We're going to get him boots for his back feet, mostly to protect them from being worn away but I suppose if there is some pain it might alliviate a bit?
IF Ninja has low heels/long toes, then no - boots will not solve that or make it more comfortable. His hoof capsule needs to be trimmed in order to correctly support his anatomy and weight distribution.
To illustrate what I'm talking about, imagine doing this (or actually do it if you're adventurous, but don't hurt yourself.) -- Walk up to a step or staircase, and step up onto it. Let your heels drop off the edge of the stair, and lower them. Do you notice how when your heels are lower than your toes, your legs feel 'pulled' in the back? What if you were stuck like that, even 'at rest', and somebody put boots on you? Nothing would change - your foot angle is still incorrect. Sure, someone could put insoles in the boots that lift your heels - but that's a bandaid to the bigger problem, and not a very good bandaid.
Radiographs, then vet and masseuse assessment. Make notes of what each person believes the problem is, if they do indeed believe there is a problem. Do not fit tack or adjust saddle before discovering what the issue is. Fixing problems like this can change the way your tack fits. Problems you thought attributable to tack fit (saddle or bit) might be solved by a hoof trim/tooth floating/treatment. After that, if there is still an issue, yes!- check your tack.
We've also booked the masseuse, saddle fitter (that was for something else but it could be a problem so I figure better safe than sorry) and he's going to get his feet radiographed soon so we'll know for sure if something's wrong with them. If none of that works we can try a chiropractor or the vet. He needs his teeth done soon anyway so I can just get it done then
Or at least radiographs first so that you have that tool available for your other consultations. (From the way you make it sound, your vet doesn't do the radiographs? Who does?)
When you get the radiographs done, remember to put a marker at the apex of the frog - like a metal tack. Also, take a photo of his hooves at the same angle as the radiographs were taken.
Post those radiographs on here so that we can see them, along with the photos. That way you get more opinions from people like
. And unless your masseuse has experience in barefoot hoof trimming, you might wish to consult a barefoot trimmer. Or at least someone who knows how to measure collateral groove depth and see how that correlates to the radiographs, and then trim appropriately (including for proper breakover.) Now there's a good education in hooves for you!
Even if nothing looks wrong with his feet in radiograph, focusing only on the hoof (P3 or 'coffin bone') is an incorrect approach. The that bone needs to be in proper physical alignment with the rest of the skeleton. Horses usually do well with a 3 to 5 degree palmar angle; he might need 5 degrees in the hinds. If he needs more than that in order to relieve the strain on his muscles, we'd want to ask 'why is that? is it normal for him? was he allowed to be very upright for a long time, or perhaps when he was still young and developing?' In that case, you'd want to consider whether it would be best to leave him at 5 degrees in the hinds, and have the masseuse work on his muscles. The pros can help you figure that out, but you'll need to mention it in order to have it focused on in discussion.
Here are muscles to check for soreness, if Ninja turns out to have long toes/low heels: First, the psoas muscles. Then the middle gluteal muscle. See if the horse reacts to light pressure. If so, there's likely something substantial going on. Most horses can't handle more than moderate pressure. Healthy horses will lean towards you. Then check the superficial gluteal is sore, check the tongue of the middle gluteal (this is where a 'hunter's bump' comes from.) If that is sore, the horse has likely been sore for ~4 months. After that, check the origin of the semitendinosus muscle of the hamstrings. This is above the tail dock on each side. If that is sore, the horse has torn muscles.
Again, horses that have this kind of soreness will appear to 'lift' their backs in order to evade muscle tearing and soreness. If Ninja is experiencing soreness in his back, it might not be the saddle. See how it all ties together? Don't buy any new tack before having this checked out. As
said, it's far more efficient to have the vet out, get radiographs done, etc. before doing anything else. Keep us updated! =)