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UPDATE for anyone who cares :) Reaching my limit on what I can accomplish in lesson horse tack

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  • UPDATE for anyone who cares :) Reaching my limit on what I can accomplish in lesson horse tack

    I take twice weekly lessons on a horse I'm very fond of (more on that in a sec)- I do a jump lesson and dressage lesson, and try to squeeze in a third ride on weekends when I can (for a small fee to the barn owner, who owns him). Now, some may disagree and feel that a rider should be able to ride in any tack, but my jump coach thinks that I'm starting to reach the limits of what I can make my body do in the tack that comes with this lesson horse. The jump saddle is entirely too small for me and puts me in a difficult position: if I choose to focus on keeping my legs in a good alignment, my lower back stiffens like a board and I can't follow the motion. If I focus on allowing my back to relax and having a good following motion with my elbows and lower back, my leg swings all over the place. Note that we have identified the saddle as the culprit, not my riding (though lord knows I have plenty to work on).

    To make things more interesting, his owner has offered to give the horse to me for free, with the assumption that I would pay board for at least a year, and that I would commit to getting the horse some maintenance to keep him more comfortable. He is very cold backed, girthy, stiff, but seems to work out of it. I give him a nice long swinging walk warmup and try to be gentle with brushing and tacking up (he has bit and cow kicked me from being groomed, which he hates). I would need a PPE to know his true back issues, but I'm a bit leery of inheriting these known issues, and perhaps something even larger like kissing spine behind the grumpiness and soreness. By maintenance, the owner thinks he needs hock injections (yes, I think he should be getting them anyway even if he is "just" a lesson horse). He has had his SI injected before. He's 14.

    On the one hand, I barely have time for three rides a week (I have two young kids). On the other hand, if he was mine I could get him the maintenance he needs, fatten him up (he drops weight easily), and a saddle that fits both of us. On the other other hand, it's really not the best time for me to own a horse, even a free one (and this one comes with known and possibly unknown back issues, and isn't the sweet cuddly guy I would aim to buy if I'm honest). I did take him to my first derby a couple weeks ago, and he was INCREDIBLE cross country- I've never felt so connected to a horse before! I really like him and am learning lots, but he's not the lean on his mane to cry type (and I need to cry a lot LOL).

    Jump coach figures: free horse! You can always give him back! Dressage coach thinks I will outgrow him by next year at my current rate of progression.

    Would it be crazy to buy a saddle that fits us both, even if he's not mine? As much as I like him, I'm leaning toward just sticking with my current arrangement, which suits my family better at the moment both time and finance wise. I have owned before and miss it, but kind of like not having the insanely huge responsibility on top of everything else.

    As always, my heart wants a horse to love, and my head says there are other horses out there for when I'm truly ready.
    Last edited by YEG; Nov. 20, 2019, 01:53 PM. Reason: Updated

  • #2
    Is the owner looking to give away this horse to anyone, or just you? If he is trying to give him away, it would be pointless to buy a saddle that fits him.

    There is nothing wrong with buying a saddle that fits you better, and is a good investment no matter where your riding takes you (a lease, purchasing your own horse, riding other lesson horses, etc).

    As far as taking him on, you answered the question for yourself. It is not the right time, and you do not need to take on unknown issues in a horse that does not have the temperament you would go out and seek if you were truly looking to buy. I would pass. Just my opinion!

    Comment


    • #3
      A horse as you say is a big commitment all around.
      You will become involved as owner financially, with your time, energy and emotionally.

      In your stage of life, young kids, a stretch for your family and yourself to increase substantially all your involvement with that horse as an owner, as you put it there, it doesn't seem to be the right time for you to own, much less a horse that will need so much.

      As someone wise told me once, "we really can't save them all, other people or animals, know your limits".

      Sad as it is not to be able to help where help is needed, an owner for that horse, maybe it just is not to be?

      If it was possible for you and your family to sacrifice to own that horse, you would not have doubts and just do it.
      "When in doubt, don't" is always good advice.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think it depends on whether this horse is a physical type you like, and are likely to run into again. No point in buying a saddle for a one-of-a-kind horse that doesn't belong to you, but a saddle that might fit a future horse of your own, perhaps with tweaks from the saddle fitter, would make more sense to me.

        I used to bring my own saddle to lessons because the ancient Stuebben my trainer preferred made me positively suicidal. That thing was like sitting on a broken brick, and there was just no way in hell I was going to shell out actual money to ride in it.

        Comment


        • #5
          It would be crazier to take on the horse than to buy a saddle that fits you both. My recommendation based on knowing nothing about this horse? Get a saddle that is known for fitting a variety of horses. You can always pad up if a future horse is more narrow, but you can't pad down if a saddle is pinching at the wither. I always buy wide trees, but I also ride more stock horses than shark finned horses.

          If you have the budget, maybe offer to go in 50/50 on hock injections if you want to keep riding this horse. It's not your responsibility to maintain school horses if you're paying for lessons. However, if you like him and want to keep riding him perhaps you can work out that kind of deal as a "in exchange to have him be my lesson horse for the next six months, I'll pay for half of the injections to keep him comfortable".

          Again... that is NOT your responsibility, but based on your post -- it reads like this place is maybe not the most expensive in the world and maybe not up to date on the best care practices ever. That's not to throw shade - it's just simply stating that professional operations who do lessons as a business keep their horses in top shape because they know horses who bite, or cow kick, or are sore are a liability to students. They also usually have enough variety of school tack that their students can use appropriate equipment. OTOH, a barn owner who allows one of their horses to be ridden to offset some of the costs of running the place may not have the business plan in place to keep up maintenance with what they consider a personal horse. If you're enjoying everything in general and have the money to throw a few hundred towards a vet bill that could enhance your experience, it may be worth it.

          Good luck!
          Veni vidi vici. With a paint pony, nonetheless.

          Comment


          • #6
            I've never been the touchy feely owner type and I don't get "he's not the cuddly type" thing. Full disclosure.

            But I do have a couple comments.

            1. I had a cold-backed horse -- SERIOUSLY cold-backed and he was without peer as a Pony Club pony and later, a trail mount for a local gal. One of the very best horses I've ever owned and I got him for a mere $400, because he was cold backed and people didn't know how to deal with that. So, if your school horse is "just" cold-backed, no problem. You are right to check out the other soundness issues and explanations he may have, though. It may not "just" be cold-backed.

            2. This horse was a cross country machine for you. Is that your sport? If so, and he checks out, TAKE HIM. If not, and it was just the experiment for the day, well, feed him cookies and keep looking. A good XC horse can generally be moved on to someone else when you 'outgrow' him and you may not outgrow him for a long time. (OK, I reread your comments. Maybe just lease him, if that eases the owner's situation a bit, and you would feel more invested without footing the full bill. You can still feed him up and participate in the decision to inject hocks, etc.)

            3. Saddles: there are thousands of used saddles on the market for great prices. Consider one (or two if you need dressage and jumping saddles) of those, in medium trees. (Don't buy some specialized saddle for this one horse, unless you are going to own this one horse for a long time.) I ride in an old Passier jumping saddle that wouldn't fetch $250 now, but it's perfectly fine to ride in and suits my build (and fortunately, my horse). I also have a Stubben Dressage saddle I picked up for $80 (since I had stupidly moved on my much nicer saddles a couple years earlier in a dumb, dumb, move.) These saddles fit many horses, and fit me great, and are more than enough for me to make progress without spending thousands. I love not having to constantly adjust school saddles to suit. You will, too.

            Comment


            • #7
              Depending on who rides the horse in his current saddle and how often, the saddle could very well be contributing to the horse's back issues. I don't know how true it is, but I recall hearing somewhere along the way that English saddles that are too small for the rider can be especially harmful because of the relatively small area of weight distribution. If the other riders are tiny kids, it may not matter much when they are riding, but if most are teens and adults, it might.

              I really like the idea of approaching the horse's owner with some kind of partial lease arrangement where you share costs on some of the maintenance the horse needs - that way, if you do outgrow him in a year or so, it's not on you to find his next owner.

              If you see yourself continuing to ride - whether on this horse specifically or on a succession of horses - investing in a saddle might be worthwhile. Maybe look for something with a changeable gullet to better the chances that it may work for future horses: Pessoa, Wintec, Thorowgood would all be brands to consider.

              Comment


              • #8
                So I have to wonder about your real question, OP? Is it about the saddle, or about taking on horse ownership? Or about pleasing the barn/horse owner who proposed this arrangement?

                Saddles can be bought now and sold later, if they are no longer needed. They may not sell for as much, but that's ok, the difference is the cost of the use of the saddle and the improvement in your riding.

                Buy a saddle. Keep enjoying your situation.

                Make a decision on horse ownership at the time that is right for you.

                Good luck with the saddle search, and enjoy your riding journey!

                I also hit a hard roadblock with the lesson tack I was using, quite a few years ago. The search for exactly the right saddle was massive, but I found the right one. My fellow riders said the new saddle moved my riding forward by a year, at least - suddenly I could do more things, and do them more securely and effectively. A saddle was one of the best investments I ever made in my riding. And my riding includes my time, my money spent for riding, and my satisfaction with the experience - the saddle made all of it so much better.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Pass on the horse, but provided you will be continuing to ride this same horse for some time and have the blessing of the owner and your coach, buy a quality used saddle that fits both of you. You may still be able to use it in the future on other horses, and if not you can resell it and make back at least a portion of the money. (I have actually gotten good deals on some used saddles in the past, ridden in them for a while, and been able to sell them for MORE than I paid.)

                  I have never owned a horse, but have owned many saddles over the years to use on various lesson/lease/borrowed/etc horses. Being able to ride in a saddle that fits the horse AND you is always preferable.
                  Flickr

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    This is why is can be hard to ride a horse you don't own - you have no control over the degree of care. It sounds like this fellow might have ulcers (girthy, hard to keep weight on) and some degree of current back pain. Some horses can vary on how much they enjoy grooming and being fawned over, but if a horse is lashing out while being groomed, that horse is in pain. A poor fitting saddle can certainly be the culprit.

                    I can't speak for jump saddles, but changing a dressage saddle makes a WORLD of difference. I've had to ride in many other people's tack during my leases and catch-ride periods, and boy oh boy there are some saddles that just did not work for me. When I finally bought my horse and had a saddle fitter come out and 'audition' a bunch of nice used saddles from different brands, the fitter explained the details on stirrup bar placement, knee roll length, twist width etc which all comprise the human fit of the saddle and how just a few millimeters makes a huge difference from feeling balanced and soft to feeling like a drunk 4 year old teetering on a spindle.

                    So it sounds like you have some choices
                    1.maintain the status quo. Keep riding horse in lessons in current tack.

                    2. Get a saddle that fits you (can be used to keep it at an investment level you are comfortable with) but please get a saddle fitter out to adjust it or recommend the correct padding so it fits the horse too. Keep riding this horse in lessons, but at least now you have a saddle that you know works for one end of the horse/rider equation if you do move up to a different horse.

                    3. Take over ownership of the horse and put the $$ into maintenance and 'fixing him'. I've seen some horses absolutely blossom from being crabby and stiff to moving freely and happy to work after chiro, feed, and saddle fit changes. Its possible that this guy just needs some TLC and to be out of a lesson program and he might be an even better horse that what he is now. OR he might require more work and resources than you can allocate right now. The beauty with these critters is that you never know! At 14 he still has plenty of miles left on him to be a really great partner for you.

                    Sucker that I am, I would probably do option 2 but ask for a 6 month feed lease on the horse. This way you get to be in the driver's seat to start making changes on the horse's care and if you start to see a difference in his demeanor. If his issues lessen with different fitting saddle, ulcer treatment, chiro, injections (whatever you think he needs) you may be inclined to keep him, or, if no improvement is made despite your best efforts then don't renew the lease. You come out of it with some quality ride time and a saddle that fits you that (hopefully) will fit your next horse.

                    With 2 young kids, owning seems like a bit much. a lease or partial lease with this horse might be a better option with much fewer strings attached.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      I’m so thrilled with all the thoughtful responses- thank you! This does help clarify some thoughts I’ve been having. You all nailed the internal debate I’m having, and agreed, it’s perhaps equal parts “should I buy a saddle” and “should I take this horse”. I really like the ideas about leasing/half leasing to see if I can improve his comfort level with saddle fit, vet, chiro, feed. So far under saddle he’s mostly stiff at first, but his performance is quite good (maybe he’s just stoic but he doesn’t exhibit signs of pain while being ridden). I agree after hearing this feedback that he needs more checking into given his pain reactions while grooming/saddling. I don’t exactly need a pet on the ground but would prefer that my partner wasn’t actively hating being groomed! I want to learn to braid, and clip, and sometimes just not even ride and spend time with him.

                      I do think he’s a lovely boy, and I feel like we do click while riding, and he showed me how well he could take care of me cross country. Even being off property was big for me, and he was a gem- I trusted him completely.

                      Well, I haven’t quite solved the question of if I can take him yet (I need more soul searching and support from my husband, which is a big ask). But at the very least I will get a saddle fitter out and invest in the right equipment.

                      Oh! Almost forgot. Here are some pics

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Handsome boy.

                        Horses that start out stiff and work out of it often are suffering arthritic changes. Standing around translates to stiffness. Work a bit and the joints begin to move and the stiffness begins to go away.

                        If this shows up in the hind end, it could be in the hocks. Injecting them may help, but it may be better to let the arthritis progress until the small bones of the hock fuse. Discuss with the vet. I have heard both ways. Once fused, the horse should perform better (but its not likely both hocks will progress at the same rate).

                        i've known a couple horses that really hated being groomed, but only a couple. Get a really soft brush and see if he tolerates that. Is it specific spots or all over? Do some careful investigaring and get to know him better. Horses like this are little mysteries.

                        I hope you keep us posted about him. Its a good thing youve got your eye on this fellow.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by YEG View Post
                          I take twice weekly lessons on a horse I'm very fond of (more on that in a sec)- I do a jump lesson and dressage lesson, and try to squeeze in a third ride on weekends when I can (for a small fee to the barn owner, who owns him). Now, some may disagree and feel that a rider should be able to ride in any tack, but my jump coach thinks that I'm starting to reach the limits of what I can make my body do in the tack that comes with this lesson horse. The jump saddle is entirely too small for me and puts me in a difficult position: if I choose to focus on keeping my legs in a good alignment, my lower back stiffens like a board and I can't follow the motion. If I focus on allowing my back to relax and having a good following motion with my elbows and lower back, my leg swings all over the place. Note that we have identified the saddle as the culprit, not my riding (though lord knows I have plenty to work on).

                          To make things more interesting, his owner has offered to give the horse to me for free, with the assumption that I would pay board for at least a year, and that I would commit to getting the horse some maintenance to keep him more comfortable. He is very cold backed, girthy, stiff, but seems to work out of it. I give him a nice long swinging walk warmup and try to be gentle with brushing and tacking up (he has bit and cow kicked me from being groomed, which he hates). I would need a PPE to know his true back issues, but I'm a bit leery of inheriting these known issues, and perhaps something even larger like kissing spine behind the grumpiness and soreness. By maintenance, the owner thinks he needs hock injections (yes, I think he should be getting them anyway even if he is "just" a lesson horse). He has had his SI injected before. He's 14.

                          On the one hand, I barely have time for three rides a week (I have two young kids). On the other hand, if he was mine I could get him the maintenance he needs, fatten him up (he drops weight easily), and a saddle that fits both of us. On the other other hand, it's really not the best time for me to own a horse, even a free one (and this one comes with known and possibly unknown back issues, and isn't the sweet cuddly guy I would aim to buy if I'm honest). I did take him to my first derby a couple weeks ago, and he was INCREDIBLE cross country- I've never felt so connected to a horse before! I really like him and am learning lots, but he's not the lean on his mane to cry type (and I need to cry a lot LOL).

                          Jump coach figures: free horse! You can always give him back! Dressage coach thinks I will outgrow him by next year at my current rate of progression.

                          Would it be crazy to buy a saddle that fits us both, even if he's not mine? As much as I like him, I'm leaning toward just sticking with my current arrangement, which suits my family better at the moment both time and finance wise. I have owned before and miss it, but kind of like not having the insanely huge responsibility on top of everything else.

                          As always, my heart wants a horse to love, and my head says there are other horses out there for when I'm truly ready.
                          You've received a lot of useful advice.

                          I would definitely consider buying a used saddle that fits both you and the horse (get permission from HO before using another saddle) . You can always sell the saddle at a later date if you end buying or leasing a different horse. A "new" (but used) saddle seems like a "no brainer" to me especially if the current saddle doesn't fit you. Do read up on saddle fitting. Watch some YouTube videos, etc. Try to involve a professional saddle fitter if possible.

                          Given your busy schedule and the fact that you would prefer a "cuddlier" horse when you do decide to venture into ownership, I wouldn't take on ownership of this horse right now. Ownership is a big responsibility. Injuries and accidents happen. Ownership will require you to pay for his retirement in the event of a career ending injury or accident.

                          You mention briefly you can give him back at any time, but that arrangement sounds more like a free care lease rather than assuming ownership. A free lease or a free half lease is a different question and might be worth considering.

                          I agree with earlier posters, I'd be suspect he might have ulcer issues. Ulcers are usually easy enough to treat, but successful treatment often also requires a change in diet and program to help prevent them from recurring. Obviously you could influence diet and program if you owned the horse, perhaps even if you leased the horse. Absent owning the horse or leasing the horse, I'd be careful about broaching the ulcer topic. It could be construed as you suggesting the HO is a poor caregiver and no one needs to go to that place.

                          It sounds like you have an interesting situation and there might be an opportunity find an arrangement that benefits both parties. I "suspect" HO is offering you a lease for a year with the terms being you pay for board and injections. It really depends on what you want (and your finances of course). If you want more "say" in the management of the horse, and the expense of a half lease is something your family can absorb, it might be something to think about.

                          On the topic of injections, if you've never had them done before, it would be a good idea to do a little research. Everyone's vet is different, but our vet will flex and block. If the vet feels the horse has a issue in the hock joint, he will radiograph the joint to ensure the horse might benefit from injections. There are different areas of the hock joint that can be injected. Upper and lower joints. How many injections each hock receives will influence the cost. An earlier poster mentioned forgoing injections and letting the lower hock joints fuse. Lower hock fusion is recommended in some horses, but not most. You really should have diagnostics (radiographs) to make that determination. Depending on where you are located, a farm call, lameness evaluation including blocks, radiographs and injections can easily run 1K or more. If the horses has been injected in the past and radiographs are on file, it may not be necessary to repeat that step. Make sure you do a little homework and understand the benefits and costs of injections before you agree to shoulder that financial responsibility.

                          I sounds like you are considering all your options carefully. I hope at the very least a new (used) saddle is in your future.

                          All the best!!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I just had to retire my lease, but it sounds like a semi-similar situation (except his owner had no interest in selling and the horse is a saint). He was also a XC machine. I had a lease on him and paid $X each month towards board/shoes/etc., plus whatever maintenance he needed to keep doing the job I had him in (if he wasn't leased to me, he wouldn't need because he would have been a trail type horse). It was a great situation and I leased him for two and a half years and would have continued to for at least another year if he could have kept jumping. Alas, he couldn't, so he went back to his owner full-time to be a kiddo and trail horse and he's happy as can be.

                            I did purchase two saddles for him, jump and dressage. I don't regret it at all - I progressed in ways I couldn't in his owner's tack (we're built basically as opposites) and I have two very nice saddles that may fit my next horse and if they don't, I'll sell them. Not a big deal - people sell saddles all the time even if they own the horse due to horses being sold, retired, changing, etc.

                            If the horse is a good fit and teacher for you, arranging a longer term lease with a clause that if he becomes unusable to do what you'd like to do (eventing?) after trying X (maybe it's a set $ amount, maybe it just says at determination of vet, I'm not sure, I'm no lawyer) you can terminate the lease. Personally, it sounds like a dream situation, even if you take on his monthly expenses. 14 isn't that old at all! My gelding just retired at 19.

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                            • #15
                              we have 2 saddles for a half lease and I let other lesson people use one of them because I want the horse to be ridden in a saddle that fits her well. It is so much nicer to have your own saddle and buying used you can get some really good deals- and you can always resell if needed.

                              I would do a lease instead of buying. Like the pp we pay for things for our half lease that we technically shouldnt have to but because we want her to perform at a higher level than she would if we didnt lease her.

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                              • #16
                                I do like the idea of a lease or half lease. It could definitely ease some of the expenses on both sides, and would give you more control over his care and maintenance, depending on what the agreement is.

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                                • #17
                                  I have had that horse that hated to be groomed. Consider changing the type of brush. I had one that really only tolerated natural bristle brushes. If I absolutely needed to curry off mud I used the oval SOFT rubber curry or one of the really soft hand shaped ones.
                                  One thing my trainer and I use in the winter for two horses that are a little cold backed is an electric heated throw. We put in on them with a sheet over it with the horse in cross ties while we pull out the tack and groom. It pre-warms the withers and back and seems to help.

                                  I would invest in a nice used jump saddle and a sheepskin half pad that you can shim. This way you can use the saddle with the half pad on a variety of horses. I have done plenty of low level dressage in a close contact saddle. I have finally purchased a used dressage saddle. I recently loaned it for about 3 weeks to a rider going to RRP. I did a lot of my flat work in my cc saddle but more in a full seat position rather than half seat. I feel like it has really improved my jumping.

                                  Instead of taking the horse on as owner maybe paying the current owner for a half lease with you riding 3 days a week. You pay for half the injections. I would do a good PPE before starting the lease. You want to make sure he really needs the hock injections and not SI or kissing spine treatment such as mesotherapy/shockwave. If you decide to do the half lease you could also buy him a Back on Track sheet. I find they sometimes help with the cold backed or stiff horse. If you do go with the lease and pay for any part of the injections I would want a minimum time commitment from the owner so that if she does give away the horse or sell him a short time after the injections she needs to refund you or refund you a pro-rated portion. This is assuming it would be a month to month lease with 30 days notice on either side.
                                  Another thought is that horse may be a bit cold backed and hate grooming if he has Lyme. Both of those can be symptoms.
                                  Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)

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                                  • #18
                                    Re "Cold-back". This is a phrase rather broadly used for a couple different situations. You (and your vet) want to be clear on what's really going on with this.

                                    As I've experienced it, a cold-backed horse is not cold and the problem might not even be the back, but instead the girth area. However, the phrase is _also_ used to describe a sore-backed horse.

                                    A horse that dips his spine or pins his ears or tap dances in response to you setting the saddle on his back is a sore-backed horse. The horse is telling you that he's sore somewhere in the back, along the spine of the muscles there, where the saddle is. He can tap dance in anticipation of pain (i.e., he's not hurting now, but he remembers hurting) or actual pain.

                                    A cold-backed horse is a horse that has a nerve reaction either (there are two camps on this) along the back somewhere, or along the belly WHEN the girth is attached and tightened. Setting the saddle on the back doesn't cause the reaction (though he may anticipate pain if he's had years of people ignoring this). You have to girth him up to see it. His response can be simple unease, all the way up to flying backward at a great speed, breaking halters, cross-ties, and falling down.

                                    I'll never forget the first time I saw it, on a rather explosive case. The rider calmly set the saddle on her horse, then untied him from the trailer. I was thinking "What? She's not done tacking him." Then she buckled the girth on the first hole and the horse scrambled back about 35 feet. She just calmly followed. Once the saddle was tight, no more reaction. She knew the problem, knew the horse, handled it well, he was just fine from then on.

                                    My own horse was similar. And I got him for such a low price because the local cowboy said things like, "He's a killer!" because of his violent reaction to being saddled (backing up in a scramble). We'd put the saddle up, no reaction, attach the girth on the 1st hole with him untied, generally no reaction, then walk him with the saddle on for about 100 feet. Tighten by 1 hole. Walk. Tighten. Walk. Tighten. Took an additional 2 minutes, horse was fine, no further responses. The walking 'unlocked' wherever the nerve reaction was coming from, therefore no scrambling.

                                    So, you can see that you need to differentiate between whether this horse has a sore back or a 'cold-back'. (Hint, with the 2nd type of horse, temperature isn't the issue. With the first horse, who is actually muscle sore, saddle fit may be an issue and ice/heat cycles may help other inflammatory causes.)

                                    Ulcers can manifest in still other ways (may account for the grouchiness for example), but I'll let folks with experience there comment. I don't know from ulcers.

                                    These big, silent animals are wonderful puzzles.

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                                    • #19
                                      Riding in tack that doesn't fit you is no fun. There are plenty of good, used saddles on the market that you can pick up for much less than $1K. I've bought several very nice used saddles for about $500. Buying to fit a school horse is tricky because there's no guarantee that it will fit the next horse you want to ride, unless you have a "type".

                                      My vote would be to buy a quality used saddle that's either a M or a MW (I find those are more versatile for the horses I ride), and also buy a pad that can use shims so you can adjust fit. Have a saddle fitter show you how to use them. If you are not experienced at evaluating saddle fit it can be tricky and most trainers really don't know enough about it to be helpful. Buy a jumping saddle rather than a dressage saddle as those tend to be more forgiving in terms of fit. If you buy a saddle with foam panels it will self adjust (to a degree). If you buy a saddle with wool flocking, you can have a saddle fitter customize the fit to the horse you are riding now, and to future horses (that are of a similar shape).

                                      As for the horse, I'd ask for a half lease and pick up some of the expenses. If the horses improves over time you could consider taking him on as an owner but that's a big commitment. You could get a quote on the cost of the hock injections but depending on how many joints, what they want to inject, and where you are in the country, the cost is highly variable. I would not be spending $$ on a horse that's not mine. Maybe as part of a lease, but I'd also look for horses that don't need the injections. At 14 this horse has already had SI injections (in my neck of the woods that's 1K) and now the owner thinks it needs hocks too?
                                      Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                      EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

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                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Good followup points!

                                        I use the softest brushes available and just do enough to knock the dust off- no vigorous currying for him. He pins his ears when I do his neck (probably in anticipation), then his discomfort increases as I get to withers, is at highest level (teeth raking along the tie bar, pawing, threatening to snap at me) when I get to girth area. Somewhat lessens as I get further back- he's not super happy about flank, but then absolutely fine for legs and butt. He's gotten a lot better with me actually, because once he bit me, I realized he really must have been in pain, and I'm really gentle with him. I also don't let him get away with it either- he's allowed to express his pain/irritation but not allowed to bite/kick me.

                                        He pins his ears when he sees the saddle, I lower it oh so gently, and he swings around and walks around while it settles. I do up one side of the girth at the lowest hole, so gently, so quietly, talking to him. Go do the other side- even on the loosest hole, he rakes his teeth. He also paws and tries to snap when I put his breastplate on, and he doesn't like if I even touch it to check the fit (at the front). I walk, tighten girth, walk, tighten, and then usually do it up a hole once I'm mounted. He doesn't seem to mind this at all.

                                        So there's that, and he's also visibly stiff at times: my dressage coach can see that he is stiff in his back. When in jumping lessons, I walk him between rounds to keep him from stiffening up. I know he's had hock injections (don't know anything other than that) and has had his SI injected. I absolutely need to do a PPE/vet exam before buying/leasing, to fully understand what's going on.

                                        One thing I should clarify is that it's my dressage coach who thinks I'll outgrow him by next year. Jumping-wise, I'm super happy on a confidence builder, and one that I trust off property and cross country. That doesn't mean he's bombproof- not at all, but I can feel when he's not confident or if he's going to do something silly, and he doesn't scare me, if that makes sense.

                                        I think the part that is holding me back from scooping him up is that extra responsibility and time (which is why my husband regrettably but understandably is not on board). Like having to head to the barn for abscesses, changing blankets, giving feed (which I don't think the barn does for paddock boards), etc. Wouldn't I have the same issues with a lease, or even half lease? I feel like no one else would be doing that stuff if not me.. right now I don't have the responsibility or financial commitment, but is it fair to him to learn on him and use him in lessons while he's not really getting the maintenance/feed etc that he needs to feel his best, to accommodate the work I'm asking of him?

                                        Also to the person who asked early on if the owner is offering him to me or anyone; it's just me. He hadn't really been used in a couple years, and I started riding him lessons and basically legged him up. She sees that he's doing well with one person getting him more fit, and would like to see him get the care he needs. I wish she would invest it in him, but get that he's a lesson horse and not her priority. To be clear, he's not neglected, just I think could benefit from regular maintenance, a personalized feed plan, and some blankets that don't suck.

                                        Sorry for the novel, being concise is not my strong suit.

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