I'm an endurance rider and my horse has never come up sore - until July when we did our first 50-miler and had to walk the last 13 miles due to rain. He was very sore and we determined this was poor saddle fit (though he didn't even come up sore on the 25-miler I'd done two days earlier...). I gave him about 6 weeks off, then did a little conditioning and tried a few new saddles. We finally found one right before the next ride that seemed to fit him really well but he still came up sore on the 25-miler. In fact, he was extremely sore. We decided that this had more to do with the previous injury not healing up all the way, so his back got re-injured and they said that any saddle I put on him would probably sore up his back.
I was told to stay off him completely for 2 months and I personally decided his endurance season was over until next Spring. I've done so, and now it's time to start working on riding again. Though we're pretty sure this was due to a poorly-fitting saddle, I want to be sure I cover all my bases, so here's my plan and was wondering if anyone else had suggestions or tips:
Get a new saddle that fits him - I'm planning on getting a Specialized saddle once I get the money. In the meantime, I'm only riding short, easy rides and working on fundamentals like collection until I can get a saddle that fits.
Take equitation classes - Though I ride in an English saddle and post, I've never taken actual English lessons. To be sure I'm riding balanced and not doing something in the saddle to cause a sore back, plus just improve my riding and expand my skills, I want to take a few classes.
Strengthen his back - Here's where I'm kind of feeling around in the dark. Someone mentioned he tends to move with a high head, which may be causing him to hallow out his back and contribute to the problem. I'm already working on keeping his head low, but I've seen posts on here about strengthening the top line (by keeping his head low??) and going over cavaletti. I really need help on this one if you have any suggestions
I'm doing most of my training at a trot, with a little cantering and walking, because that's what we ride at in a race and I seem to understand that's best for strengthening and developing horses anyway. Physically, he looks really good now. He doesn't (and never had) any muscle wasting and finally put the weight on I've been trying to get all year. 2 months off does wonders! However, I'm ready to make sure he's good and ready for next year. Thanks!