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"When all candles bee out, all cats be gray."
John Heywood (1497? - 1580?), Proverbes. Part i. Chap.v.

March 18, 2009

Both of these horses exhibit “unloading patterns” in an attempt to unweight the painful limb or limbs.  This abnormal tension will affect the general musculature, and over time cause chronic compensatory problems.  If a horse is affected with chronic lameness problems, the rider should be aware of potential imbalances in musculature which can cause problems during riding.  Check the horse for symmetry at some key areas of concern, such as the poll, withers, sacrum, and hindquarters.  If the horse is shod, check for unequal wearing of the shoe, or if barefoot, check for the breakover of the toe.  If it is drastically different from one side to another, there are likely movement problems that are inhibiting normal stride patterns, in other words the horse cannot move normally at this point. 


The key with finding imbalances in the musculature, is that these are clues to movement problems that arise before the horse actually shows signs of lameness.  The horse is a prey animal, which means that he is hardwired to reduce signs of discomfort or lameness  to reduce any appearance of weakness.  These perceived weaknesses can target the horse in a herd environment for predatory animals to take advantage of the compromised animal.  To put it simply, a limping horse is lion fodder. 


Taking these factors into account clearly make it a benefit to keep abreast of movement abnormalities before they negatively affect movement.  Early detection is the key to resolution, so learning basic massage and stretching can give the rider and trainer another way to monitor the wellness and soundness of the horse before there is a significant problem. 

April 27, 2011 
My has it been that long since I posted to my own forum?  Well, I have been busy!  Currently I am focusing on saddle and horse interface, learning more about how the static/dynamic relationship of saddle to horse affects movement.  The fact is that saddle fit can never be perfect, but the horse will let us know if and how well a saddle is working with their body.  A saddle can be initially fitted considering the width and height of the gullet, angle of the tree points, curve of the tree and flocking type/shape/density, and then investigated under saddle to further assess the dynamic action as the horse moves.  This ridden portion is the truth of how the horse feels and a slight impingement of scapular movement (for example) will impact the way a horse is able to move in general.  Consequently, the overall balance is compromised as the horse must develop an accomodation in the way of going.  Over time this compensation will negatively impact their overall physical state, leaving a rider wondering where all the movement has gone!  I find stress points that literally melt away when saddle fit is addressed to the horse's satisfaction, and the results are tremendous!!  Truly, a well fitting saddle, good riding programs, good nutrition (not excessive supplementation or concentrate feed), proper hoof care (I'm a fan of bare feet trimmed by a bare foot trimmer), good stable conditions (room to move, DAILY!), and a lack of pathology (not always possible) to work in concert to provide a horse with the tools to be the best they can be.  If we remove the roadblocks to wellness, the horse will be well!  And thats all for now!  come to my clinics, they are fun and engaging, informative and full of good information to take with you!  Be well, and I'll see you soon! Susie

March 15, 2009
I have been quite busy lately, launching a new aspect of my career and as ever, enjoying my great life with kids, horses and loved ones!  It is a timely moment for me to reflect on the passage of time and remember how I arrived where I am currently, and how I am going to navigate the choppy waters of the economy, bustling horse industry, and growing children.  As with our horses, it is always prudent to keep in mind of the current circumstances as the ARE, not as we WISH them to be, or WANT them to be, and how to make those three things as similar as possible.  It is possible to create your own reality by doing daily activities that bring you closer to your wants and wishes when you clearly envision your path to the future you desire.  Now enough eclectic hoo ha, and on about horses.  IF you pull your horse about by the reins, your horse will be SORE at the poll and STIFF and resistant to BEND.  However IF you ride your horse with your seat and legs, using the reins judiciously, your horse will develop strength, balance and become SOFTER in the hand, thereby being a delight to ride.  The reins are not for pulling about, that is for toboggans and well, wagons for us beach dwellers (no snow).  PLEASE do not pull about on your horse's mouth, he will thank you for it, and so will I when your horse passes his "poll check" with flying colors!
Ride with Love, since you do love it!

March 03, 2009
Another beautiful day to enjoy life, happiness and the pursuit of wellness!  Take time to reflect on the reasons YOU have a horse and what purpose they serve for you.  It is true that altruism is dead, as even the most generous and selfless act has underlying rewards for the person enabling the action.  If you cannot remember why your horse is so important to you, ask yourself a few questions: Is it riding that you love, or just being with them?  Is it showing that you love, or the challenge of a "perfect ride"?  Do you compare yourself to others when you are riding, or do you compare yourself of today with the horseman you were yesterday?  Keeping in mind the driving force behind your involvement with horses, even if you do not own one, even if you do not ride, can shed light on your motivation to pursue wellness or choose another path.  Be well and take just a moment to reflect today and all days. 

March 01, 2009
So I am working on a nice horse, dressage horse, expensive saddle, custom fit, the works.  As a routine part of service I check saddles, and in this instance the owner had very recently had the saddle custom fit for this horse's back.  Well...the custom fit was not so custom, I discovered a bulge in the flocking that was very obvious to me, and of course the horse (back sore at T16-17 on the side with the bulge) did too.  Why is it that the more money a person pays for a saddle, the less they want to hear about how it does not fit???  Oh dear, the horse is very aware of the saddle fit, and the rider is too, after the impact of the poorly fitting tack impacts performance (he just won't pick up the left lead smoothly anymore).  Well, in my professional opinion, get a professional opinion about the tack fit.  Unfortunately many riders and owners rely on so called expert saddle fitters to match the tack to their horse, and guess what. THEY CAN'T SEEM TO.  Bummer for all of us and especially for the poor beastie expected to tolerate whatever we are doing.  Well Bah Humbug, I am tired of this malarkey and am in the process of getting set up to become a saddle fitter as well.  I would rather not do this, as I have enough on my plate, but it will be easier to do it myself than continue ranting and raving about it like a mad woman.  Maybe it is so hard that it is impossible.  I do not think so, because I have seen saddles that fit, some even off the rack, but I am almighty tired of my clients paying so much money, waiting for months, and still being disappointed that I have reached the end of my patience with this.  After 15 years of bodywork, this is still an issue (as in, the saddlers have not consistently been able to help these horses out properly) so, (sigh) I guess I will have to do it myself.  Oh the burdens.... Stay tuned folks, more to come.  Be Well and Give your horse a pat!

"Ask often, expect little, reward generously"
Col. Podhajsky

Did you see the cool quote on my homepage?  What does the color of cats have to do with horses for goodness sake?  Well, frankly quite a bit.  When you are so in the dark that you don't know it is dark, it may be difficult to discern the difference between cats (or movement).  With even one candle, you can see that there are differences; many candles illuminate many differences.  The candle is knowledge, the cats are life.  In my case, life is horses, so therefore the cats are horses (and all of their details).  How can you detect issues when you don't know (squat) about the (lameness) issues?  A bit preachy, yes, but I am passionate about what I do.  In this day of faltering economy and sad bottom lines, I still find myself questioning every deviation from normal when it comes to equine movement, AND enticing folks to keep their horses in balance with proper bodywork.  For example, a horse with a lot of motion on one side of the haunch musculature combined with restrictions in the mechanics (skeletal) of the structures (pelvis) involved presents a fascinating issue.  Find the problem, resolve what you find, sit and wait for the horse to tell you.  That's my take on it anyway.  On the note of my passion which is also my job and life mission, to entice folks to continue to care for their much loved equine friends, I continue to offer niceties such as cash discounts, group rates, and the ever popular free evaluation.  Enjoy the weather if you are able, and ride well to be well.

I would like to report about a really great clinic I attended on equine skeletal balancing.  It was great to see new techniques and revisit structural considerations of equine movement.  The clinic was conducted by Dr. Bill Hampton, and held in Lakeview Terrace at The Horse House.  Weather was on our side, despite being a chilly weekend, no rain fell on our class as we learned more about skeletal features and advanced palpation techniques.  Dr. Hampton is in a class by himself when it comes to knowledge of the equine skeletal system, and it was a real treat to see him in action.  I came away from the clinic with a deeper understanding of the factors affecting normal equine function, and BALANCE became the key.  A balanced muscular system will enable a skeleton to function optimally, whereas a muscular system that is in a state of imbalance causes movement restrictions.  Identifying areas of restriction and restoring balance will optimize the function of the skeleton, thus resulting in normal movement.  Check out Dr. Bill Hamptons website for more information on what normal function of your horse's skeletal system means to his performance.


New boots for Junior bring a new level of comfort!

It's true, my good old horse Junior has an old fracture in the RF coffin bone.  He has recovered enough to be sound at the walk, trot, and canter for a few years now.  Lately he has been reluctant to move out, slow to respond to my requests, and just generally unhappy.  He had equally bilateral tension patterns through his shoulders and neck, and no actual lameness present. 

My barefoot trimmer, Jennifer Reinke from Heart 'n Sole Hoof Care (find her link below and in the links page), suggested he be fitted for boots.  After carefully trying different styles and sizes, she decided on the Renegade boot for him.  The first ride was not so great as I was not adept at placing the boots on correctly, and he cantered out of one of them.  The second ride was marginally better, in that both boots stayed on (thanks to better application technique) but he still felt funky.  The third day I noticed an immediate difference when I led him out of his stall, he stepped into the aisleway with a large step and was happy to get tacked up.  On the ride he offered to trot and canter himself, and was moving freely from the shoulders again. 

I am SO HAPPY to have a comfortable horse again, I feel like my horse can go for some years like this.  Granted, I could have just medicated him to increase comfort levels, but I prefer to address the root of the problem.   A vet call was not really warranted as he was not lame, or distinctively sore in any particular place.  Diagnostics may have shown an issue in the hoof but strangely enough, x-rays don't make HIM feel any better!  So I spent my money on a product, the Renegade boot, to try and relieve a potential source of discomfort and it worked!  Listen to your horse, and he will tell you what is going on! 

Thank you Jennifer, again making my world better through knowledge and understanding.  Isn't that the goal of all horse owners?


Step one            
Position on the horses back - the saddle should fit nicely behind the withers. 

Step two            
Angle of the points - the slope of the points of the english saddle should reflect the angle of the torso.  Mismatched angles will cause discomfort, too wide angles will allow the saddle to either sit on the withers, or tip the saddle forward, causing pressure points.

Step three            
Panel pressure and contact - using your hand as a "force transducer", determine if there is equal pressure along the panels of the saddle.  Either the horse or the saddle can have asymmetries and cause problems with bridging (points of presssure), or uneven pressure.

Step four            
Pommel to cantle relationship  - the cantle should be about 1 - 1.5 inches higher than the pommel.

Step five            
Level seat- a level "sweet spot" for the rider to sit, any vagaries will cause an uneven seat and affect the riders ability to influence the horse properly.

Step six            
Wither clearance - be sure to check this step and step six with a rider as well.  Wither clearance is the most obvious fit to look for.  At least three or four finger widths are necessary for a saddle to be clear when absorbing shock (as in jump landing, or sudden stops) and the rider is loading the saddle bars, as in two-point stance, or the half seat.

Step seven            
Channel clearance/gullet width - "Check for daylight" by standing (safely of course) on an elevated platform (ie. bucket, fence rail, picnic table, feeder, etc.) to view the clearance under the saddle through the gullet.  There should be ample light when viewed from the back.

Step eight            
Saddle stability - the saddle should feel stable when rocked from side to side.  If it is perched on the horse's back, it will tip back and forth when pressure is applied.

Step nine            
Seat length - Length of the seat and the horse's back must agree, or the panels will dig into the back.  The saddle should terminate around the last ribs (T-18) before the lumbar area.

Step ten            
Horse response - LET YOUR HORSE TELL YOU IF IT WORKS FOR HIM!!! Yet another reason to listen to your horse.  I have found many saddles that "fit" according to a professional saddler, and when used by the horse, are found to be painful.  Conversely, a less than perfect textbook saddle fit may be just fine for a particular animal.  The horse has the final word on this, so get someone who can tell what is going on to check for you if you just arent sure.