...or something like that.
In my last post I said that Lance had checked out good to go. I didn't mention that I'd also asked Rick to ultrasound Lance's neck, and he thought it was a good idea. Unfortunately, between Rick being out of practice, me not wanting him to shave Lance's neck before a show, and the horse's challenging cervical anatomy, Rick was not able to successfully image anything.
Why ultrasound Lance's neck? Recently a blogpal posted about her mare's off-and-on lameness. You can read her post here, along with my comments. After that dialogue, I couldn't help but think of Lance, who had a suspensory injury before I got him, and then another one in a different leg recently. Could he have a neck or back problem?
Recently I've also noticed a subtle change in Lance's back profile. It's not tender to grooming or palpation, so I wasn't sure it was significant, but still....
Two other horse blogs I follow talk a lot about listening to your horse, and I've been trying to be more attentive. With that in mind, along with the back anomaly and my own comments on Mary's blog, I went down to ride Lance yesterday evening. I went to put the saddle on, and like he always does, Lance pinned his ears and moved around, and acted like he wanted to bite me when I started girthing him up.
Now, Lance has been cranky about saddling ever since I first met him; I just thought it was a bad habit he'd gotten into with his previous owner who was known to be intimidated by him. But last night it was like my ears were unstopped and I could finally hear Lance saying loud and clear, "PLEASE don't put that saddle on me; it HURTS!" I was dismayed. How could I have been so dense?
It did seem strange that Lance only expresses discomfort at saddling. He has always stood calmly for mounting, not dropping his back or moving away, and is never cranky under saddle. I decided to go for a short ride while trying to keep keep my ears open. What would he tell me?
Well, he stumbled – hard – with a back foot two or three times while we were warming up at the walk. That has happened before; not all the time, but here and there, and it's made me wonder. There wasn't anything else of note, until we cantered briefly in both directions. He wasn't comfortable going right, even though it hadn't been an issue the ride before.
I put him away, assuring him that I had heard him and would do whatever I could to make him comfortable.
Today I rode again. I debated whether to ride bareback, or try one of my other saddles (the old Wintec, or the Black Country Eloquence I haven't sold yet). I decided on the Wintec, since riding bareback in proper position concentrates a rider's position on the two ischium bones (read: uncomfortable for the horse!) and the Black Country caused problems before. When I carried the Wintec into his stall he pinned his ears, but I let him nose it before I put it on, and his reaction lessened. When I went to girth him up, he stood quietly instead of swinging his head around. He didn't trip once, and his right-lead canter wasn't difficult. That seemed pretty clear to me!
In the interest of keeping my boy sound long-term, though, I made the decision to pull him from the Mother's Day show. If his back has been uncomfortable for awhile, it's not going to be instantly okay and he's not going to stop "guarding" immediately. If he's guarding, he could strain something again. Nope; not going there. We'll take things slowly, and enjoy the journey.