Indirectly Helping MJ's Knee

I approached my lesson on Wednesday full of confidence. I now have my own, private, set of front leg boots for MJ. I don't have to tire myself by hunting for them anymore, they are clean, and I can be SURE that MJ's right knee feels more comfortable while moving.

For me while riding MJ this boot set up keeps me safer. When a joint hurts the horse will not be as able to overcome a surprise trip when, sometimes, the only thing that saves a horse from face planting is another leg coming up a little bit faster than usual. While MJ's knee right now it is getting better, but unless I put the boots and wraps on his front leg he is not confident enough to stretch his stride. This makes me wonder if he does trip if the leg that can save him from face-planting moves forward and is prepared to take more weight than usual. I was not getting the feeling from MJ that he thought he could handle anything like tripping, to him it was just so much better to proceed cautiously and safely.

This lesson, with his front boots and wraps on, he felt a lot more confident in himself. At first he did not want to stretch out his walking stride, but with patience and mild urging with my legs he finally stretched out some. When he stretched out his stride his back started “swinging” much better, and I got the physical therapy I need to walk better on my own two feet. What my last lesson had taught me is that unless the horse's back “swings” my body does not really “remember” how to walk properly. The “swing” of the horse's back and the swaying of the horse's barrel from side to side effectively “reminds” my body where it is and how my legs and pelvis need to move so I can walk securely on my own two feet. My proof was that after this lesson I was not staggering walking around my house unlike last week when I staggered for two or three days.

After turning him by various different aids around the jumps he felt like he could handle trotting. With my Q30 neck collar on and the ThinLine Contour pad on top of the Fenwick Western pad I had some hopes that I could sit his slow trot—some. Starting off his jackhammer trot was slightly less jarring, then his back started “swinging”, signs that his back was starting to relax a teeny-tiny bit so I slowed his trot down, stopped posting, and hovered just above the saddle. I cautiously let my seat bones start touching the saddle, making good and sure that my seat bones were following MJ's back movements. I was able to sit several strides without getting jarred too horribly but I have a very long way to go before I will be able to sit his trot all the way around the ring.

I do not think that MJ's back would have relaxed at all if I had not put the boots and wraps on MJ's front legs. I did not get any signals from his right knee besides a cautious exploration about the limits of his right knee that day, on that ride. MJ was still protecting his right knee, but he was not protecting it as much as he did last week without the boots.

When I first tried backing up MJ he was not too sure about it all. Repeating my aids I finally got him to move his legs back, one stride, a whole two inches long. OK, MJ at least tried to obey me, some. We walked around a bit more then I tried again. With a lot of nudges from my lower legs and suggestions from the bit that he go back, he finally gave me two reluctant and short strides to the rear, maybe 6” to 9”. I let him stand for a while, he HAD done it better than the first time and I needed to reward him some. Then I asked him again and he gave me three full strides to the rear with minimal aids, his mouth was relaxed, and he kept mostly straight. GOOD MJ!!!!!

Since I am not cantering right now I have to depend on Debbie's reports from the group lesson MJ's leaser takes. For many weeks MJ had been refusing to go into the canter on the right lead, and his left lead was fine. This, plus MJ starting to nod his head, was what led Debbie to get MJ's hooves and pasterns X-rayed, and his shoeing was changed to reflect his current lower leg conformation. Finally last Sunday MJ was able to canter on his right lead again.

Debbie had asked me if there was any therapeutic knee brace we could use on MJ, but everything I found was for use only in the stall with regular bandages blocking it from sliding down the leg. Well Debbie's stable is FULL, there are no vacant stalls to put MJ in.

However considering MJ's entire lower front leg, his problems from the navicular disease within his hoof caused his right knee to “get out of joint” (not really), causing lameness up there. Debbie dealt with his navicular disease effectively but it takes TIME for all the tendons and ligaments to get adapted to a new bone alignment, and in the meanwhile MJ just does not trust his right knee. I think that the therapeutic effects of the BOT exercise boots and the Fenwick leg and pastern wraps help MJ's lower right front leg enough so his knee does not hurt as bad because his lower leg now helps keep MJ's knee aligned properly. Pain lower down in the leg can affect what happens further up the leg a lot and often the tendons and ligaments hurt as the horse desperately tries to stabilize his hurting joints. THIS time what I did for MJ helped him enough to make him a lot less lame. Not only has he started to take the right lead at the canter again, he is finally consenting to trot over ground poles, something he had been extremely reluctant to do before.


Have a great ride,

Jackie Cochran

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