I haven’t had a single problem with Lachlan’s back again. He’s pain-free, light in the hand, happy to be saddled, and has returned to his happy willing self
"I have just ordered my third BALANCE saddle and will never even consider a “traditional” saddle again. "
As an American expat in England, I was over the moon to find the horse of my dreams in 2002 while residing in Surrey – Lachlan, a big 4-year old dark bay Irish Draft/Thoroughbred cross. He was friendly, well-mannered, and willing to try anything I asked of him. Over the next year, however, Lac became increasingly withdrawn – definitely not the friendly curious horse I had bought. He wasn’t happy at being saddled, and when I ignored his gentle protests, he simply withdrew into himself and tolerated the discomfort. In the arena, he would appear the typical arched neck dressage horse, but after about 20 minutes of work, he would become a lead weight in your hands, very stiff to the left, and had little power coming from behind. While my riding instructor at the time insisted that he was being lazy and disobedient, I began to get a niggling idea that something else was wrong but didn’t act on that suspicion for many months.
While my riding instructor was back in her home country for the summer, I scheduled a lesson with another teacher I had observed at our stable. She was a beautiful rider – soft and sympathetic. It didn’t take long for her to let me know that she thought something was physically wrong with Lachlan. By this time he was completely locking up behind and rearing when asked to back up under saddle.
After a thorough checkup by a vet, we were referred to Liphook Equine Hospital where Lachlan underwent various diagnostic tests including nuclear scintigraphy (aka bone scanning) where a radioactive substance is injected into the horse and then scans taken to show areas where bone is being remodeled by the body. Three spinal locations under the saddle area were indicated on the scans along with painful inflammation of the soft tissues in those areas. Lachlan was diagnosed with overriding dorsal spinous processes – also known as “kissing spines”.
As you can imagine, I was mortified and guilt-ridden. Lachlan had been in great discomfort for who-knows-how-long and had gamely tried to do as I asked until he could no longer tolerate the pain. Fortunately, the wonderful staff at Liphook was able to treat the condition with steroid injections between the vertebrae which calmed the inflammation. Subsequently we embarked on a lengthy course of rehabilitation which included rest, physiotherapy, long-reining, and lunging with a Pessoa to begin rebuilding muscle in the back and re-teaching the body to move properly after many months of pain compensation which had resulted in uneven muscle development.
Six months later, we were given the all-clear to resume normal work just as we were relocating to Geneva, Switzerland. There I began our dressage training again with the same saddle (boy was I dumb!) and a new instructor. Within three months, Lachlan was exhibiting all the same symptoms again. I frantically searched for an English-speaking vet who could consult with Liphook. Once found, he repeated the injections, and we began the rehab routine again.
However, this time I realized I needed to make some big changes or we were going to repeat this scenario over and over. As luck would have it, Lac had been stabled next to another Irish horse probably because his owner spoke fluent English and could help me as needed with my “survival french”. She showed me her BALANCE saddle, explained the various features which I realized would be perfect for Lac’s spine condition (wide gullet!), and was kind enough to let us ride in it.
Lachlan’s reaction to the new saddle was “textbook” – the stretching down, lifting of the back, swinging his shoulders to test all the room he had to move – he liked it!
I was sold. After studying the array of photos, measurements and videotape I had sent, Carol Brett at BALANCE International recommended a saddle and the Remedial Programme to help us get started. I haven’t had a single problem with Lachlan’s back again. He’s pain-free, light in the hand, happy to be saddled, and has returned to his happy willing self! He looks and feels fantastic!
I have just ordered my third BALANCE saddle and will never even consider a “traditional” saddle again. Lachlan and I send hugs, kisses, and thank yous from “across the pond” to our friends at BALANCE!
Being able to move in a powerful, balanced and engaged way, without restriction or discomfort, is every horse’s birth-right and essential in order for him to be able to carry the unnatural weight of a rider, without doing harm to himself.