Thursday, September 15, 2011

Today's Riddle

What's brown, extra wide, and leather all over?

If you guessed "saddle", you are the winner! I don't have any prizes to give, but you can feel good that you answered today's riddle correctly. :)

Happy to be saddled?  Nope!

That's right, my saddle made a cameo appearance on Lilly's back today. I haven't ridden in my saddle since June 18th and decided it was time to see if I noticed anything different with Lilly in regards to the saddle. I put the XL gullet in months ago but hadn't ridden her with it yet.

When I was tacking her up she seemed fine until it came time to start tightening things up. I do one hole at a time as I get everything else ready for the ride and once I got to hole #3, I got a nasty face from my normally sweet girl. I'd describe it as a bit of a snarl, but I went about my business anyway and she seemed fine after that.

We headed out to the arena and I was able to ride for about 10 minutes before I started feeling some stiff movements, saw some head shaking, and felt her getting a little "stuck" in her forward momentum. Knowing what this means, I went ahead and got off... I pulled the saddle and we finished our ride "mareback".

Frustrated isn't even the word I would use to describe how I feel about all of this. It's beyond frustrating because I don't know WHY she's doing this. I thought it was the saddle at first, so I spent a fortune getting her a new saddle fitted just for her. I thought it was her back, her shoulders, so she's seen chiropractors and massage therapists, and when that didn't work, I thought maybe it was her feet. Her hooves needed to be addressed either way, but what if this whole thing has nothing to do with any of that? What if this is because of something completely different?? Because of her little snarl earlier during he girthing process, I wonder if it's maybe a tummy thing like ulcers... or... or... I don't know but I'm going crazy!!

I asked my BO if I could borrow her saddle next time I ride, so while I'm clueless about dressage saddles and hope I can figure out how to properly strap it to my horse, I'm going to try using that and see if I notice a difference.

Lilly doesn't show any signs of back discomfort. I can run my fingers along her spine from her withers to her rump and I don't get any scooting or avoidance to the pressure at all. She loves to have her back scratched, even with my curry, so I'm not seeing any soreness there at all. The saddle absolutely fits her and I thought perhaps with the 3 month saddle break, she might be fine with the saddle. Wrong again. :(

The purpose of riding today was to get her moving so we can get her feet engaged to hopefully get this hoof rehab moving too. If she's just wandering around the pasture all day in her boots, she's really not working those important structures in the hooves that have been nearly dormant for the past 8 years. I'm sure that has a lot to do with her discomfort, so my new plan is to ride her at least 4 times per week and ask her to do a lot of trotting and really get her moving around.

She feels really good in the boots and when we were trotting she took a few off steps (like if she stepped on something in the arena) but in a few strides she was back to feeling good. I let her choose the pace, which resembled something you might see at Churchill Downs, but I want her to be able to move how she's most comfortable. We did about 10 minutes of trotting each way and a lot of walking in between. She's pretty out of shape, so 45 minutes was about the limit for her.

During the cool down period, I like to drop my reins and drive her around with just my legs. She's getting really good at this and I can point her to any area in the arena and steer her to it. I also decided to try getting her to side pass without the reins, although I didn't expect her to do it. She surprised me when she absolutely side passed in both directions without any help from the reins! Such a good girl!

Sweet mare face.


  1. Could well be ulcers - that will often cause girthiness and saddle discomfort. But then some horses just have opinions - Dawn always gives me the evil eye when I saddle her, and prefers to be ridden bareback, which is how my younger daughter has always ridden her.

  2. Oh no! I soooo feel your pain on saddle issues, cause you know that's what I'm dealing with now. Dang!

    I would've said maybe it's something as simple as being a little 'cold backed' remembered pain, but the fact that she started fine and then worked INTO the issues? Crap!

    Maybe the feet really did cause everything, and her body is still trying to adjust????

    I'm sorry...pulling at strings here....

  3. Thanks Kate and Jill... I'm pretty much grasping at straws too. She could have been in a foul mood last night and the snarl could have nothing to do with what's going on. Or it could... that's the frustrating part.

    She does always work into the issues too... always starts off really well and then as the ride progresses, the issues start showing up.

    More time is about all I can do for her now... well, that and trying the other saddle. I'm so bummed...

  4. I'm curious how the dressage saddle will do. My guy glares for girthing too and always rides better bareback. But we put him in a dressage saddle two weeks ago, and he didn't seem as irritated.

    Oh, and do you use a double elastic girth or a single? I read somewhere recently that studies on single elastic girths were done and showed to have a negative effect on the horse, causing all kinds of back issues and strain.

    Not sure if it's true, but I'm waiting for my new double elastic CAIR girth to come in...

  5. Good gosh!! You've been trying to fix this saddle thing forever! I bet you are beyond frustrated!!
    Glad the ride went well other then that though. That is too cool how you can steer her with your legs so well!

  6. Oh boy do I understand *that* frustration.

    Moon is no longer sore, his spine is laying down fine (easy to tell on a horse with a dorsal stripe. ;-) I know his saddle fits and yet...there is still a little something there. I already have him on an ulcer supplement, so that shouldn't be the problem. I'm really wondering if it isn't a kidney issue...but I'm grasping at straws at this point as well. The only thing that seems to be opposite of Lilly is that Moon starts okay, gets kind of tight and uncomfortable feeling, then works mostly out of it.

    Good luck in your continued search. It's frustrating, but it's all we can do.

  7. Maybe try her on some aloe juice in case it is ulcers? Super cheap at Wal-mart for a gallon of 100% aloe juice. It's made a difference for Red, although we've also changed his workload (more fast work, less arena drilling - just his thing!). If you go outside of the arena and trot around the pastures instead, or on trails, do you have the same issues?

  8. I have no useful information, but feel your pain.

  9. Sand, I've actually tried a couple different girths with Lilly. I have used the regular elastic on one side girths, and I've tried the Wintec ones that supposedly stretch throughout the whole girth. We've also had this same problem with western saddles, so I've also used western girths. :(

    Terry, drat is right!!

    Britnie, it's been years! And it's been with a lot of different saddles and a lot of different situations. Maybe I should call an animal psychic.

    BEC, I've never tried to work Lilly out of it because she seems so uncomfortable. I'm afraid she'll get more vocal with her communication and I feel bad pushing her when I can tell she really hurts, but I wonder if she would eventually work out of it...

    Jen, I've had this same issue out on the trails as well. I've even ridden her both english and western out there trying when I was trying to decide if the problem was with a saddle or what. She's done this at shows too, and it's been happening for quite some time. The weird thing about it is that some days she's fine and other days she just seems really uncomfortable. It's been happing a lot more lately, though, for some reason. I'll have to look into the aloe juice!

    TnT, thank you! It's comforting to know I'm not the only one!