Sunday, March 31, 2013


Wow! Yesterday, Saturday, March 30th, marked the one year anniversary since I brought my filthy, starved-almost-to-death, broken boy home. We celebrated by taking him to see the vet/chiropractor/accupuncturist Diane Wagner for a check-up on his right hamstring and overall condition.

She pronounced him sound. Sound! And said it was a testimony to his superior athleticism that he has recovered so completely. The short striding was gone. All of the points in his body that were telling her last time he still had issues were gone. She suggested I do a round of sand clear and then keep him on the maintenance going forward. His feet were perfectly balanced, meaning both frogs on his front feet were 6 cm wide at the base and 5.5 cm on the back. Diane says this is a way to tell if his body is balanced and he is using both sides equally. Remember, the first time all four were all over the board and indicative of Ashke compensating for his right hamstring by relying on his left hind and right fore. The work Diane had done on his poll was still holding and the only issue she could see was the slight mechanical issue with his right sacrial-iliac joint, which may never be resolved.

So, the reason for our visit was three fold: 1) to let Diane assess his over-all condition, with focus on his right hamstring rehab, 2) to have his teeth checked by her equine dental expert, (routine check-up is recommended yearly) and 3) have his sheath cleaned (boy horses can get build up in their urethea track of calcium carbonate and smegma, creating beans.)

Diane started by doing her assessment of his movement, by having me walk him forward and back, trot him forward and back, lunge him in a circle at a walk and trot, and then walk him with her walking next to us. She then checked his feet, measured his frogs, and checked the acupuncture points on his body. The only points that flared were in relationship with SI joint on the right and a couple of points on his back due to our ongoing saddle issues. She told me to stop feeding him any supplements or feed other than the grass/alfalfa I have him on, because he is getting fat. :)

In a side note about the saddle. Down Under took it back and gave me a full refund. I am still on the hook for the Equipedic pad, the chest piece and martingale, the other saddle blanket, the stirrups and the extra girth I purchased. I am hoping to be able to use the breast collar with whatever saddle I decide to get.

After Diane assessed the acupuncture points, she sedated Ashke so Syd, the equine dental specialist, could do his teeth. They both decided he was an expensive date, because he needed so much, but I assured them he was easy. Syd first checked the movement of his jaw and explained that most dentals are done without doing anything to the incisors, which leaves the jaw locked up at the front of the mouth. I know this will impact everything we are trying to do, because he isn't able to flex and release his mouth. Syd started with the incisors.

When Syd was done with the incisors, she was able to move his jaw from side to side (the motion horses use to eat). Then she started on the back teeth.

Syd uses her hand and hand tools to do his teeth. The issue with power dental tools is the dremel heats up too much and can cause cracks in the enamel. The other issue Syd mentioned is the tendency to take too much tooth off with the power tools.

Syd and Diane both agreed that he was way more awake and alert than they expected with such a large dose of sedative. The one thing Syd did was release the speculum in his mouth between tools and between checks, giving Ashke's jaw a break from the pressure of holding his mouth wide open for 45 minutes.

After the dental was done, Diane tried to clean Ashke's sheath. He kicked violently every time she went to touch him. It was obvious the sheath cleaning wasn't going to happen without additional sedation. I told Diane to dose him again. The picture above is the result. He was swaying a little bit from side to side he was so drugged. We stood and waited about ten minutes for him to drop his penis out of his sheath. It didn't happen, so Diane decided to do the acupuncture first in the hopes it would relax him.

He was pretty dopey. And relaxed. But his penis was still up by his tonsils.

Pokes in his butt. Diane injected a little bit of B12 into each site, which helps keeps the pressure of the acupuncture longer than we can leave the needles in, and the B12 helps with recovery.

Most of the acupuncture points were over the SI joint on the right side. There were also needles she put in just behind his jaw to help alleviate the tension and energy from the dental.

There were also points for his diaphram and to balance his hip. Once the needles were in we waited for the sedative and the accu points to send him into sleep. Or relax him enough that he dropped. Neither happened.

We applied laser stimulation to the areas connected to his reproductive organs in an attempt to get him to drop. He peed like a race horse afterwards, but still didn't drop. Diane decided she was just going to have to do it the hard way and oiled up her glove.

Even drugged to the gills he kicked violently at Diane. I asked Diane if I should hold up his back foot so he couldn't kick. She looked surprised and then said I could try. I had Lisa hold his head so if anyone got hurt by my horse it would be me. I lifted his left back leg and held it braced so he couldn't pull it forward to kick. He tried a couple of times, but didn't have the leverage to pull it away from me. After a couple of tries, he stopped trying and rested quietly while Diane fished around inside. It wasn't easy; she was elbow deep inside him trying to get the final bean.

Ashke was drawn up so far inside that Diane really had to work at getting the beans out. She found six total, two of which she smashed trying to remove them, and four she pulled out. Luckily they were soft, not calcified, but still could not have been comfortable for Ashke.

After the sheath cleaning, Diane did the adjustment on his right SI joint. She used the spring activator (just like the one my chiropractor uses on me) to do all of his vertebre from his withers to his tail bone. Twice. Then she adjusted his right SI by using her hands and weight. For the first time it really moved, to the point where Ashke turned his head, stoned as he was, and stared at Diane. You could hear the movement of the joint. And he looked pretty good moving after that.

Indiana, the wonderful barn cat, in the rafters of the barn overseeing operations. Didn't bother Ashke, but kind of freaked Amaar out.

Ashke tossing off the effects of the sedation. We had absolutely no issues with loading out or back.

When we got back, he got bathed. He was disgustingly dirty and we wanted him white for his photo shoot. He wouldn't go in the wash stall and rather than force him, we just went outside.

When he was clean and dry, we released him in the arena and just let him expend some energy.

One of Diane's recommendations is to get a Deluxe Balance Training System to encourage him to use his back and tighten his belly and find his center of balance. She suggested 5 minutes in each direction to start and alternate days with riding. She said only a dressage level 4 rider could get him to do what this system will allow him to figure out on his own. I already ordered one. Hopefully, it will be here on Tuesday.

He enjoyed being able to get rid of all his pent up energy.

Looking so good!

It just makes me smile to see him move. I know he is a little overweight but he hasn't been worked in two weeks and he was so very thin not so long ago.

Diane understood. She also gave me a full green light on beginning endurance training, just said to start with realistic expectations. (No 50's tomorrow.)

Coming and going.

Happy feet.

Doesn't he just look amazing?

I love this picture.

How he let's us know he's done.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Top Ten

10. The way he stretches his head out of his stall and arches his neck when he sees me coming.

9. Mush face from eating his hanging treat.

8. The arched tail and bouncy trot when he is feeling good and showing off.

7. How he whinnies when he hears my voice, even if I am on the far side of the barn and he is outside.

6. How he lips and pulls at my clothing to get my attention.

5. How yesterday in the snow, he ran as fast as he could back up the fenceline.

4. The wide-eyed, ears forward, nostrils flared happiness he shows when he is turned loose to play.

3. The way he will stop in the middle of being completely wild and walk up to me to shove his head against my chest.

2. His WTF snort at anything he doesn't understand.

1. His willingness to be a great partner to me.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Saddle Woes Part 3

Tried the Longreach Endurance today.

Does not fit. Not even close.

Tight in the top of the withers but widely flared at the bottom. 

Does not contact his back on the sides for almost a quarter of the way down the saddle.

I can see how tightening the saddle down across the withers is going to cause the rear of the saddle to rise. 

My hand is resting on his shoulder with my fingers under the saddle and the saddle isn't touching me.

Even more space on the other side.

I sent pictures to Ricki at Down Under. I plan on returning the saddle on Friday. 

Sally, owner of Ibn, was there and I was telling her my saddle woes. She said she had to buy a saddle made specifically for an Arabian. She pulled it out and we tried it on Ashke. It fit perfectly. It is a Veach Endurance Saddle and as far as I can tell, Veach stopped making saddles in 2010. Sally isn't interested in selling it either.

At the urging of Nicole and pretty much everyone else, I am going to contact Bev at The Tack Collection to see if she has any ideas about a saddle that might fit. Until then, I am saddleless. I figure I am going to work Ashke with a surcingle and side reins on a lunge line. He needs to continue to work and move, while I figure out what to do. The good news is his back is much less sensitive to the touch today (it's been eight days since the last time I rode) and he was moving both legs equally.

Nicole was worried about taking Cali outside because she didn't want to get cold air in her lungs. I wasn't worried. When I was younger I rode all the time in any type of weather, as long as it wasn't too cold to give me frostbite. Ashke was being a complete idiot over Cali, so I took him out and made him play in the round pen. Nicole said he was tracking equally with both back legs. We walked around the barn a bit and then I took Ashke out to the big outdoor arena while Nicole put Cali away.

I turned him loose and he went crazed Arabian in the snow for a good ten minutes.

Ashke would tear down to the far end of the arena, turn around and do the Arabian version of skoodle butt back up the fence line. (Looked like a race horse.)

He was running too fast for me to get a great picture. He seemed to be having fun, that's for sure.

He sure didn't seem to be hurting today. If I can lunge him a couple of times a week until I get the right saddle, I hope he won't lose any of his conditioning.

Trying to photograph a white horse in a snow covered arena under a gray sky with snow falling is a challenge my camera was not  up to.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saddle Woes

I should have posted yesterday after we visited Down Under Saddlery, because I was pretty frustrated with the result.

First, let me say that I love riding in an Aussie saddle. Second, I really can't afford to spend $3000 - $4000 dollars on an English endurance saddle (or really any other saddle for that matter). Third, since I had already bought the saddle, I felt pretty committed to getting it to work, otherwise it's a thousand dollars out the window. I'm already feeling pretty guilty about the amount of money we've spent on the horse - I just didn't see how I could justify walking away from something I've already spent the money on.

I took the saddle in and talked to Ricky again. She was the one who recommended I buy the style saddle I ended up with, after reassuring me it was the best saddle they carried for an SE Arabian. I have been back to the store seven or eight times, trying to figure out why the saddle just didn't feel right. I showed her all of the photos I had taken (on my computer so I could edit them for close ups) and showed her the saddle pad and told her all of the things I had been experiencing.

She told me everything looked normal. She wondered if perhaps I wasn't riding the saddle correctly. I about lost it at that point. I asked her to explain how I should be riding and what she described was how I was riding. I think she knew at that point how offended I was at the suggestion that my riding was what was causing my horse to be back sore. In her defense she had a migraine and was a little short. (I also think she was tired of trying to figure out my saddle problem.) She also suggested that Ashke just didn't want to work. I know that's not the issue. The issue is the saddle. We finally worked back around to talking about the issue with the saddle.

I showed her tons of pictures. Based on the pictures where the back of the saddle was lifted off Ashke's back, and some pictures of the front of his saddle, made her believe that perhaps the saddle was too wide and needed to be narrowed in the front. She said it looked like I had been riding downhill. Since this was also what Diane suggested might be the problem, I was willing to try the fix Ricky suggested. She shimmed the front of the saddle with about 1/2 inch of wool felt. We didn't want to adjust the saddle frame, because you can't make it wider once it's been narrowed. After more than an hour of talking, I walked out with a saddle that had been shimmed to see if it made a difference.

It made the issue worse. Narrowing the front raised the front, but did nothing for the rest of the fit.

Even with the Equipedic pad, which was recommended for fixing any issues with my saddle, you can see that the front of the saddle isn't sitting correctly.

It was even worse in the back. Do you see under the saddleblanket? I'm pretty sure that was not the intended result.

The back of the saddle isn't in contact with his back. I finally realized that what was happening with the saddle was it had a fulcrum point where the overgirth was and tipped and tilted forward and backward with the motion of the horse. No wonder Ashke said it felt like I was a fruit loop. The saddle has been moving.

There was no pressure on my hand in this picture. That's how far off of his back the saddle is lifted with the girth tightened. No wonder it felt like I was off balance. No wonder Nicole couldn't post in this saddle. It's because every time we shifted our weight, the saddle moved. It explains why I have struggled to ride at a trot and canter. The damn saddle was pounding me in the middle of my back.

It looks a little bit higher in the front than it did before. But it doesn't matter. The saddle just doesn't fit his back.

I didn't ride. I took him into the arena and let him tear around for a bit. I tried to get some pics which turned out pretty lame.

You can't really tell, but every time he extended his trot or cantered, the saddle flopped around on his back.

Ashke has figured out he can watch me in the mirror. I think that's pretty amazing. He is incredibly smart.

I took him back to the barn and unsaddled. Nicole was there by that time and she knew I was really upset when I got back to the barn. She was in the process of moving Cali, since that silly horse is still eating gravel. You just have to wonder about horses some times. Gravel is not a food source. I unsaddled Ashke and took some pictures of what the saddle had done to his back without me in the saddle.

This is the twirled and knarled hair I found under his saddle. I think this is the focal point for the pivoting of the saddle. I've seen this type of hair disturbance in the past, but blamed myself for whatever was causing it, thinking I hadn't saddled him correctly.

It's not as obvious on this side, but the hair was pushed backward right where the overgirth is.

Nicole came over to check Ashke's back. He is sore right where the overgirth is, sore where the saddle was bouncing on his back, and sore over his right hip, which we knew about. Nicole brought out her saddle to see how it fit on his back. It didn't.

At that point I was feeling completely overwhelmed and started to cry. Nicole was very sweet and just told me we would figure this out, but I was feeling like I had destroyed my horse. I didn't know how I was going to tell J that we needed to spend more money on a new or different saddle for my horse. I wasn't sure when I would be able to ride my boy again. Nicole kept telling me it would be all right, that she had gone through the same thing with Emma, but all I could do was put my head down on Ashke's back and bawl.

Nicole went to check Cali's back and she was sore as well. The weather, which took a turn for the worse today, may be a contributing factor. We talked about having a plan to help strengthen Ashke's back and Nicole offered to help me with the Pessoa system and building his topline. She said we could trail ride at a walk and give him time to heal. I loaded up my saddle, put my horse away and headed out into the storm (10" of snow and high wind blowing it sideways today.)

On my way home, I called and talked to J. I told her that the adjustment had made things worse, not better and I wanted to go back to the saddle shop today. She agreed. I told her how awful I was feeling about the saddle not working and we talked a bit about my childhood, riding bareback and saddles in general. She told me she wasn't stressing about the money and that I needed to find a saddle that worked for both of us. If that meant I needed to spend more money for both of us to be happy, then I should plan on spending the money.

It made me cry for the second time today.

We took the saddle back to the store. I told Ricky it was even worse. She was at a loss and called out her boss. I told him all of the issues I had been having and all of the things we had tried. Ricky asked him what we should do and he suggested the Longreach Endurance saddle. It is dressage saddle sized and super light weight (about half of what the Master Campdraft was). It is shorter and should fit his back better. It is girthed with a dressage girth and I got a 17" (the MCD was 19" - HA!) which fit very nicely. I was able to post on the dummy horse, something we hadn't been able to do in the old saddle because of how it fit. I really like the saddle and am excited that I don't have to replace all of the gear I have already purchased. I did get a new saddle pad, since the equipedic is pretty imprinted with the shape of the old saddle.

The plan is to check the fit tomorrow. I am going to take pictures and a wither tracing, then take the saddle back to the store for them to fit. That is the first part of the plan. Hopefully, the saddle fits him and feels good for both of us. I hope to either have returned the saddle and moved on by Friday or have it fitted to him for Diane to check when we are there on Saturday.

The second part of the plan is to have Bev from The Tack Collection come out and check the fit of my saddle and Nicole's. I am going to tell her Ashke's story, tell her the issues I have been having, explain what I want to do with Ashke in the long run and then ask her to bring out some saddles I can try. I am really interested in the Keith Bryan Pathfinder Endurance saddle and Nicole is sure she will have some other suggestions. I am hoping to plan that for the 3rd of April.

And so the saga continues.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Saddle Issues, Still

We went to the barn tonight to take pictures of how the saddle fit so that I can go back to Down Under Saddlery tomorrow night and talk to them about why the saddle just doesn't fit.

You can see the marks of the saddle still on his back and I haven't ridden him since Saturday.

When you look at the pad for the saddle you can see where all the weight is resting when I ride. We are taking both photos, saddle and saddle pad in with us tomorrow night.

Side view, which they need to be sure I am placing the saddle in the correct position.

And from the other side.

From the front at a 45 degree angle. Does it look like it fits to you?

From the other side.

From the back left.

And from the back right.

Why are we going back in? Because he gets so tender after being ridden for three days in a row, that he doesn't want me to touch his back. This will be my sixth visit back to the saddle shop in the year that I've owned the saddle. This was the saddle the woman at the saddle shop recommended that I buy and it just doesn't fit his back. I'm hoping we can figure something out or put him in a saddle that fits him.

I will let you know how it turns out, since we are going tomorrow night at 4.

I didn't ride tonight, but I did turn him loose in the arena. And we got some video. It's pretty nice that the arena has all it's lights again.


I love the snorting and I think he is moving pretty good.

J came into the arena and chased him around, which is when he started making all of the really cool noises.

It's been a really long time since I posted video to my YouTube channel. It's been a long time since J came to the barn with me at night.

He was warm and a little tired by the time we were done.

I'll update tomorrow on the continuing saddle saga.