Because Saxony tends to be mouthy in the bit, fretting over and chewing my gentle French-link snaffle, I decided to have Dr. B come and check out her teeth a few weeks ago. Since another vet had done the pre-purchase exam, this was the first meeting between Saxony and Dr. B, who will be her regular vet. We ended up doing a full physical so Dr. B could assess her and create her file. I learned two important things.
Turns out my nine-year-old mare still has her wolf teeth, which may have some bearing on the mouthiness. She's never resistant to the bit, but never quiet and comfortable with it either. She had been ridden in a fat, rubberized or plastic-covered loose-ring training snaffle before I got her, and the adjustment away from that to my Eggbutt French Link may simply be hard for her. Because she didn't need to have her teeth floated, we elected to wait until February, when she will be due for a float, to extract the wolf teeth under one sedation.
Before I bought Saxony, friends pointed out what they saw as a hitch in her right hind leg. I couldn't see it. I am not skilled at spotting subtle anomalies in the movement of a horse. I can see profound lameness, limping and some signs of stiffness, but I couldn't see any of these in Saxony. Riding her, I felt nothing except the stiffness inherent in horses who are not regularly being suppled and flexed. The vet who did the pre-purchase exam noted something in her right rear pastern, but was reluctant to rate it even a 1 on the lameness scale, offering instead a point five, if there were such a thing.
In the few months I've had Saxony, I've done very little cantering with her. We cantered during the two rides I had on her before I bought her, and I still shiver at the delight and easiness I felt to be riding her, the joy of feeling unafraid. I've realized since then, though, that Saxony doesn't pick up the left lead. Because she needs a lot of suppling and gymnastic strength-building work to learn to carry herself through her body, our canter work will have to wait for some time, but I did want to know whether there could be a physical reason for her refusal to pick up the left lead. "Refusal" may not even be the right word; it's as if she doesn't know there is such a thing as a left lead.
I moved her out on the longe line for Dr. B. After big circles in both directions and Saxony offering a perfect demonstration of cantering on the wrong lead, Dr. B put her through a soundness exam. She found arthritis in both her right and left hinds, with emphasis on the right. I admit I wilted for a second, felt a sharp pulse of disappointment gulp up in me. Dr. B said, "You'll never do a third-level dressage test with her."
That's okay with me. For this horse's mind, her heart of gold, I will trade a lot. I'm not a dressage rider, not to say as much, anyhow. I just value the principles of classical dressage, realizing how they help horse and rider come together in work and then journey forward as a team safely, kindly, and in balance.
Dr. B gave me a container of powdered Bute, suggesting pain management might help Saxony find the left lead. I'll wait on that until spring. She strongly recommended putting Saxony on Cosequin ASU, which she uses on her own horse. I'm doing it via Smartpak, and we started the loading dose today.
As someone who was born emotionally and intellectually resistant to hooey in whatever form, be it religion, fad diets, new-age gurus, age-defying moisturizers, swimming with dolphins or any of the million other ways humans find to kid themselves, I've embarked on the Cosequin experiment with great interest. If it doesn't work, has no impact, I'll say so. If, on the other hand, it helps my stiff mare, I'll say that too, and then see if Smartpak will make up a dose regimen for me.