Had to dispense with the +R yesterday for the simple reason that I had no carrots. Turns out horse isn’t a fan of lettuce as an alternative and I can’t blame her really. One of my friends’ ponies is a gannet, however, so it wasn’t wasted. She didn’t seem to mind though. Took everything in her stride even without a sweetener to the deal. Since I couldn’t +R effectively, we basically mosied around and I didn’t ask too many questions, just asked her to chill with me really.
Chilled on the yard whilst the others got ready for their mini-hack. Picked feet and she wasn’t keen with the right fore, but she wasn’t worried about it either. Done no problem. Pulled a bit more mane.
Had been thinking the other day about her sometimes-uneven gait in front. What is the root cause? Who knows. But I’ve been reading and trying to assess her musculature to learn more about it. The most noticeable culprit is the right-hand extensor carpi radialis. That short bulging muscle at the top front of the forearm, which you can see in the photo here.
Her right side (which is the side she sometimes seems to stride short on) is more developed than the left, which you can see at a glance in person. Upon feeling them, it’s also a bit more firm and there is a hard bump or “knot”, perhaps about a half inch in diameter, at the lower edge of the muscle. I’ve found three physio references to this muscle as contributing to unlevelness and choppiness when dysfunctional, so perhaps that’s part of it. Hmm, I should look at how her front feet grow, see what that might tell us about where the forces are traveling through the limbs.
But which came first? The muscle issue or the movement that created the muscle issue? Is it part and parcel of her overall way of going? An overdevelopment that’s come as a compensatory measure for when her opposite hind was injured, and then never went away? A kick or bump in the field that stayed “knotted” up? Who can say. A few of us are hoping to get a McTimoney lady that we know out soon, so perhaps by learning more about the state of her spine we’ll gather more information in general which will give insight into this asymmetry. I mean, plenty of people would ride her like this, especially since she looks fine on grass. Or perhaps just shoe her, thinking it’s sore feet (and maybe it is also that). But for my part, I could imagine this asymmetry becoming a lameness quite easily, so I’d rather try to address it now. Perhaps even just a bit of massage or fascia release would help.
Well, first things first, book the McTimoney lady, get her feet tidied up again, and continue doing the slow, postural work which will hopefully strengthen her core and draw the weight up out of her forelegs.
It’s working so far, after all! Nearly every day I see her, she looks a little bit more like a horse and less like a giraffe/sack-of-spuds. So proud of her. Yesterday she stood herself up quite square a lot of the time and though she’s still not a “good” shape, she’s less strung out and weak looking.
Sometimes I think it would be better if I were able to get to her every single day, and be more strict with myself about doing all the raised poles, etc, on every single visit. But partly, I don’t want to bore or sour her. Or myself! And so I figure slow progress (physically speaking) is just fine and dandy.
The emotional progress has been huge, after all! She’s settled really well now. Yesterday was another hot one and, as previously noted, those are good days to do new or potentially alarming things as she’s always too hot to care.
So. With Skye in tow I let the girls out the front gate for their hack then turned back in. Did Skye care that her friends were going without her? Nope. Not enough to say, at any rate. Then we changed into a cavesson. Horse chill with all that. Imagining she will be likewise with a bridle, so will try that soon. Then meandered up to explore the dressage field in-hand.
So pleased it went well! It’s right next to the neighbouring animal shelter, so the adjacent field has all sorts of beasties in it which some of the horses find a bit spooky. Since, thus far, Skye has snorted at every “new” thing she’s seen I assumed we’d have some of that again. But instead she had a look, and wanted to see the horses in another field, but was otherwise mostly interested in how to get to the lush grass and clover beneath her feet.
We walked in hand for 20 minutes, tracing out 20m circles, diagonal changes of rein, serpentines, and went large a few times, halting every so often. Just walking walking walking. Her neck was relaxed and horizontal, her back was moving nicely, and she seemed comfortable in front.
It was too hot for more than that (for me, not the horse!), so it was back to the yard to brave a rinse off. She did great. Attentive ears and stepped away uncertainly a couple of times, but settled to a sponging well and I think enjoyed the cool water. Got the sweat-scraper out to sponge and scrape her a few times, and that was likewise fine. Very satisfying for me too, she’s such a shiny beastie (and a glossy coat is always a good sign!) that any opportunity to groom is pleasant. She also… drumroll… stood at the post whilst I went out of sight to get the scraper. And when I returned she was exactly where I’d left her, gazing into the distance thinking about something, happy and calm and confident. What a joy, to see this horse relax into her new life.
I think her hind limb conformation is okay, though I don’t have much of an eye for such things yet. She seems to stand less close than she did at first (muscle development?) and turns her toes out a little but not loads. Not entirely square here, but it gives an idea. I remember at the SMD dissection in April, I had a thought so I shared it (“do you think most people interpret damage as poor conformation?”) and there was a resounding “yes” from the room full of physios and vets and trimmers and bodyworkers. “Oh!” I thought, that was even more decisive than I’d expected. I’m trying to imagine what Skye will have looked like as a pre-foals, pre-riding, youngster, or what she would look like now if all she’d done with her life was live out on rough hills 24/7. Can we bring her back to a healthy picture?
I have a question about ribcages. The human ribcage expands during pregnancy and sometimes it doesn’t quite ping back into place afterwards. Fitting corsetry, I would find that some women (either inherently or after childbearing) had “sprung ribs”, where the lowest floating ribs stick out a little bit.
When brood mares (or older animals out of condition) lose abdominal tone does the same effect occur? Does the look of that “dropped” belly come partly from the false ribs opening up sideways as though to make room for a foal? She did some more back lifts yesterday and was very good with it, nicely responsive and happy to put the effort in. Sometimes she’ll step sideways in a bid to avoid it, which perhaps goes to show how much effort engaging her abdominals really is at the moment.
Anyway, she was a star yesterday, very gentle and chilled and confident in her surroundings. Gentleness, along with kindness and curiosity, is one of my absolute favourite characteristics. They’re my favourites because they’re moral, compassionate, and within the reach of all of us. Gentleness is a type of care-giving, I suppose. I always say I value it in men, in particular, since it isn’t the trait they’re most encouraged to express. But the company of gentle animals, ah it’s a lovely thing.