Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Diagnosis

Hot, sticky and windy - but at least the thunder, lightening and downpour held off until I got the horses unloaded, the trailer unhooked, and myself home.

So... the boys were stellar for their rabies shots - both of them.  Probably because the Dr. J that stuck them was of the female persuasion.  Sunny wouldn't have cared - and didn't twitch a muscle, but Thunder still hasn't come to terms with strange men.  He snorted and danced and curled his neck and just generally acted suspicious all over the place when Dr. D came out to admire him.

In the meantime, the other Dr. J finished up with his previous patient and came out to watch Sunny move.  He had me lead him down the drive to watch him walk, then he had me turn him both directions first on his hindquarters, then on his front end.  Sunny would step across himself nicely going to the right, but left was much stiffer and he was really reluctant to pivot rather than stepping away when I asked him. 

Then it was on to the longe line. No sign of anything in particular at the trot, so we moved on to canter.  Sunny was okay picking up the left lead as long as I let him have lots of line and didn't make him do a small circle.  But as soon as Dr. J asked me to slow him down and make him lope a small circle on a tighter line, he broke.  I pushed him back up, and he'd take the right (wrong) lead and then do a flying change to left, hold it for three or for strides, then break again.

Changing directions to circle clockwise,  he took and held the right (correct) lead on both a large and small circle without any problems.

Dr. J had me stop him.  While Sunny puffed, he probed for soreness along his topline, finding ouchy spots along both sides of his spine, slightly more pronounced on the left, but visibly there on the right, as well.  But he had to press fairly firmly to get Sunny to react at all. 

Then he had me saddle him - he wanted to see Sunny in my English saddle and check the fit in comparison to the sore spots, but wouldn't you know, that's the one that wasn't in the trailer.  Dr. J checked the fit of my western saddle, informing me it sits too high and the bars should come down further, but that it shouldn't be cause soreness where Sunny's sore - which I could have told him, since I haven't ridden Sunny western in... at least two or three months.  Moving on, he examined legs, then got out the hoof testers.  But although he thought there might be a touch of sensitivity in the front left, once he dug around for a bit with the hoof knife and then reapplied the testers, he got no reaction whatsoever from that foot.  Or any of the others.

With the saddle snugged, he had me ask Sunny to flex through his neck by running the leadrope around the opposite side of the saddle and then encouraging Sunny to unwind himself.  Sunny was not enthused.  It's an exercise he's done, and usually will do without any problems, but although he was otherwise cooperative, Sunny obviously didn't want to bend his neck.  He'd turn, he just wouldn't bend.

After more probing and poking, none of which Sunny appeared to mind in the slightest, Dr. J said he recommends Sunny see the equine chiropractor.  He thinks Sunny's out in his neck.  His back is slightly sore, but the soreness isn't located where it should be causing difficulty with the left lead.  His reluctance to bend through the neck means he isn't able to free up his left shoulder, which is showing up as an inability to pick up the left lead....

Dr, J made me an appointment with the chiro for next Monday.  In the meantime, I'm to not ride, but I am to work on encouraging Sunny to flex his neck in both directions to see if his range of motion will improve.  And he said that after Sunny's been adjusted, I'm to continue working on flexing and on making sure Sunny will turn equally well on the hind and forehand, stepping across evenly with the outside foot in each direction.

We have our homework, and a not-too-serious diagnosis which, given Sunny's lack of other symptoms, I was sort of expecting.  Hopefully the chiropractor will put him right - I think, and Dr. J concurred, that since I haven't been riding him as much lately it's most likely that Sunny threw something out fooling around in the lot.  It's showing up when most visibly when I ride because I'm asking him to use himself in a way that otherwise he'd just avoid.

Back at the farm, he and Thunder both rolled to get the sweaty, itchies from the muggy trailer taken care of, then set off and a high trot for the pasture where they could catch a breeze and escape the bugs.  I headed for home and managed to get the back yard mostly mowed before the skies opened up.

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