Out riding my stunning scrummy boy Kiss My Finest Heart, we were enjoying a bright, sunny winter day, after a big down pour a few days ago, doing a Hearty Canter (that should be in the equine dictionary as it´s a pace all of it´s own, and also to be associated with a Hearty Soup - good for the soul). We rounded a corner and hit a patch of gloopy, slimy. slippy, cow-patty, clay mud, where Hearty proceeded to do a good impression of Bamby on E´s! I immediately chucked the reins, held the pommel and let my legs swing loose and my hips rock n roll out with his until he found his footing. In a flash it was over. Hearty waded through the rest of the mud and picked up his canter again. But the little incident put me to thinking.
How many lameness issues are down to rider “error”? I invert the word error, because many many years ago I would most likely have performed the natural instinct, which is to grab and hold any and everything to stay on for all your life is worth. But I long since learnt to trust my horses to get themselves out the poop (literally today!) far better without any assistance (or hinderance) from me.
How many times does a horse twist or stretch something because they have been hindered by a rider with bad balance or because they had their balance removed because of the tie-down or martingale limiting their natural movement? The latter being down to the riders choice, not the horses, so again rider responsibility. Then my mind wandered further. What about saddle fit? Again that is down to the rider/owner and how many lameness issues are caused due to bad fit?
So I pulled out some of my old notes from my EMT course and started with the following;
The most common causes of equine lameness
The basic processes that cause disease can be remembered by using the acronym DAMNIT:
D: degenerative, developmental
A: allergic, autoimmune
M: metabolic, mechanical
N: neoplastic (tumors), nutritional
I: infectious, inflammatory, immune-mediated, ischemic (low blood flow), iatrogenic (man-made), idiopathic (unknown)
T: traumatic, toxic
Most causes of lameness fall into the following categories:
• Degenerative e.g. degenerative joint disease (DJD, or osteoarthritis)
• developmental e.g. osteochondrosis (OCD), physitis (epiphysitis)
• metabolic e.g. laminitis (founder), exertional rhabdomyolysis (tying up)
• mechanical i.e. overload of a structure - either sudden, massive overload or repeated, marginal overload (wear & tear)
• infectious e.g. foot abscess, infected wound, cellulitis, joint infection
• inflammatory - most of the specific causes of lameness have an inflammatory component
• traumatic i.e. injury (external trauma)
Now this all leads on to evaluation - and obviously ´traumatic´issues are the key point for the sake of this discussion- starting with gait and on through observation, palpitation etc etc.
But I want to concentrate on rider error (be it lack of balance, saddle fit, or all and any of the other constraints commonly used) Then I remembered “Bridle lameness”. Good one that! I´m going to eliminate saddle fit from these musings. We know a badly fitted saddle can cause lameness. I will elaborate on Bridle lameness though, as I think many are not familiar with the term. Human lameness causing traumatic lameness in the horse.
Lack of balance and stiffness on the part of the rider can cause bridle lameness. A rider unable to relax can result in the horses legs being forced to work harder to compensate for the imbalance. The uneven stress on the limbs of course can result in an injury. Not the usual heat, pain and swelling type, but lameness nonetheless.
Lack of correct contact - rider “hanging” on to the reins, blocking forward movement - can also cause lameness.
And then there´s that jump you come into, not quite centered or a bit fast. The jump any pony will get itself out of as their view on life is “dumb rider is going to get us killed, I´d better save us and get us out of here”, no matter what tools he´s sporting. Whereas a horse will say “nooooo, doomed, we´re all going to die” and proceed to crash on through that jump if he can´t take his own lead because his head has limited reach due to a martingale. Ok, I´m going off at a tangent now.
Bottom line - Our natural instinct is to hang on tight, which is guaranteed to hinder the movement of our horse in that “moment”. Other horses have little chance of “getting out the fire” if they are trussed up like the Christmas turkey. And then there are all those ridden by unbalanced riders. So just how many lameness issues are caused by humans?
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP FOR THE EQUINE MASSAGE THERAPY COURSE IN APRIL? - You´ll be surprised to learn, what you don´t know ;)