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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a soon-to-be-7 year old QH mare. She's my best friend, I've had her since she was 4 and we have come so far together. She barely knew anything before, she was underweight and in terrible shape (I consider her a rescue), and now, she's filled out, muscled up, and knows a lot [more].

Towards the end of 2012, she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis after x-rays and ultrasounds. A few months before, I sat on her and tried to have her move forward and she tried to buck me off, so I knew something was going on. Around Thanksgiving of 2012, she had joint injections done professionally by the vet which are supposed to last around a year. I tried riding her in the weeks following the injections, but she was crow-hopping (throwing her head up a little bit and trotting unevenly) and she was just an absolute struggle to ride. So, I gave her three months off and then my trainer brought her back into shape, slowly. Two days a week of riding with him and two days a week of lunging with me (10-12 minutes each time). He's a dressage trainer, and so we ended up pursuing dressage together, and she's gotten so much better. No more issues with bucking, lameness (when she's really stiff or sore she has it very slightly but not noticeably at all), but she's still tough.

Last Sunday (not this past Sunday, but the Sunday before) was our first ride back in the saddle after being off for a week and a half or two weeks due to the cold and weather. She was already on the bit and walking on the bit (which I haven't been able to do successfully in my year of trying), and trotting as well. I was sort of confused, quite honestly. Even when I don't ride, I see her every day and work on her flexibility by doing the famous "carrot stretches" (if you don't know what they are, look into them, they're the best), and yesterday morning she was started on a glucosamine/joint supplement.

But she is such a tough horse to ride. I mean, my trainer either says she's good or tough, and this guy is a strong, tough rider who handles problem horses. I'm the girl who has been riding for years, but only recently started dressage, so you can imagine what it is like for me. Last week we rode for 5 days, and she was pretty good (not easy, but good -- successful) for those 5 days, but then yesterday, Monday, man, was she tough. She constantly either pulls me down or hollows and almost jig-trots forward, and she is often extremely uncomfortable to ride. Sometimes, if I'm really blessed in the moment, I can get her on the bit without a lot of trouble, but a lot of the time, I end up pulling on her and struggling to get the contact that I want. When I do get it with her, she is an absolute dream to ride, like a couch. When she drives from behind and stops trying to pull against the bit, she feels great, so I know that she can get it because she has gotten it before. It's just that it's not always a predictable thing... I can't expect her to feel great on any given day.

We've been doing this for a year now, and our trot has gotten a lot better, but I haven't cantered her (my trainer occasionally does) since last year... I honestly don't even remember the last time. I think maybe even 2 years ago. Her canter is like a gallop, and with as tough as her trot is, I don't trust myself to be able to handle the canter yet. We've been wanting to do a schooling show, but she is still so tough.

I try to tell myself "I can do it, I can do it" and last week, I was feeling pretty good, but after yesterday's ride, I dismounted in tears and came home hysterical.. I know that doesn't do any good, but after putting in days every week and months and the past YEAR of work towards this, I felt like I failed yesterday, and my heart was breaking.

She's my best friend, but I'm just trying to figure out reasonably what I should do. Should I just take the risk with each ride and just keep trying? I don't want people telling me that I should retire her or stop riding, because she is very much rideable and a fit horse, just that, like many other horses, she requires a bit more of a warmup and more patience.

Also keep in mind -- I'm on the east coast US, where there is currently a huge "polar vortex" and tons of cold weather, so I'm taking that into account, as well.

I'm trying to be patient, because I know we will get there. I spoke with my parents about it, who are financially responsible for my horse as well as her training, and I said that if we don't get it by springtime or consistently warmer weather (meaning if she is still pulling and fighting and acting this uncomfortable), then it might be time for a change of discipline. I can't decide what is reasonable for her and what isn't, but I've continued to talk to my trainer about my doubts and he insists that she will get it, that I just need to be patient... but not going to lie, I do have my doubts sometimes. Deep down, I know she'll be a success whatever path we take, but I still am doubting whatever our vocation is?

On the bright side, despite the cold weather, I'm taking a lesson (in an indoor arena -- alleluia) hopefully this week on a horse who schools up to third level, one of my old trainer's horses, so I'm taking this as an opportunity to compare horses and see realistically where I lie as a dressage rider, and then sort of figure things out from there.

Thanks for reading and for all your advice in advance :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I was thinking equitation on the flat or something but since then I feel a lot better, I think I just had to rant it out.. but thanks :)
 

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Maybe her constant hollowness and reculance to be on the bit has to do with her artheritis? It sounds pretty severe for a young horse like her, even though you're managing it.

A mare I used to ride had artheritis, and in her prime she was the softest,, butter smooth ride you could find- but as she aged and arthritis took hold, even when she wasn't in PAIN from it, she struggled to keep cadence and really use herself. The vet said it was literally an inability to hold herself certain ways for long because of bone/joint calcification and soft tissue deterioration. She wasn't noticeably lame, but really didn't want to use her back or push with her behind the way she did as a 10, 12, 14, or even 18 year old.
 

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I would definitely be getting her vetted again. At 7 years old, arthritis needs to be managed very carefully if she is to have some kind of productive life. MSM/Gluc. is a good preventative and can take the edge off after some time of use, but I suspect you may need to look at a stronger and potentially more expensive option.
 

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Agree with others. I think you need to cut her some slack. Horses are stoic animals & will put up with a lot, but dressage is maybe too much for her, but she may be fine for trail riding or such.

Agree with Kayty that it needs to be managed carefully & esp if you hope for improvement and to be sound for years to come, I'd be looking closely at lifestyle, diet, nutrition & body & hoof balance.

If you would like any opinions on her health & care, you could post under the health section, as there are a few here that know a thing or 2 ;-)
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