Since I pulled Sunny from the Oakland Hills ride I’ve been trying to analyze her performance over all the NATRC rides we did, and what I came up with was that on every ride, when she got tired, her rear end would start “falling away”, so her rear hoofs would start catching on roots, rocks, etc., which I think is how she hurt herself at Oakland.
Yesterday I took her over to Gilroy and had an “Equinosis” study done on her. For Equinosis, they put accelerometers on the horses’ poll, hip, left front, and right hind, then the horse is walked and trotted, straight and in circles both directions, with the accelerometers blue-toothing their info to a hand-held computer, where it’s graphed out. The idea is to see if there are any imbalances in the limb movement; it really helps to pinpoint the source of obvious lameness and it can help detect really subtle chronic lameness, which was what I was worried about. BTW, it is NOT useful for identifying lamenesses due to spinal or neurological problems. (And in horse-land terms, it isn’t that expensive!)
The result was that Sunny is about perfectly balanced, and there is no limb lameness. HOWEVER, the vet, Russ Thompson, noticed what we all have noticed: that she doesn’t use her hind end well. In addition, though, he pointed out that her butt is really slanted down, rather than being rounded or flat, so when she DOES start working her rear end, her hind legs are really going to go deeply underneath her, possibly resulting in a forging problem because she won’t get her front legs out of the way. Sheesh. He described it as a “challenging problem”.
So, I’m supposed to (1) continue the dressage work we’ve started, (2) do lots of pole work to give her the opportunity to figure out where her feet are, and (3) step over lots of high, soft things (hay bales, e.g.).
Also, at this recent conference, they (Dr. Thompson and the owner of the very nice dressage facility that we were at) heard a paper from Dr. Hillary Bryant about the use of “reminder devices” on horse’s legs. Evidently, back in the day, trainers of gaited horses used to put various dangly things on their horses fetlocks and pasterns to encourage them to move in certain ways. Some of the things they used were, according to the story I heard, cruel and useless. However, some trainers were demonstrably and consistently able to change the way their horses moved by using them. Hillary Bryant, who’s a research vet at at a mid-west university, an ex-endurance rider and a current dressage rider, is looking into using some variants of these things as physical therapy for horses.
The prototypes she showed at the conference were made of stirrup leathers, with little shower curtain rings attached to them, so you could put the “bracelet” on the leg above the joint, and the light plastic would sort of jingle on the leg, reminding the horse (or annoying the horse enough) to move it energetically. I think I could make one, but I’m not sure how I’d go about introducing it to Sunny. I can see a situation where I put it on, she moved and got scared. Not sure how I’d get it off.
Anyhow, there was lots to think about.