(Can I apologize for the massive walls of text I've been posting?)
As I laid there trying to fall asleep last night, the choice I made did not sit well with me. It just did not feel right. Having learned my lesson, I decided not to throw in the towel so fast.
As fate would have it, Emma texted me this morning and said she was at the barn and asked if Amber was still lame.
So I rushed out and Emma hopped on bareback so I could see what Amber is doing from the ground.
She isn't limping, she was freaking popping up on the front end doing nothing but throwing a tantrum. My suspision from the beginning. Behavioral. Emma verbally reprimanded her and that was all it took. She went off fine. I got on, she tried it with me. I verbally reprimanded her and drove her with my seat, and she moved even BETTER. What I have is a horse who learned that I jumped off every time she acted like she couldn't walk.
Now, I am fairly annoyed with myself. I don't let that horse get away with rude manners on the ground, and I definitely don't take that crap under saddle. But I was so worried that by pushing her through it I'd further injure her...and nobody seemed to be around when I was testing her out so I couldn't see it from another perspective.
She is still stiff in that leg, and now I'm thinking two things: Possible stifle issues, and perhaps a contributing factor is a noticable muscle imbalance. When I was sitting on her when I finished, and I turned around and looked at her hindquarters and it's very obvious she's undermuscled on the troubled side. I think fitness will help combat this.
So here is the new plan. Friday we are moving to ***. Plans are already in place, and I'm going ahead and moving my equipment tomorrow so there is less to do Friday (since I'll be in *** anyway for work). Amber is going to have a huuuuugeeeee pasture. Being on 24/7 turnout is going to be beneficial mentally and physically.
Through September, I will lunge her a few minutes several times a week, and if she seems to be comfortable enough, walk/trot her lightly for 10-20 minutes at a time under saddle a couple of those days. She obviously has an issue, it's just not as bad as she is making it out to be. If it were, she wouldn't calm right down and move like she has some sense when we get after her.
In October, we will see where we are, and if she isn't doing better, we will take her to a vet Casey has recommended, that's been recommended to be more than once, who solved an issue that one of her boarders had that no other vet could figure out. I will have a lameness exam done, with x-rays/ultrasounds if need be.
I should also mention pasture board at Casey's is almost $100 less than I thought. Holyyyyy cow. So this means that I will well be able to afford what Amber needs. AND I'm about to get a raise at work, probably about a $1 by hopefully the end of the year. HECK YES!
She's also started to run off in the pasture again, although she thought better of it today and let me catch her pretty easily. This usually happens when I fail to give her treats. Treats = motivation. Amber is easy to correct and she does have a sweet personality, but she definitely has a devious side to her...she definitely wants to avoid having to go out of her way to do ANY work right now. But, can I blame her? She was in pain, she still is in at least slight discomfort, and she's out of shape. That's no fun. I think being positive, even if it takes a few treats for hard work, will give her a better work ethic. I wouldn't want to haul someone around if I was out of shape and uncomfortable either...
At the end of the day, you have to take a step back, look at it and laugh. She's a mare. A clever mare at that. Her mentality is, you treat, I treat. Days like today are good to send the message that she has to obey, treats or not, but if edible rewards motivate her, I'm down for that. She's easy enough to correct that I'm not worried about it going out the window when there are no treats to give.
I feel like this is the right thing. It just doesn't feel right to let her go so fast. Clever little schemes she's been carrying out and all. I'm a little amazed at my sense of humor on this...I'm actually still amazed this horse was smart enough to pull that off. Somehow I knew it was behavioral. I just doubted myself because I thought that was crazy. Even though we still have a small issue, she isn't dead hopping lame.
I'm just freaking proud of myself for finally growing a pair and going with my gut when something didn't feel right. It felt like the right choice at first, but the more I thought about it...am I going to let ONE vet tell me after ONE failed treatment that a 7 year old otherwise healthy horse with fairly good conformation should go to waste? Absolutely not. That's under the same mentality that horses are nothing but tools for us to use. I vehemently disagree with that, as I have said in a recent blog.
Also - for the record, Emma trotted her and she was moving FINE. I trotted her, she felt fine. There was no obvious lameness, and the stiffness in her leg was not even nearly as severe as it was a few weeks ago. I think the hock did have a problem, maybe coming from her compensating for a stifle issue? And now we are back to the original problem...