Thursday, September 9, 2010

I think we're ready for full disclosure...

So a while ago I said that there was some stuff going on with Tucker and I wasn't sure if it was a physical or training issue, and I wasn't quite sure how much to share about it on the blog at the time.  The issues I had been having were a lot of resistance on the flat, more than usual trouble with the lead changes, and then I had a horse show where he landed bucking when we took a slightly long distance to a big oxer (which is really out of character for him, especially in the summer, when he's had a chance to lunge, and I haven't done something completely idiotic to him).  I know my horse pretty well by now, and he just wasn't feeling like himself.  He was completely sound, but he'd start out a little stiff and shuffly behind, which isn't really normal for him.  The resistance was bothering me the most.  This is a horse that loves his job, and tries really hard for me just about all the time, and now he was protesting simple flatwork.  What gives?

So, I started doing my usual lay-person's evaluations on him.  No heat or unusual swelling in any of his legs or feet.  Muscle development and weight hasn't changed.  Coat is shiny.  Eyes are clear and bright, gums look good.  Can he bend his neck for treats on both sides?  Hmm... not so much to the left.  Churchill tests on his hocks... not much of a reaction there, lifted his leg a little, but maybe he thought I wanted to pick his feet.  (To do this one at home:  Apply pressure to the top of the splint bone on the inside just below the hock.  If the horse lifts his leg high and to the side, like a dog aiming at a fire hydrant, he's usually got hock pain.  Of course, be careful where you stand to avoid being kicked.)  Run my fingers along his back... Whoa, Nelly.  Tucker flinched hard and sank down about 3 inches.  Okay, so we're definitely back sore. 

So, I had Dr. L out to do some chiropractic and acupuncture work on him.  Tucker gets regular chiro, but he's never had acupuncture, and I've heard that can really help with back soreness.  Tucker has been treated for chiro by Dr. L before when we were stabled at another farm, and he adores her.  I am pretty sure he'd follow her off a cliff if she promised to keep touching him.  She did quite a few chiropractic adjustments on his neck and shoulders, and lots of stretches.  Tucker of course was a star pupil, learned exactly what he was supposed to do with the stretches immediately.  (Of course, to get him to do them for me, I better be armed with a substantial amount of treats.  Tucker's no dummy.  He's got me trained well right?)   Then we got to the acupuncture, and I swear my horse went into some kind of blissful trance.  It was pretty great to see.  He was in heaven.  I took him for a long walk when we were done, and then a very light hack the next evening.

The difference was clear immediately.  First of all, no more flinching when I ran my fingers along his spine.  And then to ride, he was moving forward, and happy to be working, and was voluntarily reaching his nose to the ground while we warmed up at the trot, which is usually something I really have to work to get him to do.  Definitely feeling better.  Shortly thereafter, we had a fantastic horse show

Possible causes of the back soreness?  Could just be his conformation.  He's a bit roach-backed in the lumbar area, and he's a little straight through his stifle, so I've always suspected he might have back trouble at some point.  He also worked really hard at HITS just before all this started, so he could have just had regular muscle soreness like any athlete after exertion.  Also, since I was showing all week I was riding in just a fleece saddle pad, without my Thinline.  I don't know if that made a difference, but just in case, I've since bought another Thinline to use for showing too [Note that I wanted this one, but it's not in the budget at the moment.  Maybe some other time].  He also traveled longer than usual in the trailer, which can sometimes cause back soreness with all the shifting of weight back and forth and balancing (think standing up on the Subway for 2 1/2 hours). 

The trick now will be to keep an eye on him and be sure that it doesn't come back.  Sometimes, though not always, back soreness can be a sign of issues elsewhere, such as the stifles or hocks; and if the back soreness returned, that would be an indication of other problems.  It would be very unusual for a horse Tucker's age to have arthritis issues, but you never know.  As long as the back pain doesn't return soon (it's been almost a month with no issues yet), I think we're fine.  He'll have his yearly physical in the fall anyway, just to be sure.  To make sure that he continues to feel comfortable through his back, I've decided to have Dr. L treat him once a month.  Next visit is September 20th!

Now that the discomfort has been resolved, I've turned my focus toward stregthening exercises for his hind end, in the hopes that will solidify his lead changes.  More on that later....


  1. How great that you find the solution to his problem! :) What a relief..for both of you

  2. My old girl LOVED the acupuncture. Glad it worked so well for Tucker.

  3. Good for you for figuring that out and getting it worked on. Resistance to me is one of the primary signs of pain, particularly in horses that usually have a good work ethic.

  4. Yay for a good result! I am happy to hear Tucker is back to his normal self. I have been debating calling the Chiro out for Reno. The vet suggested it to free up his left hind and he is showing some signs of back soreness. I have limited experience with the Chiro, although I have heard nothing but good things. Any bad experiences with them?

  5. Tucker is lucky to have such a vigilant mommy. Every athlete has an issue here and there with soreness, sounds like you nipped it right out for him. Lucky him! When is the last time you had a spa day ;)

  6. Glad to hear that the chiro and acupuncture worked so well! I hope he continues to stay sore free.

  7. Thanks for the responses everyone!

    Eva, I've never had a bad experience with a chiro, but I've always been careful to get recommendations from people whose opinions I trust before having someone do work on my horse. In my experience, some are more effective than others, and every horse is different. I would ask around (tack shop, fellow boarders, etc.) or post a question on the Chronicle forums about a good one in your geographic area. I'd be intersted to see if it helps Reno too!

  8. Oh, and Golden... I think I had a massage once three years ago?

  9. You are a good mom! I have a number of friends that use acupuncture and swear by it. Glad Tucker feels better.

  10. This is how good you are at helping us "see" Tucker. I'm going right along with you, thinking "Oh no, not resistance. Totally not Tucker's work ethic and joy for his job. Yeah, something is up."

    LOL I've never even patted Tucker and I'm right there with you, worried about the soreness and *positive* it's not a training issue. It's just not like him!

    I love how much you both come through in your descriptions! I'm sold on Hudson's chiropractor. The man is a genius, and very very effective. He doesn't live in my state, so I have to wait for him to travel to CA, but Hudson is on his roster as a regular. Worth every penny.

  11. Nooooooo...I clicked on the (budget wish one) Thinline pad link. I want one. I have a sheepskin fleece pad I use over a dressage pad. I keep checking it for pressure spots, and haven't been thrilled. It's way better than no fleece, but now that I know Thinline exists...

    Top Ramen is our friend. *sigh*


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I love reading them! If you have a question, I will make sure to get back to you.