Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A question about Chrome's back (more riding pictures/video)

Okay, first off, these pictures are horrible!  They are dark and blurry because it was getting late and my posture is horrible (look up and quit slouching grr!).  What I noticed when I looked at them (and the reason I'm sharing them) is that Chrome has his back dropped really bad under me . . .  check out the pictures.  You can click them to enlarge them.

 
 

He was looking around, so I turned his head a little to keep him on the road, but otherwise I wasn't doing anything.  Just riding on a relaxed rein headed for home.  Now check out this video to see him actually walking.



Notice how he doesn't even step into the same spot as his front hooves (I should have posted this in slow motion).  He isn't limping, but he has shortened his stride.  When I'm not on him he walks down the road with his hind feet tracking in front of his front feet by several inches (I've looked at his hoof prints in the mud to be sure).  Of course when I'm not on him his head is usually lower, he was really looking around at everything when I rode him (see previous post for the video of him spooking).  So is that a normal amount for a four and a half year old, barely ridden (this is only his 37th ride in a year and a half) horse to drop his back?  Is it a lack of back and ab muscling?  Or do I weigh too much for him?  He is 15.2hh and I'm 5'11" . . . and I'm going to do it . . . I'm going to share my weight . . . I weigh 170lbs.  Is that too much weight for him?  I can try to lose weight (I miss being 150), but I doubt I will be able to because any fat I lose will probably be replaced by heavier muscle so the number probably won't change.

Or the other things that came to mind are a sore back or maybe it has something to do with his weak, locking (they haven't been locking lately) stifles.  Yesterday morning (I rode on the 18th, but didn't notice the dropped back until I looked at the pictures the next day) I ran my fingers down both sides of his spine.  His ears were forward until I got to his loin and they flicked back, even when I did it a couple of times, but I couldn't tell if it was a pain reaction or an irritated "would you quit doing that" reaction, so instead of running my fingers the whole length of his back I did it just over his loins and didn't get a reaction at all.  Weird.  So I have no idea if he's sore or not.  I really wish I could find a chiropractor just to check him out but we have a shortage of qualified people around here.  I can't find a single dentist or vet that does dentals on draft horses... what the heck.  Sorry that's a whole different story.  I thought about asking the vet, but I'm not sure a vet would know/care about possible back pain in a young horse like a chiro or body worker would.  Vets around here are kind of oblivious if it's not something bleeding and/or obvious limping or something.

My gut feels like it's just because he has no strength in his back, abs, loins, haunches or stifles.  His haunches have gotten so weak and scrawny since he moved off of the hilly thirty acres where he used to be.  The way he plays in the pasture and with the donkey makes it hard to believe he could be in pain.  You should see some of the stuff he does with Zep when they play.  So if that is a normal amount for a young, lacking in muscles/fitness horse to be dropping his back under that much weight, what should I do?  Work him without riding?  Or just keep riding him to build his strength?  Should I do cavaletti?  Walk him up and down the slope of my pond banks and the dirt pile?  Make him back up slowly and correctly a lot?  I know he needs to do all of those things just for his stifle strength, but what I'm asking is should I do that before I ride him again or should I keep riding him while doing all of that or should I do all of that stuff while I'm mounted?  If you think I should build his strength before riding him how long should I work on it before I get back on him?  Anyway thanks for any advice you guys can provide!

ETA:  Also I almost forgot to mention that the next day after the ride (approx. 18 hours later) Chrome was galloping around, bucking, chasing the donkey, rearing up (at Zep), doing his big fancy trot, etc.  How I wish I had had my camera with me because they were really playing hard.  They were biting faces, neck, legs.  When Zep would bite Chrome's front legs he would sit back on his haunches and pull his front legs up out of the way (almost like a levade) so he couldn't reach them.  I mean seriously, I just don't feel like he's in pain lol.  This all took place a couple of hours after I ran my fingers down his spine looking for any soreness.  Also when I led him to the pond he was back to walking with a several inch overtrack (the back of his rear hoof print a couple of inches ahead of the front of his fore hoof print, big overtrack!), so he only shortens his stride when I'm on him.  If I'm not mistaken it takes the stifle muscles to reach under with his rear legs when being ridden right?  So maybe the lack of overstep is due to his weak stifles while carrying weight?  Anyway sorry for rambling.  :)

19 comments:

  1. I don't know for certain how to answer, but I can say that as far as your weight/his weight as long as you're <20% of his weight things should be fine.

    On Facebook after my 50 on Q several of us got into a mini discussion on a photo I posted of her about our weights vs. our horse's weights w/ w/o tack. It was really interesting. Feel free to friend me on there and I can help guide you to the photo so you can read the comments.

    A lot of endurance folk ride itty bitty horses for many miles. These people are fit, but their weight + tack does tend to be a little more than what some would deem "ideal" for a horse to carry. Vet checks are stringent though, and if the horses were suffering it would obviously be discovered! So my thinking is more along the lines of Chrome just being in poor shape for carrying a rider as those muscles develop a little differently.

    I look forward to reading what others think; this is an interesting quandary.

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  2. It could just be his back muscles - caveletti would help a bit.

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  3. Could it just be because you are bareback and sitting on his spine and maybe he thinks it feels funny? Have you checked how he moves with a saddle?

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  4. Liz, I added you on FB. I would definitely like to read the discussion on that photo. :)

    Judi, I've ridden him more bareback than I ever have in a saddle, but that is a great idea. I'll check how he is with the saddle and see if distributing the weight more evenly stops him from dropping it so much. Thanks!

    Sam, my gut is telling me it's a muscle issue. He never had issues with his stifles until we moved here either, so I think it's just a lack of fitness since he went from a hilly thirty acre pasture to a completely flat five acre pasture. I just need to get more strict about his exercise. :)

    Thanks guys!

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  5. Yeah, especially given his age. Isn't he three or four? I wouldn't get too worked up about it. He has to build those muscles, and the best way to do that is by riding. ;-) I mean, you can lunge over cavaletti and hand walk him up hills, but the wear and tear of lunging is such that you're probably better off riding.

    Don't kill him, obviously, but a more consistent schedule with some solid work and he'll learn to carry himself. Even once or twice a week is enough to get you started.

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  6. You're right SB. He's four and a half and I've babied him long enough. It's time to start treating him like a grown horse I think. :)

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  7. Agree with previous posters. I also noticed Simon's back dipped a bit when I was sitting bareback, but I don't notice it with a saddle. It may feel funny or may accentuate the rider.

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  8. I think it's a combo of things but likely nothing to be concerned about. Fitness could likely be one factor, and the second could simply be riding bareback. I've seen a lot of horses hollow their backs when ridden bareback.

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  9. Great. Thanks guys! As soon as my husband is available for pics/video I will throw a saddle on him and see if it makes a difference. You guys are awesome! Thanks again!

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  10. I agree with the thought that a big part of it may just be you on bareback, I've felt horses do that plenty of times bareback, but ride fine in a saddle. other than that, prob just needs some hill/ saddle time. Unless you flop around, your weight should be a non-issue, you are by no means heavy for his size/ frame.

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  11. Thank you Kitty Kat. You guys are making me feel so much better. I will stick with the saddle until he strengthens his back. You know how dressage trainers say not to do the sitting trot on a young horses... maybe bareback is the same way lol. It just teaches them to tense their backs I guess.

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  12. I agree with others- he's dropping his back because he hasn't learned how to carry you. I would urge you to get a good saddle (by good I mean fit) and work him to teach him to carry you.

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  13. Sorry for the late response, I am going to mimic other's postings. I think the difference is in riding bareback. In a saddle the weight is distributed over a larger area where when riding bareback it is concentrated just where you are sitting. It is also a muscle issue and you are only going to fix that with work, letting him sit and grow more isn't going to fix the problem. Lots of belly stretches (http://hoovesblog.com just had a great post on stretches), cavalettie and hills will do help but doesn't replace good ol riding. Good luck and don't worry about it so much!

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  14. Don't worry about it so much is probably the best advice anyone can give me. I worry too much about everything. :) I will try to stop lol. Thanks guys!

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  15. I agree with the general consensus. Even in tack, most green horses shorted their stride somewhat from a combo of muscling/strength and balance. Your total rides are still low enough that I'm sure it feels weird to have a human on him (I'm thinking about how I walk when I put on a fully loaded hiking backpack). He'll get used to it, and conditioning will help, but remember that even the best dressage riders spend YEARS trying to get their horses to move as freely under saddle as they do on their own...

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  16. also - I'm 5'11" and pretty sure you are NOT too big for him in any meaningful way. :)

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  17. Gingham I had no idea you are 5'11" too! Cool. :D You make a very good point also about how few rides he's actually had. Thank you!

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  18. I'm late to the discussion. :) But I agree with the other posters. I feel like the dropped back is something you notice more in general when riding bareback; I've noticed it in photos of myself riding previous horses bareback and in other people riding their horses bareback. You just don't have the saddle to distribute your weight evenly over a larger area of his back. Imagine walking on all fours with a 20 lb dumbbell right behind your shoulder blades. You're going to want to drop your back from the discomfort. Then imagine yourself on all fours with a 20 lb hiking backpack. You see where I'm going. It's the same thing with them. :)As he gets stronger, this won't be as noticeable. But I'd alternate riding with a saddle so your weight is better distributed over his back, especially since he's still developing his muscles.

    The lack of tracking up is probably a separate issue. I'd start by asking him to move up more & lengthen his stride when you're riding and see if that helps. This should definitely get much better as his fitness and range of motion with a rider on his back improves. The weak stifles could certainly be contributing to the lack of tracking up. Like others said, I'd integrate cavalletti and gridwork with ground poles at the trot (both while riding and on the longe) to really get him working that hind end. You can play with the spacing of the ground poles to make him lengthen his stride more. The Equine Fitness book (http://www.amazon.com/Equine-Fitness-Program-Exercises-Routines/dp/1603424636) has some GREAT exercises for building up stifles!

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  19. Thanks Saiph! That's a great analogy with the dumbbell and backpack. :) I actually have the equine fitness book and I've been doing the stepping over exercise in hand, but it's been a while since I've looked through it so I probably should again. :) Thanks for the reminder... now to find it. It feels like I've lost track of everything in the move.

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