does not seem to mind being sat on while ridden, and did not even mind a lot of shifting around in the saddle, etc.

    I decided it was something about the new saddle. Went back to old saddle, which horse had been going in comfortably before even though there are some fit issues with it. Saddle sat much straighter (though still not perfect), and stirrups seemed even. Horse became more forward and happy. All was right with the world for about two days.

    Two days ago, horse also had a massage. Horse was profoundly sore on the entire left side of his body (poll to hip, at least). Massage seemed to help. Massage therapist confirmed that there is nothing so off about his muscling that it should be causing the saddle to shift that much.

    Yesterday, two days after the massage, and three days after switching back to the old saddle, the old saddle is now ALSO shifting right dramatically. Horse continues to be sound and willing under tack, bends both ways willingly, and so on. He is VERY grumpy on the ground about anything having to do with his left side. He does not want his left side touched at all, particularly near his elbow and girth area.

    No heat or swelling anywhere. Horse is sound. He just seems to be very, very muscle sore on the left side and is unwilling to be touched there. And then there is this bizarre saddle shifting issue which seems to have popped up out of nowhere.

    Any thoughts?

    My ideas so far:

    1. This is related to the anaplasmosis somehow. When he was ill, he did have some visible back spasming.

    2. The muscle soreness on the left side is causing him to tense and shift the saddle to the right, even though his muscling on the left is itself not so different from the right. Still no idea why he is so sore on the left.

    BTW - I have ridden in the new saddle on a different horse and there were no shifting issues.

    Sorry that this is long and sort of stream of consciousness...I'm just not sure what is relevant and what is not, and I'm wondering if anyone else has had a problem like this.
    Last edited by FineAlready; Dec. 23, 2011, 11:10 AM.

  • #2
    Can you have someone else ride the horse in the saddle to see if it does the same thing?

    It may just be a combination of your two anatomies that is causing the issue.

    Perhaps you developed a habit from riding in the new saddle that you are now also carrying over to the old saddle.

    Or, it could be the horse...or the saddle.

    I would call out an independent saddle fitter and start there.
    Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Originally posted by Spud&Saf View Post
      Can you have someone else ride the horse in the saddle to see if it does the same thing?
      I was thinking this might be a good next step also. Although the saddle(s) shift dramatically right even when he is just standing in the aisle tacked up pre-ride. So I think I kind of see the writing on the wall with this approach...

      Comment


      • #4
        Having someone else ride the horse in the saddle is certainly a good first step. I've found that observing my hose from the ground can be very helpful.

        It could still be related to the anaplasmosis. It sounds pain related and since this is happening with both saddles, I wonder if there isn't some kind of muscle issue going on that is unrelated to saddle fit (in other words, not caused by it), but which is aggravated by the saddle.

        Did your horse seem better after the massage or is he still very sore and sensitive? Body soreness was the main symptom my horse exhibited when he had Lyme.
        Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
        EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

        Comment


        • #5
          'K, you are using a rather crude measurement of horse soundness and muscle problems if you looking at saddle fit and behavior. You were on the right track with having a good massage therapist really palpate those muscles.

          In your spot, I'd start with my lameness-guru vet. Then I'd ask questions of a chiropractor. Could it be that the Erlichia has caused some neurological stuff? Forgive me, I'm not an expert on that disease. Knock on wood-- I won't ever have to become one.

          Since your horse is going well under saddle, but telling you about pain on the ground, my guesses are that:

          1. He's stoic and well-broke under saddle. He knows he's supposed to soldier on under tack but has a little more freedom to express himself elsewhere. That's why I wouldn't use behavior under saddle as the main way to figure out what's going on.

          2. He does have something going on that's causing him to tense up the muscles on his left side, creating a cycle of tightness and spasm.

          My "home brew" approach to things like this (taking the Erlichia question out of the equation) is to see if I can get both sides of the horse's back/muscles back to "zero." I'll do a short course of bute and robaxin, let the billybob roll, free lunge him in side reins or a bitting harness, ride bareback, use some cavalletti and do "long and low" in a saddle that doesn't offend him or, if all do, a variety of those in turn. The point is to try to loosen up those muscles.

          Along these lines, I think every rider should get to know the texture of his horse's muscles. Does he flinch when you run your fingers down his spine, or along the thick muscle near the bottom of his ribs? Do they feel rubbery and alive or thin and taut? Does the neck feel stiff or taut in comparison to any part of the back? Does he flinch or tuck his hiney if you run your fingers down from croup to gaskin? What do these feel like before you saddle him? An hour after a ride? The next morning? IMO, the feel of these muscles will tell you a lot before you get to clinical lameness.

          Otherwise, I'd suggest posting some pictures of the two saddles on him, including a withers shot looking down the gullet of the saddle that shows the crazy-crookedness you are talking about. I'd think that if your horse were so atrophied on his right side that the build of his muscles alone was shifting your saddle, you and your masseuse would see it. That makes me think that he is moving in a way that slides your saddle over to the right.

          Hope this helps.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by Bogie View Post
            Having someone else ride the horse in the saddle is certainly a good first step. I've found that observing my hose from the ground can be very helpful.

            It could still be related to the anaplasmosis. It sounds pain related and since this is happening with both saddles, I wonder if there isn't some kind of muscle issue going on that is unrelated to saddle fit (in other words, not caused by it), but which is aggravated by the saddle.

            Did your horse seem better after the massage or is he still very sore and sensitive? Body soreness was the main symptom my horse exhibited when he had Lyme.
            He is better in some ways since the massage, but still quite sore. He's less "acutely" sore on the left side of his back and withers, but he still seems profoundly sore in his left shoulder/elbow area (but not lame - he does not feel lame while I am on him, others watching him don't think he is lame, and I have watched him on the lungeline and he does not look lame).

            He is still super grumpy despite normally being quite a snuggly love bug. He is definitely in pain.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by mvp View Post
              Since your horse is going well under saddle, but telling you about pain on the ground, my guesses are that:

              1. He's stoic and well-broke under saddle. He knows he's supposed to soldier on under tack but has a little more freedom to express himself elsewhere. That's why I wouldn't use behavior under saddle as the main way to figure out what's going on.

              2. He does have something going on that's causing him to tense up the muscles on his left side, creating a cycle of tightness and spasm.

              My "home brew" approach to things like this (taking the Erlichia question out of the equation) is to see if I can get both sides of the horse's back/muscles back to "zero." I'll do a short course of bute and robaxin, let the billybob roll, free lunge him in side reins or a bitting harness, ride bareback, use some cavalletti and do "long and low" in a saddle that doesn't offend him or, if all do, a variety of those in turn. The point is to try to loosen up those muscles.
              Thanks for your thoughts, MVP. Your "home brew" approach is where I am likely going next with this. I have spoken briefly with the vet who treated him for the anaplasmosis and she did not think the two were related. I still really think they are. I have a feeling I am going to end up with a vet looking at this horse yet again, which (insert pity party) really sucks because I have literally had substantial vet bills for this horse every single month since April 2011 (not to mention plenty before that). Vet bills related to all different things, btw, which I don't *think* would be causing any of what is going on now, and which I'm not going to get into here because I don't have three weeks to sit down and write out his voluminous vet history.

              One bit of info that may or may not impact anyone's opinion on this: I've had this horse for three years (he is six), and, in my experience, he is not stoic. AT ALL. He has in the past had no problems expressing dissatisfaction under saddle when he was in pain or experiencing any irritation at all. For example, when I was trying saddles, he would become so offended by anything I used to *wrap the leathers* that he would spend the entire ride swishing his tail, kicking at his sides, and turning to look at me until I removed the offending wrapping. He also once had a total bucking fit when a piece of hay that somehow ended up on top of his square pad dangled down and was tickling his side.

              He IS normally well broke and behaved under saddle, but it has been my past experience that that all goes out the window when something is not right in his world. Which is part of the reason this is so baffling: WHY does he actually seem happiest when actually being ridden? He is also more content after being ridden. For what it's worth, he also normally has very good ground manners, with the same caveat: all of that out the window when something really bothers him.

              On a sensitivity scale of 1-10, with 10 being "most sensitive," this horse is probably a 10. This makes it very hard to get a good read on him about anything, actually, because on any given day he has a long list of concerns/demands/general observations, some of which pan out to be something serious...some of which are just random dissatisfactions that would not bother other horses at all and which pass almost as quickly as they showed up.

              Comment


              • #8
                I hear you on the "Not Stoic, But A Sissy" issue.

                You may have both. Mans up when things get really bad, but will have a hissy fit when things are sorta bad. For some, it's a fear or "they are very impressed" thing. I don't mean to make you psychoanalyze your horse to death. It's not productive. I just went through the same thing with a nice horse I had accused of being a sissy for a long time, only to discover that I was wrong and had underestimated the courage and heart in his quiet kind of toughness.

                It may also be that riding helps him move an unlock those muscles. If you asked him to work on the lunge line, would you get the same response? He'd be willing to move in a frame but not want you to touch him?

                I do hope you can get to the bottom of his problem. You sound like you know him well and he sounds like he officially hurts somewhere.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by mvp View Post
                  I hear you on the "Not Stoic, But A Sissy" issue.

                  You may have both. Mans up when things get really bad, but will have a hissy fit when things are sorta bad. For some, it's a fear or "they are very impressed" thing. I don't mean to make you psychoanalyze your horse to death. It's not productive. I just went through the same thing with a nice horse I had accused of being a sissy for a long time, only to discover that I was wrong and had underestimated the courage and heart in his quiet kind of toughness.

                  It may also be that riding helps him move an unlock those muscles. If you asked him to work on the lunge line, would you get the same response? He'd be willing to move in a frame but not want you to touch him?

                  I do hope you can get to the bottom of his problem. You sound like you know him well and he sounds like he officially hurts somewhere.
                  I actually think you are probably right. In the past, I have been surprised by serious things he has been willing to live with for some time unnoticed, despite the fact that much more minor things would have him basically throwing himself to the ground.

                  He's fine on the lunge line, both directions. I have not tried him in side reins yet, but he moves forward both directions in a natural frame on the lunge line naked and he does not seem upset with me when I approach him to change directions and when I am done. This is also true under saddle (moving forward naturally both directions). He also still has a clean, very good lead change both directions with no fuss.

                  The more I think about it, the more I think the pain is coming from the left girth, elbow, shoulder area. While he is fine with me mounting, he is VERY OFFENDED the second I get off...to the point that he is wheeling around to try to bite me the instant I am on the ground (really unusual). Since I generally loosen his girth right away when I get off, I wonder if he is getting crabby in anticipation of that.

                  He is also very girthy, which has sort of been an on and off thing for most of the time I have had him. And before anyone asks, he has been treated for ulcers (30 days full tube Ulcergard) previously and was just recently given Ulcergard while on the antibiotics for the anaplasmosis.

                  But, yes, for sure you are right that he is in legitimate pain. There really is no doubt about that. I'm thinking he gets a few days or a week of bute/robaxin as you have suggested (and you are not the first person to suggest that) and little-to-no under saddle work in favor of lunge line work and maybe bareback riding (although that frankly is a bit unpleasant for me to do frequently...he's a TB and a little "pointy" on the girly bits, lol).

                  After that, I guess he gets seen by his vet who is also a chiropractor. And if that doesn't work, I am just going to bed his stall with money to see if that makes him happy.

                  Sigh. This poor horse.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by mvp View Post
                    I think every rider should get to know the texture of his horse's muscles. Does he flinch when you run your fingers down his spine, or along the thick muscle near the bottom of his ribs? Do they feel rubbery and alive or thin and taut? Does the neck feel stiff or taut in comparison to any part of the back? Does he flinch or tuck his hiney if you run your fingers down from croup to gaskin? What do these feel like before you saddle him? An hour after a ride? The next morning? IMO, the feel of these muscles will tell you a lot before you get to clinical lameness.
                    Great advice that I wish more people would follow. It doesn't cost anything and it's really helpful when you can tell the vet where your horse feels different and how.
                    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Just thought I would update this in case anyone with a similar problem ever finds this thread. This horse was seen by my vet/chiropractor yesterday, and, um, yeah...it sure seems like this saddle shifting issue was a chiropractic issue. He has obviously not been ridden yet following the appointment, but we did sit two saddles on him after he was adjusted and they both sat very nearly straight (ever so slightly to the right, which is a huge improvement over the dramatic shift seen previously).

                      List of places the horse was out (starting with what I think was causing the most saddle fit issues): rib cage twisted/tilted to right, rib out on left side right under girth area, wither out, multiple lumbar and thoracic vertebrae out, SI out, right hip out, sternum out, neck out...um...I think that is "it," although I am sure I am missing something.

                      GOOD GOD.

                      Sorry, buddy. I guess this gets you some "stoic" points. I appreciate you not just tossing my ass at any point during all of this. Best little horse out there.

                      So...he will be getting adjusted and massaged at two week intervals (massage once a month and chiro once a month) for as long as it takes to get this back on track. I also have some stretches that I have to do with him every day (kind of a modified carrot stretch, another stretch where I cross one front leg in front of the other and hold for 30 seconds, and a tail pull stretch).

                      He will also be getting mints every day and will be told "you are the best one here" every day as per usual. Keeps his confidence up.

                      Comment

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