My Arabian mare is around 25 years old, she's always been an easy-keeper, she's been ridden for the past 7 years with no issues. She looks really good for her age, and she still has plenty of energy and that "go" attitude when I ride. At one point, she was on MSM in powdered form on her feed as a joint supplement, but I took her off it after realizing she really didn't need it and it was just an extra expense. That was about three years ago, she's been fine ever since - hasn't shown signs of discomfort or stiffness.
The other day I was bringing her in from the pasture to ride and I thought she might have been lagging in her hind legs a little. I felt down her legs, picked out her hooves, poked around on her back with no issues (other than some confused looks from her
). She didn't react in any way that indicated pain, so I went ahead and rode, but tried to keep it light. I try to only ride in the evenings because it's so hot, and we don't do anything too strenuous. I w/t/c, sometimes we go on trails, and last week I worked her over some 6-inch cavalettis.
My problem is, it's difficult to tell sometimes when I'm riding if she's holding her tail that way because she hurts, or if it's just because she's an Arabian. When I trot her on a lunge line or she's running in the pasture, she holds it up, but is there a way to differentiate between the two?
That being said, I don't want her to be in pain, but she still likes to work. I certainly don't want to quit riding, and I don't think she would either but obviously her health and comfort come first; I know that Arabians are sometimes known for having a big heart and wanting to do more than they really can (but why hold her back if she's still capable?).
Part of me feels like this is all dreamt up in my head, but I just want to be aware, as she continues to age. What are some other signs I could be looking for? I don't really notice any stiffness in her joints, although once it starts getting cold again I may put her back on MSM just for good measure. Any help would be appreciated...thanks!