Friday, August 6, 2010

Stiff Stuff

Junior is calmer and more content than I have ever seen him. He seems to be absolutely LOVING this new barn. THIS is the horse I wanted. His weight is finally at a great place, too. He's loving his turnout time, I haven't had to clean a stall since I left the old place, and the BM and BO have been incredible at communication and making sure Junior and I are happy.

But alas, nothing is ever perfect. He's stiff and a leeeeetle bit off. Not injured, but stiff along his whole right side is stiff. Honestly it's not any worse that I've seen him for a while, but now I am able to concentrate on it because his overall wellbeing is so improved!

Since he's been at the new place we've had his feet trimmed by a very cool farrier, who reported that his feet were "a mess". He said his shoes were too small, his front feet were uneven, and his toes were too long. I had his shoes taken off since the footing is far superior to our old place and we don't have any shows planned. I saw a huge visual difference in his feet when I got back from vacation. If MY untrained eyes can tell the angles and proportions are better, that's major.

He's also been seen by a chiropractor. His comments were limited to one cryptic phrase like "He's fine. Just stiffer in the neck than I expected." Um... than you expected? Does that mean he's really stiff? Why didn't you expect it? Now what? Unfortunately that's all I got. I've got the BM on alert to let me know when he's out next.

Then yesterday he was visibly off. Not "lame" just off. He was not unwilling, just "off." He's so laid back right now that it's hard for me to tell how much is just lazy-legs and how much is stiffness. He doesn't act unwilling, just stiff. I took it super easy yesterday once I felt how much resistance to bending I was getting. I did ask him for a left lead canter and even that felt wonky so we only did a few strides.

Today the farrier and my BO were both there so I conned them into watching him move so I could get some more experienced opinions. Junior was put through a short time in the round pen which he didn't seem to mind.

Then we got him out on the lunge on a bigger circle. Both viewers agreed that he was a bit off going to the right and showed stiffness through that side. The BO showed me some stretches to do with him and demonstrated how much more flexible he is on the left than the right.

THEN she suggested we try this... electric thingie-ma-jig...thing... she has, which turned out to be Electro-Stimulation, the same thing my chiropractor uses on me! Once I understood what she was talking about I jumped at the chance. I think it feels great on me and really helps my soreness and stiffness, so why wouldn't it work on him, right? Well, at least it can't hurt.

Of course it's hard to tell if he liked it or if it bothered him or if he felt anything at all. There was a lot going on (three riders in the indoor on reining horses, Max being led right past him, two horses he could hear in the outdoor and we were right in the middle of it all) while we were doing it so it was hard to read his reactions. I rode him afterwards and thought he felt a lot better than yesterday. We even cantered a lap each direction. I'm going to do the Stim 1-2 times daily for 10 days and work on the stretches and see what kind of improvement we get. Here's hoping!


  1. There was a really fantastic article about shoeing in last month's Practical Horseman magazine that I would really encourage you to read. It laid everything out plain and simple so that even those of us who don't know too much about feet (me!) could understand it. One thing I saw in particular that could be relevant to you and Junior is that sometimes feet are uneven and you can only cause more problems by making them match up.

    Good luck figuring out his stiffness! I hope it isn't anything serious and that it works itself out on it's own!

  2. I would second the comment about uneven feet - if he has, for example, front legs that are slightly different in length then his feet would need to be trimmed differently for him to be in balance, and one foot might well be longer than the other. Evening up his feet could make him sore. You might want to measure his leg length to see. Also the new trim may have made him uncomfortable if it affected his way of going. I have a mare who has two front feet that are actually different shoe sizes.

    I've had very good luck with carrot stretches - to the sides and down between the front legs - to help with neck stiffness. Also, if you can gently massage his neck and shoulders, you may find some knots that would benefit from gentle pressure/massage and also perhaps some arnica gel.

    Good luck!

  3. Kristina and Kate, you are both absolutely correct that a horse's anatomy not always symmetrical. Humans are the same way. I myself wore a lift in one shoe for a while because the slight difference in leg lengths was causing back pain.

    If we were dealing with a "not broke so don't fix it" situation I would be hesitant to over correct as you've both cautioned. On the contrary, we are dealing with a one-sidedness that has been INcreasing over the past year+ and if I compare my photos of his feet taken waaaay-back-when to the last ones I took before the new farrier began, I see a big difference in angles and symmetry. He got wonkier as his feet got weirder. Possible cause and effect. Also possibly unrelated, but when I look at the staggering amount of lameness issues at my old facility (everyone used the same farrier), compared to the lack of (there is ONE horse on stall rest for lameness) at this place I can't help but wonder.

    I will go look at the Practical Horseman at my University Library. One of those nice perks of working at a college that has an equine science department! WIN!

  4. I'm glad you and Junior are happy at your new place. There's a certain sense of calm that comes with being at a place like that. :)

    I'm also glad you're able to focus on Junior's stiffness now that he's at a good weight. Since he's been stiff before, I would say the new trim and shoe removal aren't the cause. It could help with the cure, though... that might be part of the reason he's been so stiff.

    Hopefully he improves with stretching and proper trims and you have a completely healthy and happy horse soon! :)