I haven’t ridden King in a long time. So of course, he’s been bored, and feeling neglected. Every time I go out to put a halter on another horse, he inserts himself into the action and tries to get his head in the halter. “Take ME!!! You could ride ME!!” He loves ambling around and exploring trails.
I’ve missed riding him just as much as he’s missed going out. Last night I started watching some of my helmet cam videos, and that had me longing for a ride on him. Here’s one of my favorites, just down the road in the Jefferson Forest. He and I, all by ourselves having a grand time…
He has had a problem with muscles cramping in his hind end for a couple of years now. It gradually went from cramping up after two loops in a 50, to cramps after 12 miles in a CTR, to cramps after 5 miles of walk/trot at home to cramps after 1/4 mile of walking. Sometimes he stretched out as if to pee repeatedly during a short (half hour) ride. He’s been looked at by at least 4 different vets, with no real diagnosis. All of them commented on the melanomas, and thought that possibly if he had so many externally that there could be some internally and they are somehow interfering with his movement. He did have a mild selenium deficiency, which we corrected. But that did not fix the problems.
His tumours were growing at an alarming rate through the summer and fall, and between that and all the phantom hind end lameness and muscle cramping issues, I’d pretty much given up on ever riding him again. But a couple of months ago, several of the tumours sort of… well… exploded. It was pretty disgusting actually. And it scared me. I thought he was getting much worse. But my vet shrugged and told me that likely they would now reduce in size for a while. And sure enough, all of them, even the ones that didn’t break open and ooze revolting stuff, got considerably smaller. They are not gone, and this is just part of the progression of melanomas in grey horses. But he’s been obviously happier and more comfortable since they’ve gone down.
I had a really good look at him today, and decided that he was clear of any tumours under where the saddle or girth would go. There is one on his ribcage, about halfway back, which would mean that I couldn’t put my leg too far back. But since I am not up to doing anything too athletic myself, it was avoidable.
So I decided to tack him up and see how it went. When I put the saddle on, he was very cheerful until I pulled the girth up. Then he kicked up with his hind foot. I almost quit at that point, but then had a closer look and finally realized that I was flipping the stirrup back behind the girth and it was knocking into that tumour on his side. It’s not particularly sensitive when you push on it, but an abrupt knock is startling to him. Once I flipped the stirrup up over his back and out of the way, he was fine. And when I held the bridle up, he reached out and sucked the bit into his mouth in an excess of enthusiasm (much to Ana’s amusement).
Ana and Veronica came out with me and we had a quiet ride around the front field and then up and down the driveway. There was some ice under the snow, so the driveway was a bit less than ideal. All three horses had one or two small slips, so we went back to wading through the field. It was a short ride (maybe half an hour or 45 minutes) and very uneventful. But King had no muscle spasms, despite those two slips and wading through lots of snow.
I have no idea if he’s really any better, or if I just happened to get him on a good day. He was cheerful and pleased to be out and about, and we were both smiling throughout. I like riding other horses. But none of them are ever King. He is certainly no paragon of virtue. It took years to work through all his quirks. But he’s mellowed over the years (and I’ve learned better skills). I guess I’ve spent so many hours working with him and so many miles riding him that it just always feels “right” to be on his back.