Can I ask how long this took? From first noticing an issue till now?
I know Otto for years, but he was never worked on a consistent schedule.
When I bought him times for his owner were a little tough, he was a bit thin and the hay was not so good... money was tight.
I think these conditions brought this all out in the open, and when we through him into a all out riding every day training program he just fell apart.
Our biggest issue with Otto is his stiffness and saddling...
Every once and a while when you toss the saddle onto him he will stand fine, but when first asked to walk off he balks and hops in the air. He does not seem afraid, or freaked out, we all agree its pain.
He just does not bend! He isnt being bad, or stupid, we really think because we know his past pretty well, and he used to be very bendy (almost over bendy) this is also pain or stiffness.
Both of my girls have been on the diet change for a couple months now. I never really noticed Belle with any severe symptoms because she is older, was neglected and in bad shape when I adopted her the day she was to be put down and I just figured she was arthritic. This journey started with Snickers my pinto. I adopted her as a 2 1/2 year old. I noticed when I first went to look at her, that something was just wonky with her legs. I had never had a horse that young and she was a draft cross so I had no clue if her conformation was just off because of her mix. I had a vet come out and she said that Snickers was just butt high and growing into her legs. Owner, of course said nothing was wrong with the horse, never had an accident or any problems etc. I considered wobbler syndrome/wobbles. We did the physical tests and she passed. So, I took her home.
As I would watch her run around in the arena and pasture, I would notice the bunny hopping. When she would canter she would buck and seem like she was trying to figure out what to do with her legs. Her legs would buckle into a pretzel when she would slow down out of the canter. She fell a couple times. She would also clip her front heels and make them bleed. Farrier tried to square her toes etc, but it didn't help. I had a massage therapist and a chiro come out, they shook their heads not knowing what to say...same as trainers/friends thinking she could possibly be gaited or something. I figured I would give her more time to grow.
She evened out with the growth spurts and I began lunging her to try and build strength and balance a little before backing her. It was painfully obvioius how hard it was for her in a confined circle to hold gaits. There was nothing that resembled normal with her legs. They were a twisted mess. I didn't push the round pen thing since she was so young and there was obviously something wrong. I needed to rule out pain. She was such a friendly, mild mannered girl. I didn't want to change her personality.
Then last summer I started backing her. She was perfect, never offered a bad behavior. She is very responsive and interested in doing what you are asking....a true conversationalist with her human. It was very hard to keep her in a trot, just a few steps at a time. She swings her hips out from trot to walk. Plus her cadence was waaaaaay off. Her hind feet in trot would be a half second behind her fronts etc. That's where I thought maybe she was gaited. However, she never acted like she was in pain. It was more like her body was just limited. Her hind end didn't seem to have strength. She seemed lazy and blah.
After a couple months, I moved to southern California from central California. So instead of flat, nothing terrain, she was introduced to hills, trails, mountains, beach etc. I would take her out on trailrides for hours since I thought that would build more strength than a round pen and I didn't want to strain her joints from the round pen either. I then noticed that going down hill, her hind fetlocks would knuckle over even at the walk. I had noticed the knuckling before when she was running around and slowing down, but never at the walk. I could see a 'pop' happening too, not sure if it was stifle or from the fetlock knuckling stuff. I tried to lunge her on a little bit of a hill and I noticed that when going in the circle on the down side of a hill, she would have what looked like a peg leg and it didn't bend to adjust to the difference in the ground. Again, nothing ever looked painful to me though. She just kind of went with things like that was just the way she was.
I had another chiro come out and vet. This chiro scratched her head like the first one. She did another physical test with her legs trying to pick up the diagonal or something...can't remember now....and that was off. Still not thinking neurological though. I could blindfold this mare and walk her and it was no big deal. I could ride her with a tarp over her head with no problem. She backs up fine, she has lateral movement fine, her tail tone is fine. The new vet said that she had stringhalt and wanted her to go to a surgeon. I was not convinced enough to jump on that bandwagon.
Snickers just turned four this month. The oddities I've noticed with her is that she often has spots on her sides where she nuzzles/scratches herself. I read somewhere that often people think these horses are colicing or they are said to be 'cinchy' because they do this due to the discomfort in their muscles. When I cinch Snickers, she never bits, but she does bring her head around and touch her nose to her side....however, she also is in the habit of me scratching her midline before tightening the cinch due to sweet itch...so I always thought that was her cue to me so I don't forget to scratch there before I tighten. But, because I notice the nuzzle spots on her sides when I see her, I think it has to do with her muscles. She LOVES being massaged and curry combed everywhere on her body, especially her neck, belly and behind her elbows on her sides. Snickers hasn't tied up, but she does get 'stuck' sometimes when I ask her to walk on a lead line. It's like a child saying...awww mom, do I have to? I used to think it was because she was young and just learning, but now not as much. Her legs have never locked up or anything, she just needs a moment to get the signals to them it seems. Like I said, with everything, she never seems like she is in any type of pain to me and she listens very well. If I thought she was in pain, I wouldn't ride her...I'm ok with that.
Now, I have been commited to this diet and exercise deal for two months now. I was convinced that she would only be a walking trail horse, maybe light trotting. She can be quite uncomfortable at the walk when she picks up speed....her hips seem to be very animated or something...she rocks you all over the place. But it used to be impossible for her to canter in the round pen and trotting she would slap her hind feet into the ground. Lunge sessions started very short. After about a month, I saw some slight improvement, then she regressed for a week, looking the worst ever and I was in tears thinking that was it. A week later, she made a bigger improvement. I started seeing less slapping of the ground at the trot with her hind legs. She looked less stiff in the butt and had some spring in her legs. Cantering was still questionable. When I would ask her to canter, she would turn both eyes and look at me like, "Why are you asking me to do something that I will look like a dork doing?"...lol. Then she would do it for a few strides and even seemed to surprise herself. No more bucking, bunny hopping, buckling. The downward transition was looking smoother too. Now today, I saw no popping/buckling from the canter. She does still throw those hips out or position those legs weird into the walk though.
So, now that I wrote this book....I would say that I've have noticed a 'marked' improvement at the two month point.
My horses have the opposite problem then you have...mine are marshmallows on air. I am out there every day either riding them, lunging them or taking them on trail walks by hand. They get more exercise than 90% of the horses out there. Their paddock is at least 48 x 48 and their private grass turnout is at least 48 x 84. However, even though they are fat, Dr. Valentine did mention my percheron's topline...so she noticed something I didn't.
If you want to see video of Snickers you can go to my thread under 'horse health' called 'Snickers mysterious hind end problem' or go to You Tube under EPSM Snickers. In the last video, you can see some of the improvement. I'm hoping the next video in a couple weeks will be even better. I can now invision cantering her under saddle one day.