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!
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