I wrote this post, walked away, and wanted to delete it. However, I want my blog to be honest and real, not some Mary Sue version of my journey. This one in particular is barely coherent in some places and wildly mellow dramatic in most places. But hey, honesty means hitting publish. Thanks for following along ♥
And just like that it’s March. How do I feel about March one week in?
My last post about Nibbles was that she was sound and we were waiting on the vet to come out and check her and chiro her. That check happened on Monday, February 29. The vet declared Nibbles sound on trot out without further flexing or examination. But.
The chiro exam was not a little of this, a little of that – badabing – she’s ready to go. He checked her poll and neck, both apparently in excellent shape. The massage therapist who worked on Nibbles back in September said she thought she was out at her C5 but I didn’t mention this until afterwards and he said she wasn’t (he neck flexibility was too good for her to be out). When he got to her withers, things fell apart. Ok, that’s dramatic. Things didn’t fall apart but it wasn’t a good report. I need to get a written report from the vet still because he had his assistant make notes of the exact vertebrae but the gist was:
- She was very sore at her withers
- She was sore around and before the T18
- She was very out in her right SI
Starting with the last one and, in my opinion, the least frightening. Lots of horses are out in the SI but his comments was she’s really out. He made some adjustments and you could see the visible relief on her face, she immediately reacted positively. He thought she could have done that in the slip/fall in the mud incident but of course there’s no way to say for sure. I’ve worked with several chiros over the years; this vet is the first for me in this area since we’ve moved. I had a hunch she was out because I knew she was sore (some simple tests for that).
But her withers and her back. Anyone else hear withers and around T18 and immediately go, “Oh God, the saddle….”?
I knew the saddle was never a perfect fit for her. I’ve been trying to get it looked at for over a year now and I’ve had three saddle fitters tell me they won’t reflock it. One told me she wasn’t sure how because it didn’t have the “loop” in the stitching to get into the panels. Another told Elise that she thought it was not wool flocked at all but foam (again, didn’t open it up). The one saddle fitter I was present for that actually looked at the saddle on her was last April and she thought the fit wasn’t bad but it could use a reflock (this is the one with the loop thing).
My saddle is nice. It’s ~$3,000 new. I’m the saddle’s second owner although it’s older (I don’t know the exact year). It’s a monoflap without huge gussets which I love. I originally bought it for a horse I’ve since sold so Nibbles inherited it. I’ve tried contacting the company who makes it with no luck (it’s smallish).
The vet didn’t take a look at the saddle on her but he made notes to put me in touch with a fitter he knows of (that apparently travels to northern IN from Maryland? $$$$). He did some acupuncture around the T18 as I think that’s where she was the most sore. He also wanted to see Nibbles again two weeks later to check and adjust her again. She was really, really sore. Two weeks later will be today, March 8.
Not gonna lie, I am feeling guilty. But I’m sort of moving past that to frustration. Nibbles got almost two weeks off because of her injury and waiting for the vet to see her. Then he sees her and says she’s one of the most sore horses he’s seen in a long time. How did I miss that? She’s not a super stoic horse; I’ve written before about how sensitive she is.
He told me to ride her, though. He said to keep it light and easy but to definitely put her back in work and see how she did.
So naturally the next morning I woke up feeling like a Mack truck hit me. Flu. I made it through a day and a half of work and had to wave the white flag for the rest of the week. Which meant Nibbles did not immediately get back to work. In fact, I’ve been so sick, she didn’t get to do anything until this past Saturday.
In the meantime, I contacted the closest saddle fitter I could find. They’re out near Chicago and don’t come this far but offered to help me via email as much as possible. So I drug my husband to the barn and had him help me take photos and measurements.
The assessment from the fitter via photos: the saddle doesn’t fit. It too narrow and too long for her back.
Cue despair. As a little girl, getting a new saddle sounds like the most exciting wonderful thing in the world. But we know better, don’t we adult ammys? Here, take all my money. I don’t need it anyway. Especially right now with what’s going on in my personal life, I really can’t afford a big purchase.
I’m waiting to hear back about her tracings to see roughly what size saddle we should be looking at. I know it’s much more than tree size, though, which means I have got to find someone who will come to the middle of no where to help me and look at us in person.
I have a second saddle but it’s 15 years old and tiny (it was my saddle when I was 12). It’s a wide, though, so I decided to try it on her just to see. The width was an improvement (my dressage saddle is a medium) but it bridged a bit in the middle. So I did what I thought was a good idea and tried riding her in both saddles to see how she reacted.
On Saturday, I kept the dressage saddle on her for her first time back under tack in two weeks. I lunged her for 25 minutes and she was great. I did keep having to move the saddle back because it almost immediately climbed up her shoulders (3 times in half an hour). I wasn’t planning to ride her the first day back but I couldn’t resist hoping on to at least walk around. And she was super – we walked around on the buckle for 10 minutes happily. I was thrilled! My pony didn’t lose her brain in two weeks.
Then Sunday came. It was sunny and warm (about 55* which is incredible) and I was in a fabulous mood.
Do you see where this is going? Sigh. I tried the close contact saddle. When I went to put it on, she flipped her lid and crushed my foot (before the saddle even made it to her back). That hasn’t happened to me since I was a kid – I was so shocked I dropped the saddle. Maybe I should have seen this as a sign. On the lunge, the saddle didn’t move forward or backward – it stayed where I placed it. But Nibbles was distracted – like anything but extreme looky and counterbend was not, in fact, a thing. She even kept looking in the side reins which is normally when she gets into work mode. I commented to my sister who is visiting and was watching that maybe she had to pee. Argh! I opted to take a step back and do some ground work. This seemed to really help. I popped her over a small crossrail someone had left up and she walked over it nicely like she does this all the time. We worked on yielding the quarters and even had some nice sidepasses. It seemed like the gerbils were coming home. So I decided to hop on and see.
I saw… her poll repeatedly try to smack me in the face. Man, I have a flair for the dramatic today. But it wasn’t pretty. As soon as I sat down, all that quietness left and she was a coiled spring. I sent her forward and got a “no, thanks.” I asked again, “nah, I don’t want to.” Finally, after I asked much more firmly, she moved off into the tiniest most tense trot. Sometimes when she’s tense, it helps her to just move out and start more in the canter. So we tried that….lol.
The canter wasn’t better.
I never felt in danger. She wasn’t being BAD – she was just utterly and completely tight and refused to let go. I rode around for 10 or 15 minutes and when we had a couple of nice transitions I hopped off. I talked to her the entire time, calmly telling her what a good girl she was, hoping I could coax her off the ledge.
Does this sound like a horse in pain to you? Because it absolutely does to me. I’m extremely frustrated because I just got my horse back and it’s like I have the opposite of the Midas touch – every horse I touch magically falls apart. I know that’s not true but I’m having a hard time.
I’m sending the massage therapist who worked on her before video of her on the lunge. After watching it again myself, she is definitely NQR. I’m working on getting that up for you guys to see too. Maybe one of you with a better eye can give me ideas.
Bloggers, coax me off the ledge. My dramatic self dramatically thinks things will never be good again and my horse is crippled for life and I’ll never be able to buy another saddle and and and….