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Diamond - The Bucking & Rearing Appaloosa

Diamond's owner called to sign her up for the Madison GA clinic because she was experiencing serious behavioral problems with Diamond. As we talked about Diamond's behavioral problem - namely bucking and, getting worse rapidly, rearing- several things were brought out that made me suspect her problems had a physical cause and were not behavioral.

She had a previous owner history of bucking. If she succeeded in bucking off her previous owner she was immediately put up and left alone. About a month ago she started rearing for apparently no reason. The trainer said the rearing was rebellion and insists pulling her over as she reared is what she needs. In the course of the conversation the owner reported the mare had already gone over backwards. I took that opportunity to point out if pulling her over helped, she had already gone over and there was still a problem.

The owner insisted the mare was very sweet and cooperative when worked on the ground but very inconsistent under saddle. She also reported the mare flexed willingly in one direction but not the other.

Bucking in and of itself *can* be a behavior problem. But it is a lot of effort for a horse and something has to make the object on its back uncomfortable enough to want to get rid of it.

Rearing in and of itself can be a rebellion, fear or resistance problem.

However, as I told the owner, when a normally sweet and co- operative mare bucks and then takes to inconsistent rearing I suspect pain before anything else.

When asked if the mare would benefit from my clinic I said yes ( *that* a surprise to anyone?), however, I did point out I was certain her problems were mostly physical.

As I was telling her owner where to send the check she said that I was just a short ways from where the horse was boarded. When she said where it was I offered to meet her right away and look at the horse.

Diamond is an approximately 6 year old, pretty Appaloosa mare, somewhere around 14.2, that had been shown in halter. As a halter horse, Diamond was "tanked up". To me, she looked "tanked up" about 150 pounds too much. She was very round. Overweight horses, like overweight people, have greater difficulty doing things trimmer horses and people do. There is more stress on their muscular, skeletal & nervous systems.

As I looked her over, I saw that she had a smart face with a soft quiet eye, normal nose shape, a single facial swirl, pleasantly dipped face, easy ears...all in all a very nicely shaped head. Nothing to indicate she was spoiled or rebellious. She did have a rather short mouth which indicated to me she could at times be a little stubborn...and her owner quickly acknowledged that was so. In looking back, I did have the impression, although I couldn't put my finger on it then, that she was a Diamond.

When easy going horses rear, I suspect pain ahead of the withers. I believe horses move toward pain, or the expectation of pain. This is borne out by observing "fighting" horses. When attacked high, the victim goes high, when attacked low, the victim dips low.

It is also borne out when horses are being whipped. If the horse is not moving away when the whipping starts, it moves toward the whip. When you see balky horses being cropped on the rear, they usually back up.

Pain ahead of the withers, with the lack of something readily apparent to the eye, usually boils down to the neck or the mouth. Pain ahead of the withers can affect the body behind the withers by forcing the horse to carry itself in a manner that compensates the pain which often causes pain in other areas.

I looked in the mouth for wolf teeth which can cause bitting problems and examined the other teeth as best I could without a speculum and saw nothing that concerned me. Learning what a horse's mouth SHOULD look like is paramount to conscientious horse management. You have no idea how many years I prided myself on having my horse's teeth floated regularly only to discover, floating alone, as determined by a vet looking up into space while running his thumb up in there, just wasn't even slightly getting it. Wavy molar arcades, curved incisor alignment, retained caps, unopposed teeth, unerupted or impacted teeth, broken teeth, canine & wolf teeth and gum disease are but a small number of the problems that can be found in a horse's mouth.

Satisfied with the mouth, I turned my attention to the neck. In seconds I found a displaced vertebra low on the left side of the neck. This is enough to cause rearing. Neck pain in humans can make humans ill and hard to handle and it can do the same for horses. The cervical subluxation did not feel like it had been there for a long time, it had little rigidity (encapsulation) on either side of it.

I then checked her spine and found nothing unusual but I did discover a strong reaction to slight palpating in her loin area. Loin area discomfort can cause bucking, especially when one rides western and sits back against the cantle. If the saddle is too small for the rider, there is even more leverage on the loins. Since the reaction was equal on both sides, I discounted ovulation problems (I am no vet so my medical opinions in the long, or short, run mean nothing) and suspected a sacrum (pelvis) or hip problem.

When a loin is far more pronounced on one side than the other I tend to suspect ovulation discomfort unless it is pretty much unchanging over an extended period of time. Occasionally ovulation discomfort not only varies in intensity over the cycle, it often alternates from side to side cycle to cycle.

We took the horse to the round pen where I watched her work a few moments and discovered an obvious lameness that exhibited itself in the right rear. When the horse traveled around to the left she traveled quietly, to the right she was choppy and erratic. When I stood behind her I could see her right rear angled in at a good 10 degrees.

I informed the owner of my conclusions (cervical subluxation, pelvic injury of some sort, and border obesity) and explained to her that the mare was in great pain and should not be worked in any fashion until these problems were addressed. I gave her the name of an extremely skilled chiropractic vet in the area and she promised to call him.

When I called to check on the situation a couple of days later, Diamond's owner told me she had another vet look at her while at the farm for another call. I thought, okay, here we have two opposing conclusions. I thought that because MANY vets seem to be locked into a "if it ain't bleedin', swollen, obviously bruised or oozin' there is no problem" attitude.

And to a degree, I can understand that. You tend to get locked into what you see the most. Few people call the vet just because a horse seems a little out of sorts. And when they do, after seeing nothing but obvious problems for so long, they tend to think, "Sheesh, another hypochondriac owner."

It turned to not be the case and the vet recommended the same course of treatment I did.

Several days after that I received a call from Diamond's owner who informed me she did indeed have the recommended vet out to look at Diamond and his conclusions and mine were also extremely similar. He felt that her pelvic problems came from when she reared and flipped over while she was being worked. I believe she had long standing pelvic problems based on the report of her bucking with her previous owner.

He treated Diamond with chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture and her owner noticed an immediate and blatant difference in her attitude..."You won't recognize her at the clinic! I'm so tickled!"

From what I know, and hear, I'm certain Diamond is on her way toward a full behavioral and physical recovery. She is signed up for my December 14-15 1998, Madison GA clinic, and I look forward to seeing even more stunning changes in her by the end of the clinic.

Diamond's owner called the other day (11-5-98) to ask me a clinic related question and reported a tremendous difference in Diamond's attitude and movement. Hopefully by the clinic she will be ready for enough riding to prove to her owner her rearing and bucking days are pretty much gone.

11-17-98 Update...

Diamond was at the clinic and showed marked improvement. Her weight was much better, her demeanor was much better, but she still has some healing to do which prevents her from being worked for a while yet.

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