I have a 21 year old mare with arthritis in her hocks calcified enough that it’s hard for the vet to get a needle in for injections). She’s a really sweet, fun horse who seems fully able of moving about (WTC, bucking, prancing, you name it) without a rider, apart from a short stride in her back left leg. But with a rider it’s another story - she’ll walk around ok for a few minutes, even give an awkward head-in-the-air jog for a little bit, but after that she absolutely REFUSES to move (we’ve done the whole “treat it like it’s behavioral and get after her with a crop” thing - didn’t get us anywhere except on the ground when she bucked in response). And I know she understands my aids and respects them because she used to be a super responsive dream under saddle and still is on the lunge. It happens with any rider (including my old trainer), regardless of tack. And I’ve become pretty convinced that it’s a back issue. She jerks her head up whenever you lean forward (i.e. to dismount, touch her ears, etc.) and sometimes, if I run my finger nail down her spine, she flinches pretty noticeably when I get right behind her withers. I think it’s a degenerative issue or one she’s had for a while as she’s had symptoms like these (jerking head up, acting unpredictable or refusing to move as if in pain, etc.) more or less since I got her five years ago but only got obvious enough to prevent regular riding in the last year or so (yes I should have had it looked at sooner, but I was young and stupid).
Anyway, I’m about to go to college and I need to decide whether I can get her sound to ride again and half-lease her, or if it’s time to give up and put her on pasture (which I would HATE to do because she’s an amazing horse who loves to have a job, and keeping a horse weighs pretty heavily on a college budget).
My dressage instructor recommended a great (but pricey) chiro/vet and I have an appointment with him, but he’s booked up until the day before I move into the dorm, which gives me no time to condition her, tend to her, try to find a leaser and/or a cheaper pasture boarding arrangement. So I guess my question is… what would you do or suggest? Should I call my usual vet? If I do that, I may not be able to afford the chiro… Does this sound like a skeletal issue (worth an x-ray) or more muscular?
Any recommendations as to who I might call/ take her to would be great as well. I’m in the Arvada/ Denver/Boulder area of Colorado.
Sorry it’s a long read but thank you so much for your advice!!