Ask Horse Journal: 12/00

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Stirrup Bar Struggles
My dressage saddle is an older Passier and it fits my horse very well. However the location of the stirrup bars causes me to struggle with my leg position. They are too far forward, which puts the stirrup (and ultimately my leg) in front of my seat instead of under it. Short of buying a new saddle, what are the options' Is it possible (and cost-effective) to replace the stirrup bars' I have seen riders looping their leathers around the bars so that they hang further back, but this doesn’t seem like a safe option.

-Peggy Stierwalt
Illinois

We’ve seen lots of riders struggle with this problem, and we’ve never seen an easy solution — including the looping you mention and the placement of a rubber donut around the bar in front of the leather to shove it back. We’ve also seen longer bars and the placement of bars further back on new saddles come and go, along with larger thigh rolls that are supposed to keep that leg directly under the rider’s body where it belongs. Thus, we feel replacing your saddle’s bars probably won’t help.

We suspect the problem is usually not the placement of the bar but rather the length of the rider’s thigh. If a saddle’s flap is too short and vertical, relative to the length of the rider’s thigh, then this is going to force the leg forward into a “chair” position no matter where the bars are placed. When the leg pokes forward, it also forces the seat out of the deepest part of the saddle and back onto the cantle. When the cantle rebounds slightly with the horse’s stride, as it’s supposed to, this pushes the seat out of the saddle, and it becomes impossible to sit still. We see the same thing happen when the saddle is too small for the rider’s “conformation.”

A longer flap and/or one that angles slightly forward can be the solution. That, of course, means a new saddle. Before you go that route, however, try one thing: Make sure your saddle is level — the cantle should be higher than the pommel, which puts you in the deepest part of the saddle with the pommel touching the front of your crotch. If the pommel is the same height as the cantle, experiment with placing a wedge under the cantle. Don’t use foam or anything with rebound — a folded towel works best. If this makes a difference, then you can get your saddle restuffed.

Also, before you go saddle shopping, test out your own anatomy. Stand next to you friends and compare the length of your own thigh, from the ball of your hip to your knee. This will give you some idea of whether your thigh is long, short or normal. When you find someone with the same length of thigh, ask to sit in their saddle and see where it places your leg, especially if it has a longer or more-angled flap than yours.

Sometimes the width of the twist can also affect the position of the leg, in addition to how it fits up into your pelvis. If the twist is too wide, then it may tend to incline your leg forward at the same time it forces your leg out. When you test ride your friends’ saddles, you might want to see if those with a more-narrow twist than yours help with your position.

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Water And Electrolytes
I have a mare who has always been defensive of her hind end around other horses. She’s the typical witch. She also never touches either a salt block or loose salt supplied to her. This year I hung a bucket of electrolytes water in her stall. She drinks this daily.

My mare is a hunter, and the defensive dangerous behavior has gone away. I, of course, can’t prove this is not just a case of training and maturity, but the whole feel is different. This is also the only horse in the barn who does not touch the free salt.

-Wendy Walker
British Columbia

There’s a good chance that your “instincts” are right and the two are connected. One possibility is that your mare had a chronic electrolyte imbalance/instability that resulted in nervous irritability. Many electrolytes have documented effects on nerve conduction and sensitivity. She may also have had low-grade abdominal discomfort, also a possibility when electrolyte disturbances exist. It was a good observation on your part to notice she wasn’t touching the free-choice electrolytes. It’s even better that you persisted in doing something about it until you found a method that works.

Note: Electrolyte imbalances can occur at any time of the year, not just in summer. Supplying free-choice electrolytes in the water as this reader did is an excellent safeguard. Remember, too, this means an extra bucket of plain water, not just electrolyte water as the sole choice.

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Foot Sore
I have a six-year-old Quarter Horse who is sore on his back leg/foot. He has wedge pads on his back feet to increase the angle as he was always suffering from back pain. This was done approximately four months ago with regular resets every four to five weeks and has certainly worked.

However, is it possible for him to have some form of injury to the leg or foot (a twisted ankle or sprained ankle) without producing any swelling or heat' I detected none over the past few days, although he walks on his toe on the back foot. All I’ve done is wrap him and turn him outside.

When he is turned out he will run with the other horses. I don’t think this is a good idea, but on the other hand if he was that sore he would just graze. Therefore, I let him do what is comfortable for him. I did keep him in the first day, and I noticed he was sore in the foot, but all he did all day was just pace in his stall. I would appreciate any information about possible injuries.

-Glenna Benson
Ontario

Your horse obviously has pain in the heel of his foot. If this started close to the time when the wedges were put on, it may be related to the wedges in some way. If his heels were extremely low, the wedges can sometimes cause pain after the foot has grown a bit and the back edge of the wedge begins to put pressure on the frog and the bars. If this is the case, the horse would be more comfortable when the shoes/wedges are off (try walking and trotting him next reset, before they are put back on) and would also be more comfortable for a week or more after each reset then worsen again.

If the problem isn’t related to when you started using wedges, and/or if it doesn’t change in relation to shoeing time, get X-rays. A deep-seated abscess is a good possibility, possibly relating to something that punctured the frog or the foot deep in the recesses of the sulci. Get the X-rays done and have your vet go over the foot carefully with hoof testers.

If results are not diagnostic, consider a nerve block of the foot. Problems like a deep abscess or early navicular disease may be hard to diagnose any other way. The nerve block will at least confirm you have the right location.

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Wintering The Pregnant Mare
Heavily pregnant mares in the winter have increasing nutritional needs. Getting the calories into them is rarely a problem, but vitamins and minerals can run short when fresh grass is not available. Supplements can work, but you run the risk of overdosing fat-soluble vitamins, while falling short on some key minerals. The best solution is a fortified grain mix (labeled for pregnant mares or a 14% protein performance mix, which is usually similar) and a high-quality grass hay. A 1,200-pound mare in her second trimester getting 7.5 pounds of such grain mix and 10 to 12 pounds of midbloom timothy hay will have her nutritional needs met. We’d also add a 1/2 pound of ground flaxseed meal (see June 2000) to provide her with the essential fatty acids lacking in hay and processed grains but important in hormone production.

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Also With This Article
Click here to view ”Cold-WeatherBarn Tips.”