Posts Tagged ‘saddle fit’

Simon’s Soundness Struggles

The alliteration in the title is really the only funny part of this post, but I couldn’t help myself!

Last winter, Simon and I had an incident while visiting another hunt. I came off and landed on my head and Simon got wrapped in hot wire and (understandably) kind of lost his shit. We both had some time off after the incident and both seemed to get back to normalcy pretty quickly. Not long after this I was having a lesson on Coco with my jumping trainer and, while chatting, the trainer mentioned something about Simon being kind of wonky in his hind end.

All of this information sat in my head marinating for a couple months. Simon didn’t feel off and he wasn’t exhibiting any significant behaviour that would indicate he was in pain. No head bobbing. No bucking. He wasn’t girthy. However, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. There were more subtle signs like being clumsier than normal. Just a feeling that he wasn’t moving out like he used to. He’s also been grumpier, not the easygoing horse I bought in 2017.

After my trip to Montana in May I scheduled a visit from a body worker for both Coco and Simon. Coco was totally fine and just enjoyed her massage (no one is surprised!). Simon, however, proved to be a bit of a hot mess! He was VERY sensitive to work on his back, more on the left than the right. His butt was sore. HIs poll was sore or at least sensitive. And his neck was sore. We made a plan to have him worked on regularly and also to have his saddle fit evaluated as soon as possible.

Trail riding in Eastern Montana on the Moore Ranch. STUNNING views!

So we did that for a few weeks and got his saddle adjusted (she assured me the saddle fits well and adjusting the flocking was all he needed) and he definitely improved, but he was still quite sore in his back and not showing enough improvement to believe that we were fixing the issue. In July he had a full lameness exam. I REALLY like my veterinarian and appreciate that she doesn’t start by throwing her entire medical bag at a problem. She did a bunch of flexions and it was pretty obvious that his hocks were sore so she recommended injections. There was no talk of doing any kinds of radiographs or scans. It was a very easy “yes” to do injections. It turned out that his hock joints were quite dry, so had likely been sore for a while. As with all joint injections he got a few days off and went back to work and definitely seemed more comfortable.

We gave it a couple weeks before he saw the body worker again. He was definitely better, but still sore in places we thought he wouldn’t be with successful injections. Ugh. We opted to put some more fitness in his plan and keep up with body work. Improvement was good, but there was still room for more.

A few weeks ago I videoed a ride to see what he looks like and noticed that his right hind wasn’t stepping up under himself like his left hind was stepping. I sent the video to my veterinarian and she agreed, so we scheduled another appointment for a second lameness exam. The appointment was a couple weeks out due to both of our travel and work schedules and in that time quite a lot of white hair was coming in on both sides of his withers indicating a possible issue with saddle fit. I sent photos to my saddle fitter (whom I love!) and she was very concerned so made an appointment to come out within a couple of days.

The angry white hairs that tattle on poor saddle fit. Photobomb by Jaguar!

The good news was that the first thing the fitter noticed was that his back had much better and stronger muscling than it had a few weeks prior. The bad news was that muscling was why the saddle was bridging and and not sitting balanced on his back. Thankfully Simon’s saddle is wool flocked so she was able to adjust the flocking for him. The gold standard of when a horse is comfortable is when he/she licks and chews. I’ll never tire of watching my saddle fitter work with my horses and after she adjusts the saddle and sets it on their back they lick and chew, when only minutes previously they were tossing their head and showing tension in their jaw. Simon licked and chewed and we were ready to roll with a well fitting saddle (while also knowing it may need to be adjusted again as his back continues to change).

In mid October Simon had his second 2021 lameness exam. My veterinarian again did flexion tests on both hind legs. I try to stay out of her way and not ask a million questions during her evaluation. She often has a veterinary student intern accompanying her so I just eavesdrop on their conversation and learn quite a lot. His symptoms indicated an issue with the hock and/or stifle joint(s) and (THANKFULLY….I think) a soft tissue injury was not suspected. Unsurprisingly she recommended doing radiographs this time around. She took images of his right hock and stifle only because there were no noticeable issues with his left hind. She found a bone spur in his hock and a less than ideally conformed stifle. Since his hocks had been injected fairly recently we opted to leave them alone for now, but she did inject his right stifle.

Taking it easy before a foxhunt. He’s the most photogenic horse I’ve ever owned. Such a handsome boy.

While we were at it, my veterinarian suggested getting radiographs of Simon’s back. This was a funny conversation. My veterinarian also rides and she told me that she did radiographs of her horse’s back, just because she can, and found a few spinous processes touching. Now she’s always worried his back hurts even though he is completely asymptomatic for kissing spines. She confessed that sometimes she regrets having taken the radiographs when they weren’t warranted. So when she asked me if I wanted to get radios of Simon’s back I told her I didn’t unless she thought it necessary. We laughed and she said she thought we should just to be sure if any of his back soreness was related to that and not his hind end hurting (fun fact; a LOT of horse back pain is a result of hind end lameness).

So, she would take a radiograph of Simon’s back and we’d all run to the computer to see what it showed. The first one, of his withers, was perfectly clear. YAY. The second one, of his mid back, showed only 2 vertebrae close enough to each other with an ever so slight indication of rubbing. Not enough to diagnose kissing spines, though. YAY. The last one, of the last 1/3 of his back towards his hip showed no impingement whatsoever. The veterinary takeaway is that the 2 vertebrae with the narrow joint space may be slightly uncomfortable since they sit directly under where the saddle sits, but most likely that will resolve with alleviating pain in his right hind and getting him super fit.

The overall takeaway from the exams are these:

  • Simon will always require maintenance in his hocks and stifles
  • He shouldn’t do a lot of jumping and small circles
  • Foxhunting is really kind of the perfect job for him with these issues
  • He should be kept as fit as possible and equibands were recommended
  • His maintenance probably won’t be linear

Thankfully this is a good job for Simon! He’s such a good boy in the hunt field!

I went into this second lameness exam with my eyes wide open to the fact that he may come out of it requiring extensive time off, full retirement, some kind of surgery, or some other really extensive issue. I’m moderately relieved to find what we found and know that it’s manageable and he can keep his same job. I’m a little bummed that he probably won’t be able to do the Take2 Hunters because he is SUCH a lovely mover and jumper, but we haven’t completely written that off. As chill as he is, he may be able to school over fences very little and be calm enough to show.

Onward and upward!

 

Saddle Shopping: Stage 1

A few years ago at a fox hunt, one of the other members made the comment that my saddle was too small. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was moderately offended. What?! Me?! I know how a saddle should fit and this one fits just fine! Or. Not. Then I went to take a riding/jumping lesson at a very nice barn near my house. I was so proud of my Pessoa A/O saddle and I was absolutely convinced they would take me seriously because I had a nice saddle. Except that I didn’t, but I didn’t know that yet. The head trainer took one look at my 10 year old Pessoa and promptly suggested I ride one of their Antares saddles. Ant-what? I had never heard of the thing. It was like riding in velcro disguised as buttery soft French leather. It was at that moment that I knew I had a has-been saddle.

Pessoas were great saddles when I got mine. In 199ahem. Made in England of durable, quality leather. I probably hadn’t taken the best care of it, but that was mostly due to ignorance rather than laziness or not caring. I was raised by a cowboy who thought it was absolutely ridiculous I cleaned my saddles before EVERY SINGLE HORSE SHOW. Once a year was clearly more than enough. I won’t go into how he started copying me and borrowed my saddle soap and Neatsfoot oil. But its 2015 now and things have changed quite a lot. Technology in all facets of riding equipment seems to have advanced exponentially in just the past 5 years, but some things like proper fit never change.

This is the Pessoa in all it's glory at a local hunter show in 2013. Now I can totally see why it was too small. More about that later.

This is the Pessoa in all it’s glory at a local hunter show in 2013. Now I can totally see why it was too small. More about that later.

Fast forward a few years to having a broke horse worth taking to a few horse shows and the need for an actual saddle that fits became very real. A lovely friend let me borrow her beautiful Hermes Essentielle for nearly a year. She had shown in it as a youth and rode in it in college and then it took up residence in the back of her car when she started working and no longer had time to ride nor a horse to put it on. It was a full inch bigger than my Pessoa so I thought surely it was “my” size. The most common English saddle size is 17″ and they are generally sold in .5″ increments. I’m about 5’8″ tall with more leg than torso. In my head this was “average” size. Not so as I would learn later.

And the lovely Hermes. Who wouldn't want to own an Hermes! Beautiful and classic. And also, too small.

And the lovely Hermes. Who wouldn’t want to own an Hermes! Beautiful and classic. And also, too small.

I went to a few shows and finally asked my trainer what I should do. You should get a new saddle, she says. She hates where the Hermes puts my leg. Ok. Works for me. I need got get my own saddle so off I go on my saddle shopping spree. I was so excited. I set a budget for what I thought would get me a nice, used, French saddle. My initial thought was I’d get a used saddle now and when Coco gets bigger and ready to show (and presumably I have more $$) I would then get a brand spankin’ new FANCY saddle. Maybe even a custom one. Then this used one would get used primarily for fox hunting and riding youngsters. Wishful thinking. I didn’t ask much beyond whether or not I should get a different saddle so went into my search rather blindly.

I follow a few used tack pages on Facebook and lo and behold a lovely, used Hermes Oxer showed up one day. 17″, which I thought was just the right size. The price was right so I contacted the seller and she agreed to do a trial. She’d ship the saddle to me for a 5 day trial. If it fit I’d keep the saddle and she’d keep my money. If it didn’t fit, she’d refund the money and I’d send back the saddle. Easy peasy. The saddle I had been riding was an Essentielle and this was an Oxer, so the where-it-put-my-leg woes shouldn’t be the same. The saddle arrived and it was lovely and in great condition. I convinced my horsey bestie to come over and tell me what she thought as well as take photos to send to our trainer for further advice.

Hermes Oxer 1. There should be at least 4" between my honey and the back of the saddle. Not happening here.

Hermes Oxer 1. There should be at least 4″ between my hiney and the back of the saddle. Not happening here.

The flap should hit my leg in the middle of my calf. Also, not happening here.

The flap should hit my leg in the middle of my calf. Also, not happening here.

Trainer vetoed. The seat was too small and the flap too short. Saddle number 1 = fail. Hey, no worries. There are more saddles out there. We just have to keep kissing some frogs. I was still upbeat and excited about my license to shop for something I “needed”. Keep up the positive energy! Saddle fit Stage 2 will come Thursday. And we haven’t even gotten into the fitting the horse part!