My 5 yo mare, who is presently a performance horse, not a broodmare (never been exposed), had the months of October, November, and December 2007 "off" while I got settled in a new home. When I started working her again, in January, she was not the same horse as she was in October. The same problem has continued to this day. Her problem...if she is just ponied, nothing is wrong, but when saddled things go wrong from the beginning. She is very cinchy, often not leading off, but freezing-up, and sometimes bucking and rearing before I even get on. Then, while I'm riding her, she is fine at a walk, she pens her ears at a trot and acts obviously uncomfortable. At a lope she will most often give a little buck too. She does not come "unglued", just kicking up. If I ask her to turn a tight circle (she's a barrel horse), she won't use her hind-end as she should, but swings her rear around, whipping/swishing her tail, with ears penned the entire time. We've had her back worked on by two different chiropractors three times and some injections (for inflamation) put along her backbone, thinking that she must be "out in the back", as she shows no sign of lameness AT ALL. None of this has helped. She does the same thing throughout the month. I have never noticed a difference in her during her heat. She was showing signs of heat on 4-17 and 5-5. She also always carries her tail "up" a little, if that means anything, regardless of heat or not. Just wondering if this mare is showing symptoms of something going on with her female system, or if I need to continue pursuing a soreness issue? Any thoughts are greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!
I will probably not be of any use but I have heard of horses having a cold back and you have to warm their back before saddling and/or riding..I think by just putting the blanket on for a while before placing the saddle on...just a thought..might be worth the try...I don't know a lot about it but came to mind when I was reading you post..should be interesting to hear what the more experienced members have to say... Good luck on finding a sollution! ;0)
Hi Emily, It sounds like your on the right track in trying to find and alleviate the problem. I would strongly suggest your next call be to a good equine sports massage therapist. The problem may very well be much more muscle related than skeletal, which is actually my guess. From what you are describing I would be looking strongly at her entire shoulder region. She may not show any signs of lamenes throughout this ordeal but that doesn't mean she doesn't have some serious muscle problems going on. When a horse has a muscle injury to the shoulder it will have a direct effect on the hind end on the opposite side due to the way the muscles interact. Trotting due to the diagonal movement will be more uncomfortable and painful, in trying to make a tight circle you are creating even more diagonal stress (Ex: shoulder on right side, hind end on left side). She drops the inside shoulder which tightens and stresses the muscles from that shoulder, across her back on a diagonal to the hind end on the opposite side. Due to the stiffness, soreness, pain, ect. that this creates she can't properly use her hind end to perform the tight circle. This is not an uncommon muscle group problem among barrel horses. If not addressed it will progress and not only become worse but effect more muscles/areas as well. Don't expect a one visit overnight miracle, but probably several sessions along with stretching and massaging excercises you can do in between that will show some serious improvement if this proves to be the problem. Which I honestly believe is at least a major part of the problem you are experiencing. Please let us know how things go and how she's doing.
Emily, I would cheek the fit of the saddle. She is still young that her body will continue to change. Also I lunge all my youngsters before getting on. Helps them warm up and gets their mind in the game. The other nice thing about lunging is that you can watch how she is moving and notice where she might be stiff or not using herself as well. If you have a round pen, free lung her and make her turn away from you sharply. See what is moving. Watch to see that she is tracking up in all feet and is lifting her back. If she is using her back correctly after about 5min of work you should see her tail lift a little and start to swing from side to side. This is a good thing. Good luck!
It's sounding to me like everyone is leaning towards a shoulder problem and/or soreness somewhere and not a mare problem. I appreciate all the feedback I've received so far, and am happy to have a new route to look into. Keep the info coming, if you have anything to add! Just so you know...I don't think it's a saddle fit issue, as I've used 5 different saddles on her since this started, hoping that was the case, and she is the same with every one. Thanks again!
Emily even with different saddles she could be remembering that "Saddle=Pain" You may try something totally different. I had a filly that went to bucking with her saddle on. We changed saddles and she kept bucking. I finely put a light western trail saddle on her and with the different sit of it she stopped bucking. Worked her in it for a week put her back in her new saddle and we never looked back. (I ride Dressage so a totally different saddle.) Even if the saddle fits her she may have to much pain in her mussels and even a saddle that does fit her may just be too much for her right now. Try a sircingle on her and free work her and see what happens.
Emily, I am all for exploring the above options/opinions everyone above has said. I would also look on the Mental side of things. One thing the interested me is that you noted she was a "barrel horse". I'm assuming that you ran her as a 3 and/or 4 year-old. Did she "enjoy the job"? Where there any signs of "sourness" back last fall? Did she ever incur an injury when young and in training?
She may very well not be all that crazy about doing her job anymore if she has experienced some significant burn-out at a young age. Also, sometimes these three and four year-olds can experience injuries that may or may not be obvious but can really sour them on a particular discipline, particuarly if that is all you are doing with them.
I would investigate muscle/skelatal issues with my vet and rule out the possibilities of an ill-fitting saddle, etc.
One thing --- Has she had her wolf teeth extracted? You indicated trouble in turning her, etc. We pull wolf teeth on all our horses as soon as they emerge.
If physically, you can't really find an answer, then you may need to forget about running barrels with this mare for a while. I would take her literally back to Square One in either a sidepull or eggbutt snaffle and work on re-schooling her on just the basics. Make sure they are firmly entrenched. In the process, do other things with this mare such as trail riding, etc. Don't even look at a set of barrels with her for a while.
I have not worked this mare on the barrels since this started happening in January. She was started on the barrels as a 4 year old and was working great last fall, no problems, the future was bright, so to speak. Up until then and throughout her barrel training as a 4 yo, she was used as a ranch horse, as we do with all our horses, so they're not just "arena horses". Her wolf teeth have been pulled. I usually ride her in an O or D ring 2 or 3 piece snaffle. Has anyone ever had a horse come-up with shoulder problems that never showed any signs of lameness?
Emily, It's not uncommon for horses to show no lameness when having a shoulder injury that involves tightening of one of the two major muscles of the shoulder. Usually this tightening will be more noticeable and start with problems across the topline and opposite hind end and then up the neck t'wards the poll. If you do some flexing with her from the ground and just haltered you may see some indications of wether or not this may be the problem. A variety of flexes such as having her turn her head to touch her nose to her belly at the girth area, relaxing through the topline and dropping her nose to the ground, sitting on a fence or back of truck and having her flex her head upwards, backing her up on the ground (normal easy pace, decent backward strides not shuffling). Keeping a close eye on her movements, comfort level and fluidity through each excercise should give you a good start. You can't force her to do these, so using a treat she likes would probably be your best bet. The idea given to use a good surcingle instead of saddle and lunge her is an excellent one to see if you have saddle problems which may very well be an issue or part of it. I would just add that you may want to have her slowly spiral from larger to smaller, then larger again circles as you lunge her to see how she handles that and moves. Definitely let us know how she's doing and if things are improving.
Emily, I forgot to ask you in the first post. If you lightly slap her shoulder muscles or muscles of the hindquarters are they hard like your slapping a board or soft and jello like? You may need to slap rythmicly for a moment or two for her to relax before you get a real idea of which.
Emily, if there are no signs pointing to physical ailment, I'd definitely look into the possibility that you're mare's just gotten lazy! haha! I have had horses come "untrained" after long periods of breaks, especially young ones like yours. Maybe after a long period of inactivity, you just need to work out all the kinks again.
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