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Discussion Starter #1
Beginning with a sigh...
Long story short. The TB OTTB gelding I am trialling initially fit my Prestige hunter saddle (that was my old horse's). However he quickly put on some muscle and after about 2 months that saddle tree was too tight at the shoulder and trapezius.

His back story: no pun intended...when I first tried him out I noticed how much he flinches when I check the muscle from his withers to the sacrum. Owner suggested he 'just needs a massage now and then'.
I got massage and chiro involved and it is still an issue, but less. It seems he is super sensitive in his back and tells me so. Three months in, he is less reactive to palpation, but still flinches at the croup and low back.

I've tried several saddles, had my trainer/chiro/MT look at them, and while they look and feel good on the first ride but subsequent rides his ears are back and his head is up. He needs good wither clearance, good shoulder room, and even contact of the panel and he prefers a soft wool flocking vs. too firm a wool (or aged wool).

I am trying to figure out several things. Does he has a soft tissue or other issue that is chronic, preventing him from being ridden comfortably several days in a row? I know he was jumped and was a tense and too forward a jumper for several years...maybe created chronic tension in the back?

I might add that (my) workload is moderate, some ring, some trail. I am bringing in my vet to assess his back next week, to cover that base.

One other thing: the trainer rides harder than I do in a lesson or a hack. I guess its possible or even likely that he is made sore by moving differently on the one day a week she rides. I've noticed him reactive to the tack the next time I have ridden him.

Conformation wise, he doesn't have hunters bump, a roach in his spine or other obvious faults. Its weird. The tissue around the lumbar/croup isn't granular, fibrous, lumpy or stringy.

Example: I brought in a well fitting dressage saddle and 1st ride he was getting used to it, 2nd ride by a trainer, he looked like a million bucks, 3rd ride with me, his head was up and ears pinned. On close inspection my MT noticed a firmness in the panels (situated under my seat) that wasn't evident to me. So it appears that saddle needs reflocking.

Another example: Frank Baines demo saddle, so new flocking, big enough shoulders and wither clearance...same thing, 1st ride was OK, then downhill for the next 3 rides.

I used a sheepskin half pad and another airy type half pad to help with shock absorption.
I just bought a dressage saddle that seemed to fit him well except for the panel, and plan to reflock it. Its fatiguing looking and trying out so many saddles. When the right fit occurs, this horse goes very well.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed the saddle fitter can customize the panel fit so all the contours are good.
Its ....such a journey. Apologizes for the novel.
 

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If you’re able to ride bareback, can you try that in a round pen or are a and see if he reacts the same way?

If he does, find a different chiro who is an acupuncturist.

If he doesn’t, the. You know for sure it’s something with the saddle:)

If you can’t ride him bareback, try and find a holistic vet who does chiro and hopefully acupuncture as something is wrong somewhere.

My holistic vet/chiro/acupuncturist is also a 20+ year student of Chinese medicine medicine. She has resolved more than one issue the traditional vets were stumped over, shrugged their shoulders, and quickly changed the subject:)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'll be asking my vet about that, too. Hope not. It's more along the croup, not the thoracics though I am aware KS has variable symptoms. Update to follow.
 

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Something like 80% of back pain cases are in actuality secondary to pain elsewhere. Stifles, hocks, feet. If any of those are hurting, it's going to put stress on the back and they can show that pain easier than the original source.
 

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So I have a friend who had a very similar situation and the outcome with her horse was positive, though the prognosis was guarded at best. My friend's horse is a very VERY nice type from bloodlines that are well known for producing excellent sporthorses post-racing (yeah, also an OTTB), no visible faults with his back or really with him in general. He's a seriously high quality horse.

He went from soft and willing to tense and resistant, and my friend thought he was just resisting the harder work because she had coincidentally just started doing higher level lateral work with him. Her coach (a GP dressage rider!) felt the same, and they kept pushing him, until he REALLY started playing up. Rearing, bucking, bolting, you name it.

So my friend, wonderful horsewoman that she is, went looking for a physical cause. This horse is a lovely willing type and absolutely not the sort of horse that would turn dangerous like that for no reason.

He was diagnosed with degenerative osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine. Prognosis was not great for a return to ridden work - she said she'd be delighted if she could trail ride him again. Luckily she has 400 acres she inherited from her dad, so his future was never in doubt. He either had a cushy retirement at home with her, or whatever ridden work he needed/could handle.
After a YEAR of bodywork and groundwork rehab, she brought him very gently back into ridden (rehab) work, and now 18 months-2 years post-diagnosis he's jumping and doing dressage work again. She hasn't asked for the upper level lateral work since his diagnosis and I don't know if she will, but with the right feed regime, arthritis meds, joint supplements and physical rehab, a guarded prognosis of him ever being ridden again has turned into "we'll enjoy him for as long as he's sound, and then retire him so he can live out his days in comfort".

It COULD be a totally different situation with your horse, but it sounds remarkably similar. You need to know that the prognosis, if this is the case, is not encouraging, and my friend is very lucky her horse is sound again.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Blue eyed pony- that was a lucky horse to have that owner.

Update: I like that when my vet came to investigate this sore back, he did what was necessary and said further investigation was possible with deep xrays and then fluroscope if I wanted.

Palpations revealed an abnormal pain response (which we all knew), and both stifle areas had some effusion as well as something on the LF knee. A big thing we all missed was the right ischial tuberosity was wholly asymmetrical from the left - some kind of rear end collision in which the IT was mashed.

He didn't think it was kissing spine, but whatever the issue was, would be "a long road ahead" and until the back issue got corrected, a good canter would not be comfortable for the horse. This explains why this horse's canter feels too rushy and forward. While he doesn't buck (yet) he's anxious in canter.

I made the decision to send the horse home, dreading the phone call to the owner. When I spoke to her, I tried to explain how despite all the chiro and massage, this horse was not improving. She didn't want to hear it. I guess she's not happy that I am not taking this horse off her hands....

So my hunt continues for something more sound and suitable.
 

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@livelovelaughride I 100% agree, I never would have been able to investigate the issue as deeply as my friend did. She's paid quite well (she's a teacher but teachers are actually paid properly here, $70k/year is the STARTING salary for a first-year teacher; I don't know her exact salary and it isn't my business but my point is she's a lot better off than I am, as a minimum-wage barista) and that allows her the ability to investigate every issue until she finds a resolution, whether positive or not. Her horses all have excellent lives. If reincarnation is real I want to come back as her horse.

It sounds like the horse you had was carrying a serious, long-term injury that makes him possibly permanently unsound, and it sounds like the owner knew that good and well, unfortunately.
 

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Just saw your update - good call. Poor horse, I hope the owner takes the steps to helping him, instead of just getting him a 'massage' now and then. It sounds like he has something serious going on.

Wishing you the best of luck in your search! :)
 

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Off topic but " Reincarnated as a horse"- This reminds me of a joke a horseman patient told us. He was an older fellow being treated for serious heart disease. Having had some pain medicine, he suddenly announced "When I die I want to be reincarnated as a saddle". Why? I asked. "So a woman would buy me and I could enjoy her riding me". But what if a man bought you? I asked. "Well", he said, "I would just enjoy the horse side".
 
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