The day of my last entry, I rode Solo in the afternoon at walk and trot in the arena. I rode him with another horse, however, he was a bit sticky and kept stopping and starting and throwing his head back at me when I leant forward to get off his back.

The next day, I lunged him and hopped on, walked around for a few minutes, again, a feeling of reluctance to go forward, I was surprised but put it down to a badly interrupted training ,and having to work indoors every day. When I asked him to pick up trot his back dropped and he threatened to rear – I told him to get a life and tried to kick and tap him on with the crop and up he went…. Two really good rears, one bigger than the other….ugh…. My student Janice was keeping an eye on things from the bleachers and ran over to help – I jumped off and put the lunge line and cavasson back on, gave Janice the line to hang onto, remounted quickly and smacked him a little harder with the crop when he once again refused to trot. With me grumbling and growling and Janice holding on in front, he walked and trotted, I was baffled by his behavior. It reminded me of how he had felt going up hills in the snow – reluctant to go forward and inclined to hop up and down. Of course, that wasn’t enough to make me put my thinking cap on, oh no, I just decide to try harder the next day….sigh

Next day, full of positive energy, I mount up with Janice on the end of the lunge line and I ask her to just lead me around for a few minutes, I have decided to start on the lunge and then have myself disconnected when he is really going forward. I put my hand forward to slip my fingers under the breastplate and he seemed a little upset by that – not something he has ever seemed to even notice before but this time he is shaking his head and prancing up and down – so I transfer my affections to the front of the saddle and think I will slip one hand under to stabilize so that should he be unbalance me at any time, I will not use the reins to rebalance myself. As soon as my hand goes anywhere near his wither, he got quite frantic – I looked down (FINALLY) and see his poor wither is all pink and puffy. The skin is not broken but there has obviously been a build up of hard skin that has pulled off as a scab, leaving his wither with no hair and a thin covering of bruised looking skin. Needless to say, I took his point this time, jumped off, took him back to his little bed and rubbed some aloe into his poor withers.

Solo has a fairly prominent wither and this is going to be something ongoing that will require a change in his management. Once I thought about it – it made sense that we had no issues until we went up a hill where I would lean forward and transfer weight onto his wither – never a problem on the flat. Since then the wither has obviously got a lot worse and it is when I try to stand up slightly in the stirrups to get my weight forward on him that he reacts – in retrospect he has been mentioning this for a while. I am not yet sure what has caused it.

Number one – it has been only since he started wearing multiple blankets in the colder weather.

One of the first things I will do today is order him a very warm but lightweight blanket to alleviate the pressure on his wither.

Number two – the saddle has been moving back when I lunge him with side reins at the beginning of his work sessions – this was corrected each time before I got on but while the saddle is slipping slightly back, the pad we had been using had also slipped back, and because of that, its edging was pressing into the wither underneath the front of the saddle.

I am changing over onto bigger softer saddle pads and I will be careful how they are finished around the edges.

Number three – There is not doubt that my saddle is now bothering him, but whether or not it was the cause I don’t know. I feel a bit guilty as it has been due to go for restuffing and a general check up for about six months. I keep saying I will send it but then the thought of living without it turns me pale. I ride four to six horses a day and three of them are youngsters just backed. My saddle is like my safety belt, I feel vulnerable up there without it. There are two similar saddles in the barn that I can borrow when I need to jump but I HATE parting with my saddle for its annual physical. I have a similar affection for my dressage saddle and as soon as Solo’s wither is less bruised, I will try him in it. The only issue I have with riding babies in a dressage saddle is that the balance is a bit advanced.

The good news is that he couldn’t have done it at a better time, it’s FREEZING out there, I will be lunging him and maybe loose jumping him without tack until I have him ready to get on. I have to go and get him a new blanket right away today as no matter which issue caused it, all three are going to have to be addressed in order to heal it as all three are now causing pressure.