Thursday, 17 September 2009

The search continues ....

For the cause of Bruce's lameness. Just to recap he's still slightly lame in his right fore foot. And yesterday Mike and I took him to our vet's clinic for xrays. First the vet watched him trot up on a straight line and circle and pronounced him 1 to 2/10 lame - only mild but now over a month and we need to know the cause. Bruce has never been shod. Our equine vet practice is fairly conservative and pro-farriery. So I was dreading the thought that in the event of any problems being revealed by xrays, the likely recommendation would be remedial shoeing. I needn't have worried - the vet was surprised that a 12 year old horse had such clean bone structure. Absolutely no sign of bony changes or injury and wonderful feet! Here are a couple of the xrays:

So the cause of Bruce's lameness must be a problem with the soft tissue. And because there are so many tendons and ligaments in the foot a scan will not help in the initial diagnosis. The next stage is more nerve blocks: Navicular burser and coffin joint were the two mentioned. Once the problem area is identified then hopefully a scan will reveal the cause. If not the further investigation by MRI or keyhole surgery may be indicated. But we'll take it step by step. So Bruce is booked into the lameness clinic next Tuesday.

We also had our six monthly visit from our Equine Dental Technician yesterday. Bruce and Zeffy just needed routine floats although one of Bruce's front teeth had a broken edge which needed smoothing (probably from playing rough with Zeffy!) Captain didn't need anything doing this visit. And the baby molar that Cora found lastweek and gave to me to add to my collection of Zeffy's baby teeth was, according to Shane, in fact from Ellie, the 3 year old mini-shetland - so I passed it on to Karin, Ellie's owner.

Zeffy's saddle was being altered yesterday so just a lungeing session last night. I collected his saddle today and will ride him tonight. Last practise before Patrice comes to us tommorow!

Bits or Bitless

I'm adding this as it's a subject I've been pondering on for years and I've been prompted by a friend's blog to put my thoughts on here.

For me this goes beyond to use a bit or not. For years my aim (like many I think!) has been to ride in total harmony and lightness. For the boundary between my horse and me to be invisible. For my horse to feel as much joy from the interaction of our bodies as I do. This has not changed and will always be my quest. But my path has changed. I thought that I could achieve this by sitting beautifully and doing nothing. Now I am learning that this is not possible but at last I have a teacher who can teach me what I must do to move towards this Nirvana. I am becoming a much more effective horsewoman.

Around 7 years ago (when I just had Captain) I started riding him in a rope halter. Hacking, showjumping, cross country, even dressage competitions (hors concours). He much preferred bitless. And he'll never have a bit in his mouth if I do ride him again. A bit is not necessary for a walk round the farm. So why did Captain prefer bitless? Simple! My hands were not good enough. My "do nothing" riding resulted in a loose unstable contact which must have felt to Captain like I was absent most of the time apart from the occasional jerk on his mouth.

Enter Bruce, my need to up my riding skills and little by little I've improved and understand how my body (including my hands) should interact with my horses. I won't go into detail but these words of Paul Belasik's crystallised it for me:

Without some kind of bit there is no dressage. The horse and rider use the bit as a reference point for propriocentric balancing, in the same way as a person walking through a dark room may need only to touch a chair back or handrail to help keep their balance. The muscle systems of the body, sensing a static reference point balance the body over the feet. This is much the same as the way a person would hold on to a train strap for balance - they don't actually hang onto the strap and pull themselves off the floor and swing like a gibbon. These static points are used as solid references, enabling the body to redistribute weight over feet in different ways.

I would add that I am only now becoming "brave" enough to use rein aids via a bit because I am confident that my hands (and the rest of my body!) are now good enough as P has helped me to improve bit by bit (no pun intended) and because she is one of the few who truly understand and can teach the meaning of a light, elastic contact which is used to communicate effectively but which never ever pulls on the horse's mouth or causes tension through inappropriate rein aids.

Throughout my journey I've been searching for evidence that it is possible to train a horse to true collection and lightness without a bit and I've yet to find it. Yes I've seen pictures of Nuno Oliveira riding advanced movements bitless - but this is after training with a bit. And yes I'm sure you can ride and train a horse without a bit to a basic level. In fact I'm currently designing a bitless bridle because I've never yet found one that my horses liked and I think there's a gap for one!

This is such an interesting and thought provoking topic! And I'm sure my thoughts on it will continue to evolve!


Danni said...

Lovely feet! Glad there isn't a bony change, although it does leave you scratching your heads...

I have been exactly where you and Mike are right now, very frustrating. I hope whatever this is, is small and very fixable.

Have a lovely time at the clinic :)

HorseOfCourse said...

So far so good!

trudi said...

With the GREATEST respect to Mr B I'm not sure I agree, he isn't big on science in that quote, the hand is the static reference point, static??? mmm, now that's a load more questions I have to ask myself. hehe, thanks Jane, interesting.

What a good advert for barefoot but at the same time really frustrating for you still to have no diagnosis.

Cabruze said...

Trudi - of course the hand is anything but static! It must be alive and exceptionally sensitive! Perpetually in conversation with the horse's mouth. That's the trouble with words and the reason it's taken me so long to feel I'm getting it! Not that I've had bad teachers but that I've taken them literally and it's been too much.

trudi said...

So why doesn't a man of PB's writing talents describe it better, the hand is, of course, only static in relation to the horse's movement for a split second (as in a half halt) the rest of the time it moves in perfect harmony with the horse. At least that's the way I always strive to ride; it isn't easy though, even for the most balanced rider, to not give a backward feel every so often (or maybe I'm just crap hehehe).
Listening to EH on Sarah's blog I was surprised to hear him actually talk in terms of a pound weight in the rein; yikes that seems quite a bit to me, no wonder I'm in a tizz about this bitless stuff ;-)

Cabruze said...

I don't even agree that the bit is static, in the sense of holding, during a half halt Trudi. (But perhaps that's not what you meant?)

Dashing to ride before dark but will elucidate my thoughts more tomorrow. This is a really interesting discussion and just underlines how easy it is to misinterpret words. (And I agree that PB's quote could mean totally different things to different people!)

trudi said...

the bit can never be truly 'static' no but static in terms of recycling the energy rather than letting in pass through. Imagine a child taking their parents hand whilst walking across the road; the parent moves, their hand moves and so does the child and the child's hand move. There is a relationship between the movement of the hands as they are linked but they are not one being, they are two separate entities. Now imagine the child wants to rush ahead, the parent senses this and just offers some reisitance with their hand to keep the child at the steadier walk....this is what I meant by 'static' not that it was immobile (it can't be as it is moving within the walk) but that it can be regulating.
The more I think about all this the more I struggle with it, I'm not the best rider, maybe not even a good rider but there are many much worse than me; if I can't trust myself with a horses mouth then what about others? Having watched the recent dressage GP tests on youtube I would give up rather than use my hands the way some of them do, oops sorry Jane, offf on one for a minute there.

Cabruze said...

Aaah Trudi, both you and I have demonstrated how words can mean different things to different people. And I've shared your concerns for years. What's changed me has been my teacher and I'll try and explain more in my blog. Have you talked to Gareth? He's bitless and convinced that you can ride in true collection without one.