I am close to 4 weeks out from the date of Boca's original vet appointment,
so I thought I'd do a wrap up of where we are at.
What is Working
I am happy with my decision to transition Boca off Alfalfa. He already seems calmer and less reactive
I am also happy with the paddock change. Boca seems less dependent on Cody and has already stopped screaming for him from the barn. Conversely, H's mare now screams for Cody from the barn. He must be the George Clooney of horses (or something).
What is Not Working
Sadly, things seem to be getting worse under saddle before they get better.
That's ok. I am confident we will get it figured out.
My co-boarder L is a former saddle-fitter. I asked her if she wouldn't mind taking a quick peek at my saddle. I figured a second opinion wouldn't hurt. My original fitter has fitted this particular saddle to Boca in Aug 2014, Jan 2015 and Mar 2015. K is a reputable saddle fitter, but sometimes a second set of eyes sees different things.
L's assessment was that #1, I need to get rid of the breastplate (sad face here).
The breastplate was a recommendation from my friend H when she hacked Boca, but H is not a saddle fitter, so I guess it needs to go. Which makes me sad, because I like the way it looks (yes I can be that shallow).
Second, L noted that Boca is not an easy fit, due to his ginormous shoulder.
|Story of my life... will I ever own an easy to fit horse? Will anybody?|
L said that the tree point of my current saddle sits on his scapula, and she would recommend something with swept-back tree points or a skid row panel.
She also noted that, due in part to his large shoulder and short back, there really isn't a lot of room for the saddle to sit, and he probably needs a smaller saddle. Too bad for him that my butt isn't smaller.
I had just been riding for about 45 minutes. We hadn't even cooled out yet. L palpated his back, and his back was very reactive. There was a lot of muscle spasms in response to her palpations. In L's opinion, he is significantly back sore.
The only thing L could not say for certain is if Boca is sore because of saddle fit, or if it is, in her words, "Orthopedic". (ie: if it is his hocks and his back is sore because he is compensating for them).
L recommended that I try giving Boca Robaxin for a few days, and riding in a different saddle, or riding bareback. Her thought was that, if he shows improvement after a few days, then the saddle is most likely the culprit. If there is no improvement, then it could point to the cause being orthopedic.
My Thoughts on Treatment for Ulcers
I'm not 100% certain that gastric upset was ever really the cause for any of these behaviors.
It could simply have been the need for a dietary adjustment and a saddle change. Although it is distressing to think I may have spent $1500 on the wrong thing, I'm not 100% sorry I did it. Scoping and treating for ulcers gave me information and it also couldn't have hurt. Boca does not have ulcers. I know this now. He did show signs of stomach irritation and redness, maybe in response to pain or changes in his environment, and treating him can only have helped.
My Thoughts on Where We Are At Now
I have adjusted my thinking from "I have owned this horse for a year and we can't W/T/C" to "I have only owned this horse for a year. We're still working on figuring out the program that is right for him."
I believe 100% that Boca is a good horse and that he is the right horse for me. I really don't think his behaviors under saddle are simply a protest about not wanting to work. I have absolutely zero knowledge about his past. I don't know how hard he was worked, or if he did no work at all. I have had 4 people get on him since I have owned him, all better riders that I, and he exhibited the exact same behaviors for them as he does for me.
I really don't care if we don't show this year. My goals include getting him to a point where he is happy and comfortable doing the work I ask him to do.