Thehorse.com - full article
by: Kevin K. Haussler, DVM, DC, PhD
July 01 2007, Article # 9904
Question: I have a 17-year-old Half-Arabian gelding that underwent colic surgery in August 2005. He had a totally uneventful recovery, and within six months he was back to his usual job of pleasure and trail riding. My only remaining concern is that he lost tone in his belly muscle and his back dropped somewhat, and I haven't been able to get it to return to normal. Although I was aware of the change, I didn't realize the degree of it until I tried an English saddle on him that we hadn't used since before the surgery.
The saddle was reflocked and fitted to him two years ago, and it was a good fit. Now the fit is so poor it's unusable (it's bridging, meaning the panels are not contoured to fit the shape of his back). I thought his everyday saddle was okay, but I have had some issues with his back getting sore, and on closer inspection, it's not a great fit, either. I am now using a small pad under his regular pad.
The bigger problem is why haven't I been able to get the belly and back muscles in shape? I've read several articles about bringing a horse back from injury/illness and went through the proper reconditioning initially, and he's really quite fit as far as stamina, recovery time for pulse/respiration, etc. That part is well behind us. I've been told lots of long trotting sessions and transitions will help to strengthen the back. I also do "carrot stretches" and belly lifts, but I'm not really seeing progress. Do you think he is too old to fully recuperate these large muscles or do you have other suggestions? Alice Crooks, Michigan
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