Last Monday, Salem had an appointment for his second natural barefoot trim. The good news is that his hooves are coming along very nicely. His White Line Disease is completely cleared (yay!), his bars are straightening out, and he has a very tight connection in all four hooves. And, they're so tough that Candy had to sharpen her knife twice during the trim! Woohoo! Tough, rock-crunching super hooves!
These pics were taken about 9 days post-trim (because I am a procrastinator!)
So, if there's good news, of course there's some...well, let's just say not-so-good news. As Candy was working on Salem, she placed her hand on his back and he flinched and pinned his ears. She said, "Hhhmmm, he's very sore here," and started giving him a mini-massage (she's also a certified equine massage therapist and a saddle-fitter). Salem let out a big sigh and relaxed after a few minutes. Candy stepped back and looked at him for a moment and then told me, "His muscling is uneven, and he has no muscle on his topline. Let me see your saddle on him."
Well, of course, the Pessoa that I've been using on him does not fit him. In fact, it is extremely narrow and way too small, and it has been making him sore. When I heard that, I turned into a little Jewish mother and started getting major guilt pangs. I've been hurting Salem with every ride! Cruelty against ponies -- somebody call the ASPCA! I was even making things worse by adding a big thick sheepskin pad. I thought it would make things all comfy for Salem, but it was actually just making the saddle fit even tighter.
At this point, I was feeling horrible. I asked Candy to look at my Collegiate to see if it was a better fit. Nope. Of course not! It's equally narrow and has probably been making every horse that I've ridden for the past however-many years sore. Super. My stomach acid at that point was so high that I probably should have given myself half a tube of GastroGuard. There might have been some mild hyperventilating involved. This was just getting worse and worse.
As a last resort, I asked Candy to look at Heather's saddle. She had let me ride in it during our last lesson, and it seemed to fit Salem very well. I figured, what the hell? Let's give it a shot. I placed it on Salem's back and, after a few minutes, Candy announced that it's a "near-perfect fit" that could be made perfect by some minor flocking adjustments. Of course it is. It's a $36000 saddle.
(Anyone have some Xanax?)
The Beautiful Magical Uber-Expensive Saddle
So, I have started saving up for a new saddle, as I realize that my saddle is far too narrow for any horse that I would ever ride or own. In the meantime, Heather has been gracious enough to let me borrow hers, as long as I clean it and put the stirrups back to her setting. Fair enough! I also ordered a Thinline saddle pad and booked an appointment for Salem to get a full-body massage.
Since he was so sore, I gave Salem a week off from under-saddle work and just did a lot of longeing, ground work, grazing, grooming, back massages, liniment rub-downs, and of course treat-giving and major apologizing.
Yesterday morning, Candy came down for Salem's massage. He loooooooooved it! He kept yawning and rolling his eyes back, and he even did this really weird/cool back stretch that I have never seen a horse do before. And it was interesting that Candy could tell so much from his muscles -- she said his right side needs to be developed more and he's stiffer on that side (so true!) and that he has sore muscles in his left hind (which is why he rests his left hind all the time).
That is one relaxed pony
This was meant to show Salem's stripey, sun-bleached tail
After his week-long vacay and hour-long professional massage, I'm pretty sure Salem has forgiven me. I think all the extra treats helped, too!
Thank goodness for Candy -- if it wasn't for her, I would have never found out about the saddle fit issue. Hindsight's 20/20, and looking back it all seems so obvious. On the longe, Salem was all stretchy and floaty, but he was always a bit short under saddle. All of my barn-mates thought his feet were sore and I should put shoes on him, but I knew that he would be short on the longe if he was foot-sore. I'm just grateful to Candy for getting to the bottom of the issue. How many farriers would have noticed a back-sore horse? Not many!
OK, I am off to the barn. We'll see how the lad does now that he's all loosened up and comfy. Fingers and hooves crossed for a big, swingy trot!