|just tryin to do right by this sweet sweet mare|
|september 2015 conformation shot (note she's still got some sweat marks from our ride)|
But there's more to the story. The truth is that I learned a lot about dressage last summer, including how a horse should use themselves effectively and correctly, and what changes that might produce in their musculature. This was super exciting, and was bolstered along by Isabel's impressive moves under saddle.
Simultaneously tho, all my little alarm bells started going off when my education about those muscle groups coincided with recognizing that Isabel didn't look AT ALL the way she felt while riding. She felt incredible. She looked like a run down beat up hag. And was always sore. Always.
|least flattering light evar in mid October|
Quite frankly, I almost didn't post that picture. But decided to anyway bc that's an accurate representation of what she looked like and I figured it would ultimately hopefully serve as a "before" picture. (And here I am doing a sorta midway post, so yay for self-fulfilling prophecy!).
Another photo that almost didn't get posted, except it was too darn cute to ignore, was this gem:
|snapped while hacking Bali in mid October|
Of course, by this point I had already decided something had to change with our saddling situation and called in a new fitter, who promptly (and quite decisively) ripped the narrow gullet plates out of my two Bates saddles after doing tracings of Isabel's back. She replaced them with a medium wide for the close contact saddle (blue plate) and medium for the dressage saddle (black plate).
My post about that fitting appointment was full of angst and frustration, given that two professional saddle fitters could have such diametrically opposed approaches for Isabel... But so many readers chimed in with encouraging comments - reassuring me that all was not lost for Isabel's topline and that the new wider fit would allow her to start packing on muscle in all the right places (with proper work, of course).
|saddle fitting appt in mid October|
|early october dentist appt. she looks happy, no?|
Fortunately (depending on who you ask), I'm still capable of being a total pest even when laid up on the couch at home - and probably drove my BM crazy with emails bemoaning my concerns for Isabel. Specifically: mare was too damn skinny.
And this is where I admit to a secret (seriously hoping our BM doesn't read this, but if she does, I'm sorry and I'll never do it again!): I had been secretly feeding Isabel extra grain in the months before my injury. So Isabel got a double whammy when I suddenly disappeared from the barn - not only did she stop working, she also got a serious feed cut. (And this is why you don't keep secrets from your BM, kids...).
|mare at liberty in late November after 2 months vacation + feed increase|
Additionally, I decided to treat the mare for ulcers. Confusingly, she didn't respond to the treatment and remains ulcery still... So we're trying other changes - like adjusting her feeding schedule so she eats more frequently, and adding aloe juice to the mix. I'll probably end up doing another full treatment course again too... We'll see.
|modeling her new bridle at the end of November|
Then after getting back to under saddle work following my recovery, we had another appt with the chiro that showed improvements in how Isabel feels through her back. She is less sore. The wider gullet plates are now definitively considered an improvement, even if the saddle itself is still not a permanent solution.
|"i missed you!" - isabel|
|there's a stretch in there, and it's becoming more push-button|
So there's no real "after" shots yet bc we're really still at the beginning of what promises to be a long process. Especially with not being able to ride more than 2-3x weekly.
But I'm feeling really good about the changes we've made, and Isabel is already starting to fill out in her hind quarters and is looking much less pointy. I want to say that her back looks less hollow already too - but that could be a combination of wishful thinking and winter fuzz.
In any case, wish me luck. I know a lot of you have gone through similar experiences (or are maybe still dealing with it?)... was there anything that sticks out to you as a turning point in getting the horse to a better place? Changes in diet or exercise routines?