Monday, November 1, 2010

Hock Fail on Halloween

With a glorious October nearly gone, Halloween was appropriately weird in Sofaland. Over Friday and Saturday, I had finally (FINALLY) finalized plans to haul Sofie an epic twenty minutes or so to the UP Equestrian Center, where we would finally (FINALLY) make our mark in The Land Of Dressage Queens and get to have our lesson with Jesse Collins. Sofie's ride was set, along with a competent person who could load, haul and unload her. Our lesson was scheduled, and FREE, as I won a gift certificate for a free Jesse lesson at a dressage clinic I attended midmonth. I was going to ride on Sunday and Tuesday, and clean my tack and boots on Tuesday as well, and Wednesday at 3 was our lesson. I figured the time was right, since Sofie had been holding up to longer workouts, more cantering, and more pressure. I was all kinds of nervous (I have PTSD when it comes to hauling horses after my first horse, an evil wicked Appy filly scalped herself in the trailer while we were in the process of bringing her home), but I was also looking forward to it.

Sofie had two days off after Thursday. I started free schooling her on Halloween, and she was stiff but working out of it. Midway through our free schooling session, the neighbors started target practicing. Sofie doesn't normally mind gunfire, but whatever gun they were using sounded kind of "off". Instead of just your standard BLAM sound, it made a weird skittery whip-cracking type noise. We all know Sofa is a very sensitive soul, and prone to overreacting to random noises that sound like cues (i.e. chirping birds, and now guns, apparently). So her reaction was to get all high-headed and trot all fancy like, with lots of hock action, as she tried to figure out WTF she was supposed to be doing.

Eventually I took her to the aisle, where she stood with her head as far in the sky as it could go (I haven't seen her like that in a long time. It used to be a routine head position for her, though). "This is a preview," I said jokingly. "She's trying to convince me not to take her to the Land Of Dressage Queens." Her neck has definitely reshaped, though...her underneck muscles are paltry now compared to what she used to have going on. She stood for a while, super tense, but not moving her feet. But the random gunfire/whip cracking noises did get to her, and she took off down the aisle (at a walk) not once but TWICE. So I led her up and down the aisle, and then finally took her back into the arena. I kept her on the lead because I wanted to see if she would listen to me, and I figured WTH, I might as well take advantage of this spazzy opportunity and practice for Wednesday.

She did trot past me a couple times, but for the most part she was pretty good and she listened to me. She actually licked and chewed one time after I stopped her and backed her up to refocus her. I was quite happy with how we were able to deal with her royal spazziness, and I took it as a good sign for our trip to the Land Of Dressage Queens.

We got her tacked up, and I mounted up in the indoor, figuring I could go outside later if she settled down. It was raining on and off, anyway. My mom left for Judy's house, and I walked Sofie around on a long rein, working on what we always work on (Not Falling In). She wasn't listening terribly well to my leg, and I didn't have my whip, so I devised a system of taking my leg off and lightly slapping her side, so my boot made a bit of a noise. It seemed to help her listen, and she started to move off of lighter aids. She walked around for a while before getting nervous enough to trot off. I started moving her out at the trot after that, and she did fairly well tracking right, moving forward in an inverted way. Tracking left, she felt really "off". There was a definite hitch in her gait, but I kept working her because I thought she would work out of it.

After a while, she started feeling more "off", and she seemed to be head-bobbing at the trot. I had to trot her a few more times before I could be sure of what I was seeing and feeling. Yup, I saw her head moving, and I felt it in my hands. I got off and jogged her in hand, and she still head-bobbed, which was just REALLY freaking great, considering this horse doesn't go lame. She gets short-strided and reluctant and MAD, but she hardly ever goes lame, and she had never been this bad. She had head-bobbed VERY subtly a few times before, but never to the degree that I could see or feel.

So, freaking out, I led her up to Judy's house and called Mom out. She checked Sofie's legs and feet, nothing incriminating. She watched her jog, and said it looked like a right front issue. She had told me that Sofie looked a tiny bit off during my ride on Thursday, so we checked her legs again, not finding anything. She asked me to ride her so she could see her under weight, and I rode her around at a walk outside. She looked fine, and the consensus was that it was an arthritic Something, not a catastrophic tendon injury Something, so I kept riding, just at a walk, although Sofie interjected a few trots (she was all WTF is your problem? We're outside! Outside we go fast!). Her outside trots were okay, but they were also less forward than what she'd been doing in the indoor. After I got done riding, I moved her around the arena a bit more, and saw that her left hind (the leg she's been having trouble with since July) looked quite stiff. I was sure that was the cause of her lameness. It all made sense, considering that had been her "bad" leg for quite some time, and she'd felt worse tracking left at the trot. And if she had an issue with her right front (a sore shoulder or some other "overuse" ache or pain), it was probably a result of overcompensating for the left hind on the trot diagonal.

So we put her on bute and doubled her SmartCalm (preparation for the trip that was most likely Not Happening) and decided to check on her the next day.

So today we went back to the barn, and I immediately started moving her around in the outdoor. She looked stiff, but not horrible (she's looked much worse on occasion). Her tail was swishing quite a bit, though. It was not a happy tail, and her expression was not great. It took her a while to warm up, but eventually she started to look better and she cantered a few times (once on her right lead. It was a lovely canter, but she kept her left hind as straight as possible and I could almost see it zinging at every stride, like Ouch, ouch, ouch, OUCH).

She was tight through her left thigh muscle, and there was a bit of heat in her left hock. So, I was right with my diagnosis. Hocks, as usual. I'm glad for that, since it could be much worse.

In the end, I knew there was no way we were going to the Land Of Dressage Queens in two days. I could have shot her up with tons of bute and once she got there, she would have been sufficiently revved to do whatever I asked, but I can't sacrifice a month of riding just for an hour lesson, and I won't sacrifice my horse's comfort. I won't put her on a trailer to stiffen and tense up, then take her to a new barn and ride her in a lesson that will undoubtedly stretch on for more than an hour, and push her to engage and do more and better (I know dressage people, and they have a hard time stopping). I know this horse, and if I take her to a new place she will undoubtedly be full of adrenaline, and she will overdo it and she won't feel it until it's too late. She's not in terrible shape, and if I work within her limits, I should be able to keep riding, at least until the nice weather goes away. There's no telling what will happen. She may go back into flare-up mode. But I can't knowingly overwork her when I know she isn't 100 percent.

It's disappointing, but I have to do what's right for Sofie. This may be for the best, anyway. We may be able to practice trailer loading now, so I can actually be more comfortable with it. If we don't get snow in November (like last year) and Sofie gets through this flare-up, we might be able to go later in the month. Or I might be able to hire someone to haul her in the dead of winter when we're bored out of our minds anyway. I have to believe that we'll have opportunities.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you will get there but good for not taking her. I know so many people who ignore lamenesses and it may not show up right away but when their horses are retired at 16 because they are never going to be sound again it shows.