Oh my life! I've been meaning to update this for ages now but never did i realise it was May that i last posted! Where does time go? There have been big developments with both girls so i shall attempt to go through these individually.
We have seem some massive improvements in Gem in the last few months. She was shipped off doen to Three Counties Equine Vets in teweksbury in August to be scoped for gastric ulcers and to have her spine x-rayed. On her first visit she was found to have grade 2 ulcers so not too horrendous but the vet thought it may have been enough to have been causeing the girthiness and cold backed behaviour. She was sent home on a course of gastroguard with the instruction to return in 3 weeks to see how the ulcers were doing and whether the saddling issues had resolved...
3 weeks later we set off again, sadly with no improvement on the back issues. Thankfully upon re-scoping the ulcers had cleared up wonderfully so it was worth it if only for that. Gem was then taken into x-ray to see what was going on. A nervous wait in the waiting room ensued and then the vet called us to view the x-rays. I was fully expecting a kissing spine diagnosis so when he said there was no sign of impinging dorsal spinous processes i'm not sure whether i was relieved or not. I had prepared for that diagnosis and already thought through options so it was a bit of a shock to hear there was nothing going on in that way. Unfortunatley what she was diagnosed with was worse in a way- osteoarthritic changes to several facet joints- facet joint arthtitis basically- in T16-17, T17-18 and L2-3. Theres nothing that can be done to reverse these changes, only to help slow down the process and help the surrounding muscles. She had steroid injections on both sides into these joints and then mesotherapy to assist the relaxation of the muscles in the whole of her back. Again, we went home with an exercise program to help strengthen the topline and hopefully help her to start using her back correctly with the hope that if the muscles were stronger then she would be more able to support the weight of something on her back. Three months down the line it was obvious this was not to be as she still couldnt even cope with a roller on and girthed up. I was warned the steriod injection would either work and work well, or not at all. At this stage it looks like not at all.
More out of desperation and, at this stage, the willingness to give ANYTHING a go i contacted a local vet who does acupuncture. With the agreement of my regular vet we decided to give this a go with the thought that if after three sessions there was no improvement then we had at least tried. By the second session it was obvious something was working! Gems strides were becoming more even and free again, and she was less reactive to being prodded around the withers. We persevered with this for a few more sessions until eventually we thought the time was right to try the dreaded roller again... Under the watchful eye of both vets i hesitantly placed the roller on her back... no reaction... then slowly girthed it up one hole at a time... again not a flinch... on this first occasion i actually managed to girth it up fully and lead her around the school without her batting an eyelid. Needless to say happy wasnt the word!! She had it on for an entire 15 minutes in the school until we thought it was enough so took it off. This was about 5 weeks ago now and she wasnt even flinched at the roller since.
We have now managed to progress to having a saddlecloth under the roller and long reining up hill and down dale and Gem seems to really be enjoying being out and about again. Its so lovely to see her with a spark in her eye now :-)
This last week i've even managed to gently place a proper saddle on her back. She was wary so i'm not pushing this issue at the moment. Instead we are loaning a bareback pad that i can attach a girth and stirrups to so we can keep making progress. We have also been practicing jumping up & down by her side, imitating leg-ups and leaning across her with the aid of a very kind friend which she is also taking in her stride. So, after months of various veterinary treatments it was a desperate try of acupuncture that has finally broken down the barrier and allowed us to begin working with Gem. I am so hopeful for the next 12 months. With her current progress there is a very real change we may actually be able to get her back into ridden work, and even if she doesn't we have more importantly made her comfortable enough to continue her retirement for a good few years. All of this has made the bond between Gem and myself even stronger. I really do love this horse dearly and will continue doing all i can to help her go from strength to strength. After everything she's been through it's the least this darling little mare deserves.