Thursday, May 14, 2015

What is Working, What is Not Working

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.


  1. Oh man, I feel like you are in my boat right now! I did an ulcer treatment and have drained my bank account trying to get a proper fitting saddle (after many failed attempts). Apollo has finally learned that his current saddle fits and is comfortable. It has taken us almost a year to get here.

    It has been so frustrating but now I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I hope you and Boca get everything 100% sorted out soon! I learned a lot about nutrition and saddle fit this that's a good thing I guess!

    1. It really sounds like we are in similar situation! I feel you on the draining the bank account thing. I hope we see the light at the end of the tunnel soon.

      I"m learning a lot about nutrition and saddle fit, too.

  2. You have the right mindset. :-) Can "I believe in Boca" be a thing? Because I do. He's a cool horse. You'll figure him out. Saddle fitting/shopping can be a huge PITA, so I like your friend's suggestion of trying some bareback and alternatives before jumping right in.

  3. I definitely want a t-shirt! :)

  4. The ulcer treatment will only help, so try not to focus on 'wasted' money. I think the Robaxin idea is a really good one. You can also treat him with bute for a week, and see what happens. If he is magically better, you know it's pain related whether that be back or hocks or both.

  5. Too bad the ulcergard didn't end up being the magic bullet. It did look promising for a few days there. Saddle fit can make a big difference. You can kick me if you are sick of hearing suggestions, but the Total Saddle Fit girth is meant to get the saddle away from the shoulder, so that might be a way to improve the fit if you aren't ready to buy a new saddle just yet. I would talk to a vet about the Robaxin - some of them say the horse should not be worked when you initially treat with this, because it does something to their nervous system, or reflexes, or something? I don't know the medical explanation but I remember the horse needing time off.

  6. you've got a great attitude! i can't imagine how frustrating it must be to chase 'diagnosis' after 'diagnosis' without seeing a ton of change, but really you are learning SO MUCH about who Boca is and how he's communicating with you. good luck getting happy and comfortable together - sounds like you're getting there!

  7. This is a wonderful post for a couple reasons: 1) it sounds like you are learning A TON which is never a bad thing, 2) it sounds like you have a lot of great resources around you to help, and 3) you have THE BEST attitude here even though it's still a crappy situation. I believe in Boca too!

  8. I think getting in the right mindset to figure out what's going on is half the battle! Feeling defeated doesn't help anybody. Good luck on getting a good program worked out for the both of you!

  9. I went through a similar issue with Miles when I bought him. I used Robaxin and it was a big help during our transition time. My magic bullet was a new saddle -- which was costly, but totally worth it!

  10. I love your attitude! It's so easy to get caught up in what we want to accomplish as riders, and that's always when we seem to get reminders from the horse that we have to figure it out together. Sounds like you've got a couple different paths to try out, hope Boca starts feeling better!