Stacey: Timing Is Everything - Expert how-to for English Riders

Stacey: Timing Is Everything

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I often read comments in online forums that make it sound like the editors at Practical Horseman are oracles when it comes to the stories we publish. For example, a reader discovers her leg is sliding back over fences and, BAM!, we just happen to have an exercise on how to fix it in the next issue. Darn, we're good! The truth? We don't have special powers?nor do we have cameras set up in your arenas, barn aisles and tack rooms. Strangely, the Prac editors experience the same phenomenon. For example, an article on joint health that's coming out in the September 2011 issue is really timely for my own situation. Until a few weeks ago, my 8-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred, Wowie, had been going pretty well. We'd moved up to the 2-foot-9 divisions at shows, and we were schooling 3-foot-plus at home. He was hacking better than ever and even taking blues in flat classes. Part of our success, I felt, was I'd started having a vet who specializes in chiropractic and acupuncture work on him. This after my trainer had commented that Wowie's left hind wasn't coming under as well as his right and suggested I have him checked out. The chiropractic sessions were going well: Ruth worked on a few areas, particularly his lumbar area, which was tight, sore and spasm-y. And she noted that his acupuncture points for his left stifle and right hock showed some soreness, but that didn't necessarily mean anything. He was enjoying the treatments: After an adjustment, he'd get a soft look in his eye, sigh heavily and nearly fall asleep. When I'd get on him the day after his sessions, he'd feel kind of stiff at first, but then he'd loosen up, get this wonderful stride and feel AMAZING for a couple weeks. So it was disheartening when, after his last adjustment, I noticed something wasn't right. It started out subtly: He "lost" his lead changes to the right. Then he started tripping over his left hind at the trot and would swap behind in the canter on a straightaway. Over the course of several weeks, he was having progressively more difficulty walking down hills and even refused to go to his favorite swimming hole because it's at the bottom of a fairly steep slope. Something sounded familiar here. I pulled out the story we just did and flipped to the section on signs. "Mild problems often creep up gradually, and early signs can be subtle: Your horse may have mild, on-again off-again lameness, with or without noticeable heat or swelling; he may start out stiff but seems to ?work out of it' as he warms up; he may resist certain maneuvers, such as turning or going downhill; signs may improve with rest but return when he's back and regular work; and over time your horse's stiffness and soreness increase." Hmmm? that's a lot of checkmarks. Methinks we may have some joint soreness. Ruth came out last night and watched me ride to see if she could spot what I was describing. She noted that Wowie is moving very stiffly behind and that, instead of flexing his hocks, he's compensating by moving at the hips only. Funny, that's exactly what it feels like! She suggested holding off on any chiropractic or acupuncture work until Wowie's regular vet does a lameness workup on him next week, but she seemed to think injecting his hocks was going to be the direction we needed to go. Until reading the joint health article, I'd been wary of joint injections. I've seen too many trainers inject horses every time they didn't perform perfectly in a competition, rather than questioning their own training or riding techniques. But in the back of my mind, I knew that it was probably going to be a reality at some point for my ex-racehorse. We'll see what my vet says next week. I'll keep you posted. Oh, and don't bother asking: We do not predict winning lottery numbers. If that were the case, we'd be out riding our horses instead of sitting in an office!

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