Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Hock Bone Is Connected To The Shoulder Bone

Without waiting for a reply, my farrier tells me to hold on and walks out of the barn. A few minutes later, he comes back with two pieces of twine. He tells me to come over to Moon's shoulder hands me the end of one and says, 'Watch this.' He pokes along Moon's shoulder blade starting from the top and working his way down. Right about at the point of the shoulder, Moon flinches away. Significantly. 'There', He says, 'Hold your piece of twine right there.'

He calls over one of his assistants, crosses to Moon's other side and pokes along his shoulder blade until he finds the sore point on the other side (almost equal with the side I am on, but just a bit higher) and tells the kid to hold his piece of twine there. The farrier takes the two pieces of twine, crosses them over Moon's back. While he is standing behind Moon, he asks if we agree that horses are animals that work on diagonals. We all agree. The farrier starts talking, 'So if the principle is that horse's work on diagonals, that means his right hock is connected to his left front leg and his left hock is connected to his right front leg, is that correct? (He didn't really wait for answers) So when we ask a horse to drive from his left hock, we expect to see a corresponding extension in the right front and visa versa. (My mind is racing trying to visualize and the farrier continues) Problems arise when the hock does one of two things, either it tries to take on the entire work load or it totally stops driving, either way, the hock has become disengaged from the front end. And where do you think the most pressure lands when the front and rear ends become disconnected?

The farrier paused for a minute, giving us all a chance to think about that and then slowly lowered the strings in his hands down until they were in line with each of Moon's hocks. The strings crossed over Moon's back and the X laid directly over his loins. Specifically a bit to the left side of center, which is the muscle that Moon always gets sore on first.

Holy Crap!

Straightening back up, the farrier tells me, 'I'm going to tell you, you have one thing going on in this horse (Moon) and a the opposite going on in the other horse (Frosty), but they result in the same thing happening to their backs, shoulders and neck...they are over-using their loin to compensate for not using their entire back. That is what is causing the loin soreness and until you get them connected again, you are going to keep having this issue. Because they are only using part of the muscle and it is over-worked.'

Dropping the strings, the farrier walked around to where I was standing by Moon and had the others come over. He asked us to step back and tell us what was wrong with Moon's musculature. I pointed at the bottom of Moon's neck and told him that Moon was starting to get that big muscle on the bottom again. This was something that I had noticed over these last few weeks. Moon always has had a tendency to build muscle on the bottom of his neck and at the beginning of this year, I had worked really hard to build up the correct muscling in his entire topline. As you can see from the picture of him in my header, by May, he looked pretty good.

The farrier said, 'Exactly. The top of this horse's neck is mush and he has an over-developed muscle on the bottom. THAT corresponds with his atrophied muscles over his shoulders and behind his withers. So we KNOW that he is not using the front half of his back. His loin is doing all the work...and let me tell you...Both of these horses have an over-developed loin. That muscle stretches all the way to the front of the horse and ties in under the tricep (he's talking about the latissamous dorsi) and on both of these horses, it looks like their loin is one muscle and there is a different one from there forward."

Walking to the rear of Moon, he asks his apprentices if they think Moon is a good stopper. Both of them kind of gave me a sideways glance (I'm sure they didn't want to say something that might hurt my feelings) and the girl tries to be politically correct by saying, 'Based on his conformation, I would say he is not a really good stopper.' The boy nods in agreement. My farrier turns to me and asks, 'Is he a good stopper?' I quell my inner smart-ass that wants to say, Well, not right now! and tell them that in fact Moon is a very good stopper. Of course, I have to have my timing just right, but Yea, the horse can stick it.

I swear the farrier could read my mind, because he commented, 'Not right now he can't. He has totally disengaged his hocks...because he is conformationally built to do that and I bet right now he walks around and drags those hocks out behind him. (It was really a rhetorical question, but I nodded in agreement) When the tension in his loin gets to be to much, he wants to start stopping and stands stretched out...right? He's stressed!'

Now, I'm pretty sure I didn't tell my farrier that is exactly what Moon is doing. Maybe I mentioned it, but I doubt I was that specific. I am hearing Ed Wright's voice tell me that Moon was doing his 'thing' because of stress. Did I misunderstand what kind of stress Ed meant?

"Now,' says the farrier, 'About that foot... (Foot? What foot? My mind is absorbing all of the stuff he has just talked about) That horse is loading on the outside of his left front foot because he walks crooked. His whole body is canted to the right and if you don't keep correcting him, he will just make a big old circle to the right, Right?'

Uuuhhh...This time I am dumbfounded. I know I never mentioned that.

I nodded in agreement. That particular characteristic has been a big source of irritation to me these last couple of years with Moon. I have no idea when exactly I first noticed that Moon insisted on fading to the right...but it has been a consistent pattern regardless of what I am doing with him. Earlier this year, I had pretty much fixed it because I spent a lot of time working on straightening Moon and gaining balanced collection. He got so much better. It was when he got hurt that we started to digress and the roller coaster ride got more and more pronounced.

Done with talking about Moon, my farrier walked over to Frosty and began his tutorial on him...

To be continued...


Funder said...

This is really fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

Mikey said...

Yep, I'm finding this fascinating, especially that last part. I've ridden horses like that, they're like a truck with bad alignment, they drift one way or the other if you let go of the wheel/reins.
Very interesting. I'm loving your farrier :)

fernvalley01 said...

This guy is good! Knowledgable , and seems to be very clear on what is going on!Can't wait to read more

Chelsi said...

That is as clear as mud. I mean it makes total sense but just reading that makes my head feel like I just did a difficult math problem... Wow He is GOOD... Talk about looking beyond the obvious! Like fifty steps beyond! Where did you find this guy and where can I get one?


BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

He's a smart guy. I think back now and I realize he was trying to tell me these things earlier, but I was so busy whining about Moon's 'injury' that I never really let him get in depth. I think this is why he was so excited when I finally conceded defeat with the other options. He knew I was ready to listen to him.

He never really believed Moon had been 'injured'. He saw him 2 days after Moon jammed his back and agreed he was very sore, but he was one of the ones who told me to bute and ice the muscles and go ahead and compete. I trusted his opinion, but I don't think I ever really let go of the fear that Moon really was hurt and my training changed dramatically...which just contributed to the problem.

kestrel said...

Okay, you've got me checking in at least 8 times a day! You have sure gone the distance to find such high powered professions, and you obviously know your stuff to be able to absorb it all. Thanks for sharing all this!

Deanna said...

I am totally with Chelsi!

Laura said...

Wow - so interesting! Thanks for sharing this info with us. I think I get what he meant - you explained it really well - I'm interested to hear how it can be fixed!

Laura said...

Oh - and I meant to add that you are lucky to have such a knowledgeable guy around! My farrier barely utters four words in a sentence! lol When asked how a horses feet are, he has two answers "good" if they are ok and if they aren't ok, he shrugs and doesn't offer any more info! Needless to say, another boarder and I are trying a new farrier!

Crystal said...

Wow! I waqnna take my horses to him! he sounds like he really knows what he is talking about.

joycemocha said...

Yeah. I know this one.

So do either one of them get big ol' tight knots in their necks? Mocha does that, and it's always a feature of our autumns, usually. Mostly right side, which probably contributes to her hocks.

This time I've been buting, did some ground driving immediately, then started working her after a week or so. And putting on liniment. And putting on a hood to keep the neck warmer as the weather cools off. We'll see if this works.

Shirley said...

Hmmm, I think this farrier is a keeper. I love it when the farrier looks at the whole horse instead of just doing the feet, like Laura said. Very interesting, his way of explaining things and pinpointing the problem. I'm going to have to read this post a couple more times.

cdncowgirl said...

I think you found a helluva farrier... can't wait to hear more :)

(btw some of this is similar to what the equine chiro/massage therapist I use said, but I never linked it to Moon)

Mrs Mom said...

Wow. Too. Cool.

Wish I could have been there to listen in!!!!

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

jm-way early in the year, I noticed that Moon had knots in the front of his neck. I got those worked out and never had problems with them once he got the proper top line built up. They are back now. Yet one more thing associated with improper movement.

Frosty does not get knots so to speak, but he gets tight right by his poll. I always remembered my very first equine chiro telling me that a horse that is tight in the poll will buck, so I try to remember to make sure Frosty is softened in the poll before I ever get on.

I seriously need to make myself a check-list to go through because it's all these little things that I WAS doing that made the difference and somewhere along the line I just stopped doing that. It shows!