Check and Recheck

We all assume.  We assume we will get up in the morning.  We assume Saturday will come.  We assume our horses will get hurt in the next 12 months, at least I know one of mine will.  Some horses are just born suicidal. But that’s another post.  We know what breaking down the word assume means, and I won’t go there.

What we can never assume is that our horses are not changing.  As with us, age has a horrible way of getting even.  When I used to wake up in the morning after a hunt I knew every muscle, and joint that I had abused.  It was like when you worked out too much, your body lets you know.  But it was a good hurt.  Now I wake up in the morning hurting and wonder what my body did overnight that I wasn’t aware of.

As you “mature” your body changes.  The old gravity thing.  Body parts aren’t where they used to be.  Everything starts sagging.  Not going there either.

Now we expect it with an older horse.  Their body changes too.  They lose their top line.  Muscles lose their tone.  They are harder to keep weight on.  They move a little slower and stiffer.  (Who doesn’t after how many years of hitting the ground.)  We know that we have to take these things into consideration when putting our saddle on.  The saddle that you bought for him/her years ago may not fit anymore because of the lack of weight and tone in their back.  On the other hand, after a long period of time, and groceries, the girth may not fit.

Now here is the thing we don’t consider.  The younger horse.  Yes as they grow we have to be aware and make changes.  The bridle that fit them perfect may be making the bit rise up in their mouths because their head grew.  Now my Zoey always used to be a 55 gallon drum with a leg in each corner.  Now she has a withers.  I used to use the first two billets to hold the saddle down in place so it wouldn’t ride up on her shoulders.  Now I used the first and last to keep it from sliding back.

When my friend got her new horse, a ten year old OTTB, we had his back adjusted and checked to make sure the saddle was perfect for him.  He still hasn’t gained the weight I want on him (he was a rescue), but he didn’t get thinner.  He’s been going with his head up, and back dropped.  He isn’t moving forward the way he should, and fought bending to the right.  You can put him into a frame, but he’s not comfortable with it.  He worries, but tries so hard to please.  Things weren’t adding up.

When she first started riding him he had even sweat marks on his back, so we knew the saddle was okay.  This was about a month, maybe a month and a half ago.  She’s taking it slowly with him and rides a couple of times a week.

So what is the issue here?  Ah my favorite, detective mode.  I was sitting watching her while she bathe him.  The sun was shining on his wet chestnut coat, but something caught my eye.  A shadow.  My eye kept drifting back to the spot, it wouldn’t go away from my mind.  My brain said get up and check this out.  Finally I did.  A huge swelling the size of my fist just down a little from the withers, behind the shoulder, on his right side.  I check the other side and there was a smaller lump a little lower.  Well this would explain a lot of things, but why was it there.  We got the saddle and put it on.  It seemed fine, but putting my hand where the swelling was said not so.  The owner has bad hips and mounting and dismounting is a problem for her.  She tends to lay across the saddle for a good 60 seconds before she can hit the ground or the saddle.  He has always readjusted his body to stay under her, or that’s what we thought.  He was actually fidgeting because the saddle was digging into his back.

Liniment and a few days off will help along with an extra pad and changing the saddle.  But how did something that looked so perfect cause so much trouble.  We always have to remember that the way the rider sits and moves in the saddle will cause compression and shifting of the pad and saddle.

This proves he is a good, kind horse, because he should have bucked her off and run screaming into the night.  To show her what he was feeling I made a fist and dug int into her back next to her shoulder blades.  It drives the point home.  Now this owner notices every scratch, cut, lump, bump on this animal.  I think she notices if one of his eye lashes is missing, but this never even came on the radar screen.

So don’t fall into this sense of everything is fine and normal.  It may not really be.

Check and recheck.

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