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 Post subject: Muscle atrophy
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:07 am 

Joined: Thu May 10, 2012 3:12 pm
Posts: 11
My little native mare, has had a few issues in the last 6 months, she has been seen by physio and chiro, both have said she has muscle atrophy in her back end. However, chiro who treated her yesterday said she really didn't have any covering of muscle at all (shoulder & across her back) she has been backed but has struggled and has been turned away for winter, now I want to bring her back into work and not really sure how to with this issue.

I'm supposing in hand hill work!??

I have done a little research on this on Internet, scared myself, not sure if she need a vet!??? Thought I'd ask you guys first!


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 Post subject: Re: Muscle atrophy
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:36 am 
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Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:42 am
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Location: Vienna, Austria
You might want to consult a vet on this topic, especially if it doesn't get better with training.
As I understand it, muscle atrophy can have several causes. For example lack of use, trauma (bad fitting saddle, injury), nerval issues (lesion of Nervus suprascapularis is not uncommon for atrophy in the shoulder), disease (though it should be more of a generalised atrophy then), ...

As you describe it, my first guess would be a bad fitting saddle, or being backed without having strong enough muscles first?
You said she was away in autumn for training? How did that work out? Did it get better or worse?

If it's really just a fitness issue, I would do a lot of gymnastic groundwork with her. How is she doing with those kind of things?

Give us a little bit more details - I'm sure we can help you somehow :f:

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 Post subject: Re: Muscle atrophy
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:59 pm 

Joined: Thu May 10, 2012 3:12 pm
Posts: 11
She was ridden bareback from the beginning by her previous owner. She is typically flat backed no wither! So finding a saddle has been a nightmare! I have tried lots but all seem to slip forward. She went off to be professionally backed last August, they had physio out four times in that time as she seemed reluctant and resistant to work and was short & not tracking up, vets test found nothing, physio felt she had stifle issues??? My chiro now feels its muscle atrophy and to be fair to her the pony is definitely not symmetrical from behind! She has no covering of muscle on her shoulder or back, although while away she was worked 6 days a week for 4 months!!!! I would have thought she would have some by that time!??? She came back to me still unsound although my farrier says she had worn her hooves on the outside on her hind only. So, she has been rested since, and now I want to try to bring her back into work but quite honestly I'm concerned sheis not strong enough! She's a sweet thing, green, but we are starting to bond now and I am happy to spend the time just on the ground with her, cos I feel she is worth it. Oh and the physio said not to spend money on tack and to ride her bareback, I'm really not happy with this as surely this is not good riding a pony without enough muscle to support?. So I bought her a treeless saddle to continue her education while she was away, which seemed to do the trick for the time being. She has not been ridden now since mid November.
That's the story so far, I'm think of perhaps vet again!??


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 Post subject: Re: Muscle atrophy
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:36 pm 
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Location: Vienna, Austria
Mmmh... I'm by no means an expert, so what I say is just my personal opinion. I for one would always start to work from the ground until I'm pretty sure the horse has the physical and mental condition to carry a rider. How is your mare moving without a rider?
In my opinion, backing a horse to develop muscles in her back is not necessarily a good idea. If, like you described, a horse has not learned how to lift the back and go in a healthy frame, riding can surely be quite detrimental to muscle development. Also if backing is done too quickly and the horse is not mentally ready to ride, she will probably be resistant and tense, which would also not work in favour of a healthy movement.

Now, I don't say that all those things happened with your mare - I'm just an advocate of proceeding with extra caution when backing a horse. Why not take it slow and work from the ground first? That way you can observe her physical development (best in coordination with a vet), without the risk of damage from the extra weight of the rider...

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 Post subject: Re: Muscle atrophy
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:37 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Is she shod or barefoot? I ask because I had a similar thing with my horse. At some stage I think he fell or slipped and a huge hole appeared on top of his butt. Improvement came with work (but always at liberty so he could choose not to do something if he wasn't able to). This was frustrating as healing took place but he has since become very one sided over the shoulder area and clearly was not happy going in a circle on the off side. My barefoot trimmer made some very minor adjustments in increments of 3 weeks and bingo he was happy to offer the off side and the last "dip" has disappeared. This after 18 months of scratching my head!!!
So please check those feet very carefully and the fact that you can see her feet are wearing unevenly tells you she is not using her body equally and squarely and is compensating for something or avoiding something due to lack of muscle/pain or memory of such.
No amount of work is going to help if she can't land/break over correctly as all the joints will be crooked/muscle development etc....it's a rollover effect. You also say she is short and not tracking up....same with my horse only it was on one side. Vets and physio's try to fix the symptoms, you need to look at the cause and I am betting it's in the feet :D

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 Post subject: Re: Muscle atrophy
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:47 pm 

Joined: Thu May 10, 2012 3:12 pm
Posts: 11
Thankyou so much for your advice! It's a tricky one I agree. She is 5 yrs and is barefoot, I think I will consult my vet again just to be on the safe side. I haven't and will not ride her again until I feel she it fit and trust me enough to guide her along. I have been told to sell her as a broodmare, I am not prepared to do this, she deserves my time and help.

My farrier is aware and we have discussed options and decided that we will see how things are with his next visit. I'm not happy about shoes so will see how else he can help.

Thanks again, always appreciate your experience


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