Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ouch, Pop, Ahhhhh!

In recent posts we have discussed the different effects a saddle can have on a horses back. I have mentioned my mares withers getting rubbed raw in one spot from the saddle pad, but there are a few other things that come into play when considering your horses back.

For everything to be right in your horses world, optimally there should be no pain involved. If there is any level of pain, the horse will compensate and it will show. If their hooves are not trimmed or shod in a way that provides a balanced way of standing or traveling, it could affect a lot of things. That is another discussion in and of itself, that will be later addressed on it's own.

When a horse feels pain though, what happens then? The muscles will tend to contract in that area and tighten. There may be some inflammation, tension, resistance to move, flex or give in that direction, the 'symptoms' may be slightly noticeable or blatantly obvious. Muscles that have contracted can inadvertently 'hold' things out of place. Horses, like us humans, can benefit from chiropractic care and having an adjustment and things realigned.

In looking for pictures I came across this one from Bits & Bytes Farm, which shows Dr. Lance Cleveland doing crossing over exercises with a horse. In reading further, on this page of the B&B website, I feel there are a lot of good things to say!

If you scroll down to just above the picture I featured here, there is a link to a pdf file that you can print, that lists and explains a few stretches you can do with your horse, to help keep them limber, flexible, supple and their muscles relaxed. They also help strengthen the muscles and 'hold' the adjustment, essentially keeping things in place. One that I missed seeing on there was where you lift the front leg and bring it forward, allowing the horse to reach out and down, maybe leaning forward into it or back a bit and stretching along their top line.

This photo is from an article on Natural Matters.net in the UK, from Pat Ki Therapy where equine massage is another way of helping out the horse. Massage feels good because it helps to relax the muscles in the area, improve circulation and can often allow the horse to move more freely. Sometimes they move in a way that they may 'adjust' and realign themselves. This can happen while rolling, bucking and also sometimes while being massaged and stretching.

Weakened muscles can let things 'slip' out of place. The muscles contract from the pain and hold them there. Stretching and massage helps to relax those muscles and allow things to 'pop' back into place where they belong. Strengthening work helps the muscles keep things there. It all works in a lot of the same ways on us too. I feel better when things are where they belong, everything is stretched and relaxed, tension released... and I have yet to see a comfortable horse complain.


  1. FIRST! Okay, couldn't resist. :)

    Thanks for the PDFs, CNJ. I have wanted to have some general basic stretching exercises I can give to my horse, but everything I've always run across has always been really yoga-y to the point of annoying. Don't get me wrong--I like yoga, just not when I want a 10-minute stretch before taking my horse for a ride!


    "Everyone I know has a big but! Come on, Simone, let's talk about your big but."

    10 points if you know where that line is from. Yeah, 10 points of weirdness.

    To the point: I read in your last post about the sweat patterns when seeing where your horse sweats. I think that needes to be clarified a bit. First, my vet told me that we can't rely on that method because every horse sweats differently. I used to have a mare who would sweat buckets no matter how long the ride was--it was just the type of horse she is. Then I know other horses who hardly sweat at all (my husband's horse). Then you could be out riding one day when it's hot and cold when it's next, so your horse sweats differently each day. Plus, a saddle could actually be cutting off the sweat glands themselves, keeping a horse from sweating in certain areas. It's not a good, consistent method to go by.

    Second, some saddles are designed to encourage airflow along the back. CIP, my Wintec dressage saddle. I have hardly any sweat along the spine of most horses when I ride in that saddle because the saddle is supported by sitting on either side of the horse's back, not right along it's spine. Now, of course, that can cause pressure in other areas, which is why my saddle is a Wintec that has the CAIR system and a changable gullet. I specifically wanted the CAIR system to avoid problems in other areas. And because I wanted an easy-to-clean saddle that fits just about any horse that I can trail ride and do arena work in. :)

    Then there's your saddle pad. I read an article about it in Trail Rider magazine recently, and studies have been done on this. The results have consistently been that wool is by far the best choice for your hosre. It wicks away the moisture and keeps your horse's blood circulating well because it doesn't pinch the skin and moves with the horse. I have found that Tacky Too pads will pinch my horse's skin and that cotton dressage pads just get too soggy. (And if anyone has a suggestion for a wool dressage pad that I can use on trails, I'm all ears! Right now I use an EOUS pad that has a moisture-wicking layer kinda like a maxi pad and it's working well, but not for long trail rides).

    Anyway, after all of this, what I recommend is to find someone in your area who knows how to fit saddles. It might be a vet or a tack store owner or someone like that who has been trained in how to do it. If you can't, then go to a saddle maker's website and ask them for their opinion. For example, I get a lot of saddles from Crest Ridge Saddlery, and they have taught me how to fit saddles to horses because I send them lots of customers and can help them with saddle fitting for horses here in AZ.

    Anyway, that's my 2 cents, or perhaps it's more like 2 dollars. Carry on, everyone.

  2. Wool saddle pads.... CNJ, I smell a new product line!

    I LOVE wool for myself, actually. It's toasty warm, yet breathes, unlike microfleece. I'll take a good old fashioned fisherman's sweater any day over a modern sweatshirt.

    Totally OT, but I remember a thing on Discovery channel (I think) where they took a dude in authentic Viking seafaring garb (Wool, fur, fleece, linen, etc.) and a dude in modern technical fabrics (Thinsulate, Polartec, etc.) and exposed them to North Atlantic conditions.

    The Viking dude lost less body heat and didn't sweat as much, either.

    Anyway... saddle fit is SO important!! I think that the CAIR system is a major innovation, and hope that it works as advertised. It must, since it's in so many saddles these days...

  3. Katphoti: PeeWee's Big Adventure!
    This is an interesting topic b/c the last time I was at the stable, JB was teaching that stretch to one of her students. However the student was getting a tad to "excited" and over stretching the forearm. Not to be a neigh-sayer..Just remember..you shouldn't be YANKING the leg up, a gentle stretch til you feel the resistance. I love these stretches but have seen them used incorrectly. Haven't looked at pdf's b/c my effing security settings are messed up. Love the pictures. For us old folks. Equistretch is awesome for the human body

  4. Kat- I invited the folks from B&B on over to post, as I think they are another great example of doing what is best for the horses, and doing it how it should be!

    My Crosby c/c and my Tony Slater both leave 'sweat marks' that yes, depending on the weather and our work that day, are either the size and shape of the saddle or the entire pad, depending too on which one I use. Neither one leaving sweat along the spine. I tuck my pad up into the channel along the spine to help keep the airflow from being blocked or inhibited.

    I too have a couple of EOUS pads, a/p and a dressage pad. Funny though, I am still using the three I got from Schneidders for about $15 each, 4 years ago at the Arab show. Another one I have been using is a home made one. A prototype as it is.

    As far as the wool pads go- they get my vote! I figure it is worth a discussion all of it's own and of course links!!!

    I totally agree about horses sweating differently. Some don't heardly sweat if at all. I had a friend with a mule like that and another with 2 foals out of mares who also did not sweat. It is a medical condition called Anhydrosis.

    We have just about every color horse out here and the darker colored horses seem to sweat more easily and often profusely, yet they sometimes prefer to stand in the full sun by choice. Just like our huskies lying in it- middle of the day, middle of summer, with all that long hair.

    I gotta agree with you too on the pdf and stretches. I'm not looking to do a full hour's worth (or more) before I even get on the horse! A day off and an hour of stretching to keep things as they should be? Not a problem.

    The one with the front leg, I like to do this just before mounting if possible. The horse is tacked and has been lunged, I checked my girth and snug it up if needed, then stretch the leg forward to be sure nothing is being pinched underneath. My mare had sore spots from a girth once. For her sake, I wish not to repeat that.

    I will try to find one for stretches for the horse once you are mounted. When I do I can shoot them too you via email, post them here or both. I guess I'll have to enlist someone to come take pics and I'll post about some of the ones we do...

  5. katphoti - try a dixie midnight if you're having sweat problems on long trail rides.

    also, chrIst of germany makes full sheepskin pads. http://horsedreamimporters.com/saddlepads.php

    and yeah, chiropractic can make a huuuuuuge difference. first hand personal experience there. definitely worth the money.

  6. DING DING DING! Crazy3dayer gets 10 points of weirdness! Did you hear he's bringing the Pee-Wee Herman Show back to the stage? I so hope it comes to AZ so I can go see it! Although I'll probably be going by myself... No one else I know appreciates his humor like I do.

    I realized I'd heard that before, CP, about the wool and fur and stuff. And I remembered that it was because my parents are Cowboy Action Shooters and my dad's alias is a Civil War soldier (for the North, of course!). He told me how their clothes were made of wool for the same reason you said: it wicked away moisture to keep them cool yet keeps them warm in cold weather. And it was cheap, sturdy, and easy to come by. So the moral of the story: all this new polartech and stuff really doesn't replace the basics that nature gave us to use.

    I absolutely LOVE the CAIR system. I have not had back problems with my husband's gelding since I bought it, and he has lots of back and shoulder issues. The airflow is great and no pinching problems. I don't need anything more than the thickness of a regular dessage pad under it. He still gets his chiropractic work, of course, but his back is no longer sore when he's ridden in it.

    As a side note, we have always had fitting problems with him when it comes to saddles. He's just so wonky shaped for being such a tall and big-boned yet narrow horse. The one saddle that works for him? Get this: a cheap Royal King flexible tree barrel saddle. I kid you not, these saddles are sold at Chicks and are totally cheap, but this thing works for our gelding. I bought it from a friend on a whim because it was in good enough shape that I could resell it if it didn't work, and we haven't looked back. Eventually I'll get a custom saddle for him from Crest Ridge when times get better, but for now the Royal King is working great!

    Thanks for the info, Bonnie. I'll check it out!

    I don't mind coming to take pics when it cools off, CNJ. Just let me know!

  7. OK....

    What's the diff. between Billy Cook, Billy Royal, Silver Royal, and Royal King? Are they related? And is that list in the proper downward level of quality?

    It was weird when I went to CO this year and my dad's cousin had the EXACT Silver Royal saddle that I do, except it's a Billy Royal. But it's a slightly unusual design, with the silver inlaid on the skirt instead of merely sitting on top. It's that dark chestnut color, with roping aaaalll the way around.

    I was quite intrigued.

  8. Kat- I wasn't thinking clearly enough when I emailed you last night about some of these things...

    Mind posting links to the stuff you have come across when looking for stretches for the horse? Maybe between all of us we can come up with the 'shortened version' and keep the full length for days off or when the horse may need a little bit extra.

    As far as yoga for us people- Seve Ross! I have been a fan of his show Inhale on the Oxygen channel for some time. What sucks though, it's on at 4 am part of the year, then with the time change it goes to 3 am. That's where I say Hooray for Tivo, DVR's and anything else that lets you record and view it at a time that fits into your own schedule!

    For anyone wishing to try yoga, but not thrilled with the sooper quiet, relaxation music, whispered movement instructions... He plays good music, soothing, but with a beat and sometimes lyrics, speaks to you in a normal tone of voice and even cracks jokes during the workout. How can that not be fun?

    What I have also found beneficial of the jokes and different 'atmosphere' is I am enjoying the session and much more likely to do another. Actually looking forward to working out... My body feels better, my balance is improving, my flexibility and strength is improving, focus improving, energy levels are up. How can any of that be bad? How can any of that not carry over to improve my riding?

    As far as the natural fibers vs. the synthetic stuff, even when thinking of the saddles. I don't care for a lot of the synthetic stuff as some of it just plain doesn't work. It may provide one benefit while decreasing the effect of two others. In some cases more.

    CP- I am considering a few different options for a number of products. The biggest factor is How well does it work for the horse? What benefits them the most? If the horse is happy and comfortable- they perform and behave better. When that happens- the riders, trainers, owners and handlers are happy. Everyone wins!

  9. Kat- I am riding in the evenings and could do mornings on the weekend if ya wanna come on down anytime... Either of us can be in the photo's.

    Just keep in mind, my mare currently has a bald butt, which I did finally get good photo's of last night and will be putting up here for discussion.

  10. CP, well, I have no idea when it comes to those four brands what the story is on them. But I do know this: the Billy Cook and Billy Royal saddles are high quality, while Silver Royal and Royal King are cheap knockoffs. The saddle that we have is this one only with a round skirt: http://www.chicksaddlery.com/page/CDS/PROD/ROYAL/872600 It has their Veriflex tree, and it's worked great. It's actually a saddle I will keep because it'll be good for WHEN (trying to be positive!) I start my horse rescue. It's lightweight and comfortable for riding. We got it for $400 because it was slightly used.

    My students bought a Billy Cook barrel saddle and it's really nice for what they do. It fits two of their horses that are round bodied but not their third, which is a narrow TWH.

  11. CP & Kat- The Billy Cooks can be either side of the fence, depending on where and when they are made.

    Back when Billy Cook was making them, they were decent saddles. He sold his name, and the new mfg. company started making changes. Cutting costs generally has an effect on the quality and things went downhill. He has since 'bought back' his name and is making saddles again, but so is the other company, still under his name, on some level.

    There are BC's coming from Oklahoma and BC's coming from TX. One is the decent quality saddles we all want and expect. The others... well, we all know where that leads us. Problem is, I forget which ones are the 'worthy' saddles and which ones are not. Check further into this when considering buying one.

    The Billy Royals, have always been a saddle of quality as far as I know. They can be pricey when new, but if you are taking care of things like you should, then you should get years and years of use out of it. At least enough to have gotten your moneys worth.

    The other two brands- I have never heard of, so I won't comment either way. There are plenty of brands out there, some good quality, others not so much. Like everything else, don't be afraid to look into things, dig a little, do some research, ask questions and if you still have questions or don't feel comfortable- don't buy it. Keep looking.

    When buying used, keep in mind the price for new. Consider the condition and then determine whether or not it is worth the asking amount. Always keep resale value in mind too.