In November, Diane noted that Ashke was short striding on the right hind and not tracking up at all. During her exam, she identified an old injury to his right hamstring that was keeping him from stretching up. Additionally, he was overusing his left hind and right front to compensate for the injury to his right hamstring. This is why his left wither is so much more underdeveloped than his right one. This was such a chronic injury that Diane was unsure if we would be able to rehab it. It was this injury that made me let go of my goal of riding in an endurance race. (Short striding looks like lameness.) His SI joint was out and his right fore was tied up.
We went back to see her in March of 2013. Ashke was still short striding on his right hind and this time I was able to see that he also abducted his right hind in a crescent movement inside toward his left hind as he stepped forward. He was still very asymmetrical on the diagonal (LH-RF) and he needed the base of his neck, his poll and his SI adjusted. Diane recommended a change in food, because he had gained too much weight (6 on the Body Condition Scale) and the Balance Training system to help him learn to carry himself in a balanced manner.
In October, I started dressage lessons to help both of us find our balance and to teach him to use his back properly.
At the end of November, when we got to Diane's, I told her I thought he needed the base of his neck needed to be adjusted. He "felt" tied up there. It wasn't anything my trainer had said or someone had suggested, it just felt like that needed to happen. I was right and when Diane adjusted the base of his neck, you could hear it through the entire barn. Ashke gave a great big sigh, like he had been waiting for a very long time for that to happen.
All winter we worked on dressage stuff in the arena. He gained muscle in his back and the saddle we thought we loved no longer worked. By February, I knew we had resolved his short striding. He was beginning to use the muscles more symmetrically and carry himself in a balanced manner. We stopped riding, pretty much, because of the saddle, and those of you who have been following know the Nights of a Thousand Saddles, before I finally got to the point where I just waited for the Alta to arrive. He lost some of the muscle we had developed through the winter, but was strong and unsore when the Alta arrived.
As you may know, when we rode on Tuesday night, Ashke had blood in his frothy foam. I took that as a sign that he needed his teeth done. I decided that since I would have to go to Diane's for his teeth, I might as well have him looked at and see what we would see. One of the things he's been doing that has been bothering me is resting his left hind leg whenever he can. Always the left. Made me wonder if there was something going on.
That was how we found ourselves at Diane's about noon.
There was no work to do done.
Let me repeat that: THERE WAS NOTHING FOR DIANE TO DO!!
The frogs of his feet were symmetrical. He is still abducting a slight bit, but there is not short striding and the abduction is minimal. When she went over his body at the acupuncture points, nothing flared. She said his right hock is a little bit overworked, but that could be a by-product from him becoming more balanced in his movement. I told her that he was able to do flying lead changes while we were competing in the slalom course during the WE show. His left wither showed the same slightly elevated work load, which makes sense because it is on that diagonal (RH-LF). Then she checked his chiro. Nothing. No back pain. No sensitivity of any kind. No need for accu or chiro.
I am beyond elated. Diane was impressed and said he looked really, really great. He is a 5 on the Body Condition Chart. His heart rate during the exam (when he was bouncing and twitching) was 38 bpm. And she showed me where and how firmly I need to press to hear his heart beat. (I'm going to try with my stethoscope the next time I ride.) (Saiph - I don't think he has the artery under his chin that you showed me. For a moment, I thought he was a zombie horse, but Diane showed me otherwise. It could be that I am a hamfisted idiot.) He loves Diane, and although he was expressing his displeasure (at trailering without Cali) by head-butting me and nipping my forearms, he stopped when she asked him to be gentle with me.
I asked her if she thought he could do an endurance ride (deeply hidden secret wish of my heart) and she asked me what types of distances I am riding now and at what speed. She said she sees no reason for him not to do a LD ride this year. This means that not only have we rehabbed his emaciated self, his injured hamstring and his weak back, but I am riding in a balanced way. If I wasn't, it would show up in his body.
I am so in awe of this horse.
Tears, I'm telling you. Lots and lots of tears.
With nothing for Diane to do, she gave him a shot and let Syd do her work.
Ashke in the "waiting room"
Big, Foamy bucket of teeth tools. Ashke snorted and snorted.
I sat and watched Syd do his teeth. Granted, the boy was hyped up on some good dope, but he didn't even try to move.
He has ETR. Exaggerated transverse ridging. Which mean his teeth grind into peaks and valleys, which locks up his jaw. He also had a couple of points, and a hook. Plus a small place where he bit his cheek. Could have happened during our ride on Tuesday.
Syd described it as a washboard road (for those of you with access to unleveled dirt roads). The points and valleys fit down inside each other. Diane said it could be more of a problem than hooks, since it can really lock up the back of the horse's jaw.
Stoner boy being stoned.
Syd working on his incisors.
We had decided (meaning I asked Diane) to clean Ashke's sheath. We discussed how he is an expensive date and would take a lot of drugs. She gave him the shot and then we waited. Diane said he should have dropped by the time the tooth work was done and if he dropped while Syd was working on him, she would stop long enough for Diane to clean him. Diane offered to show me how, so I could work on getting him accustomed to it before bringing him back.
He never dropped. In fact, I had to hold his hind left leg again, for her to clean him. He struggled against me a couple of times, but I had his hoof cradled against my groin, braced by my hip. He moved me a couple of times, but was unable to free his leg. He wasn't trying to kick, he was just trying to bring his left leg up to protect himself. Diane had to go above her elbow to find him.
Swear, he has issues.
He was so much more comfortable after she got these out. The horse before us had four, one the size of a golf ball that bounced and rattled when she dropped it in the garbage can. Ashke's were much bigger than last time and more firm. He was standing square after that and even peed in the trailer on the way home. I think we found our culprit.
Now, with the endorsement of Diane, I can start lengthening our rides and increasing our speed. I don't think either of us is ready for a 50, but I really think a 25 or 30 is doable. And maybe that will be where we are happiest. (I am getting old, you know.) All I know is that I am in awe of this horse. It brings tears to my eyes to know how far he has come and what he has worked through to be right here, right now. To even be able to consider doing a 25 mile ride is beyond my dreams.
It also means that I did it the right way. I listened to my horse. I stopped when he needed me to stop. I pushed when it was time to push. I bought a saddle that is perfect for him (and I love it a lot too). I gave him lots of cross-training and lots of things to think about. I trusted that he would get there. I let the two of us grow together.
I think we may be getting pretty close to Co-Being, if we aren't there already.