Thursday, March 26, 2009

Girth Issues

Arabee has just RECENTLY developed some pretty serious girth problems. Or, it might be the girth, or the breastcollar strap.

I first noticed some small bare patches on Tuesday March 17 that could only be found by her putting one front leg forward, then me gently pulling the skin at the elbow towards the front, so, I'm calling that her armpit. Basically, it was bare of hair there - but the skin didn't seem too bad - slightly tender, but not raw.

The thing is - nothing really changed! Same saddle, same pad, same breastcollar, same girth, same rider......the only difference I could come up with was that it was getting consistently in the 50s and 60s when we ride, and she's been really shedding out alot.

So I have been keeping a close eye on that spot, and I emailed The Distance Depot and they called me back to ask about the mohair girths they have. We talked about it alot, and decided it was probably just her rubbing and shedding in the sweaty areas. I mentioned I might try Desitin, or vaseline, or body glide, to lube her up if she was producing the friction herself. She thought that was a great idea, the Desitin, since then I'd be able to see whether it was the girth or not since it would be white everywhere.

I went ahead and tried the Desitin for our training ride on Tuesday, even though her armpit stayed the same after our 15 mile ride at Versailles (I'd have thought it would have gotten worse at that distance if it was the tack!) so I was pretty convinced it was just the way she was moving (or the extra layer of fat she has!). She even had similar issues between her hind legs. I put a not-so-thin layer of Desitin on the bare spot, and while I tried to keep it just there, I ended up basically just smearing it all over her....not pretty, but I figured it would be soothing.

Sadly, I think that since I was inept at staying in the lines, I will not be able to tell if it was from the tack or not - after Tuesday's ride I had white, smeary goo all over that horse from her shoulder, across her chest, all over the breastcollar strap, on the girth, on the billet strap. So was it the tack?? Maybe, but since I didn't keep the Desitin "in the lines" I feel I can't be sure. (I never was good at even coloring in the lines...) I checked her closely after riding on Tuesday, and other than the Desitin mixed with sweat and dirt ALL OVER HER she didn't appear any worse at all.

She had Wednesday off, and all day Thursday until I went up at 5:45 to tack up. Whoa! Big swelling, both just in front of her girth on her barrel, up between her legs, and it was warm and firm to the touch. Not good! The only thing I can think of is that trying the Desitin on Tuesday and leaving it on (I thought to soothe her skin!) just made things worse. She didn't seem worse after the ride Tuesday, but right away when I pulled her out of the paddock today to ride, it was obvious. I had checked her on Wednesday at the morning feeding, and didn't see anything unusual. What's going on here?

So Thursday I debated whether I should even ride. I groomed her very well, and checked her swollen and hairless areas carefully - she didn't seem affected when I touched, scratched the mud off, or palpated the area - so I decided it wasn't too uncomfortable, and I'd see if I could get the girth farther back to stay off that spot. No problem. I also loosened the breastcollar strap that goes between her legs to the girth so it would hang loose. So I rode for an hour, counting warmup and cooldown. I got off and checked her once about halfway, the girth had stayed in place, and the swelling had gone down slightly, so I kept going. Somewhere between when I checked her and when I quit riding she must have found a new way to rub hair - this time directly underneath the girth. Shoot! So I untacked her and hosed her down between the legs and made sure to get that area really really clean, (as opposed to really clean as usual) but the swelling had already decreased when I'd checked her, and had stayed down.

Again, she didn't seem uncomfortable, but I know it could very easily get much worse. The girth I've been riding in for a month now has been a 22" nylon cloth dressage girth with elastic ends. The breastcollar is a beta biothane from Running Bear (I love it!). After Thursday's ride I put everything but the saddle in the washing machine, including the much too big 30" fleecy backed dressage girth I have. If the swelling stays down tonight, I'll ride her with the fleecy girth, and put a bit of vaseline on the new bare spot. Hopefully she hasn't lost so much weight that her girth is useless (it was too long 2 months ago, and she's really trimmed up since then). But, if the swelling has increased, I definitely won't try and ride. Instead, I'll hose the area down again, and hand-walk/jog along the farm lanes. This won't be completely lost time, since she needs to become familiar with them anyway, but I'm really not fit enough to go as far as she needs to!

Any suggestions? Do I need to switch girths or was it just a freak bad reaction to the Desitin??

It's weird that with all that going on, we still had a GREAT ride. Arabee didn't show any signs of discomfort, and I started off in the barn lot. Matt opened the green gate for me to the pasture where I normally train, and I had him wire it OPEN. This allowed me to work in the barn lot, then trot across into the pasture, work in there on the hills and creeks and mud, then trot back. When I'd get her good and blowing, I'd head North to the new territory that we explored in hand on Tuesday at a nice walk to let her catch her breath. We experienced having to wait on a lot of traffic, from cars, trucks, SUVs, joggers, a horse trailer (with a horse!) and she handled it all very well. Fortunately the only vehicles we met while actually riding on the road (as opposed to waiting in the gate for the traffic to go by) was my husband in his little truck, so he was nice and slow, and she did fine.

I'll probably boot her tonight, all around, if I end up riding. Funny, on training rides that we've hauled out for, she moves right out on the gravel, but at home (w/ no other horses to pull her along!) she is short strided and choppy. I'm still learning my horse, but it's amazing that she'd perform SO differently on the same type of surfaces just because of the presence of other horses. I guess they aren't kidding when they say "ride your own ride" but it looks like it's going to be tough to do that since Arabee does seem to be so "magnetized" to the other horses on the trail - either slowing down if she's in front, or speeding up if she's behind.

Plan A for this weekend was to ride 20 miles w/ Jacke at Versailles, but with the forecast calling for THUNDERSTORMS on Saturday, we were going to do Plan B and try to ride together at her place on Friday, to work the horses together at a faster pace on hills, either 15 or 20 miles. But I wasn't able to find a sitter early enough so rather than haul 2 hours roundtrip to get to ride probably an hour and a half, I decided to stay here and work at home (Plan C!). But, if her girth is worse or the same, I may have to resort to Plan D and work her in hand. Man, oh man - what's next?? Sometimes it seems like it's always something!


~ C said...

What kind of girth are you using?

Anonymous said...

You need a new girth it sounds like. I was told when I started endurance riding not to use anything but 100% wool (not fleece but real wool or mohair) or neoprene. Distance riding is really, much different from other disciplines. You really push the limiit of your horse and need the best tack possible.

I've used both. But right now I am using neoprene. I like it a little better. But my endurance friend swears by 100% wool only.


Nicole said...

I'm shopping around online now for girths. Lots of options!

This morning at chore time when I checked Arabee she wasn't as swollen, but she was unhaltered - and wasn't too keen on me getting up close to check her.

About distance riding being different - I am surely finding that out!! I guess it's good that it's coming one thing at a time, so I can learn little by little - if she had 5 problems all at once it'd be tough to figure out exactly what! But this girth area issue is pretty obvious.

~ C said...

It sounds like you definitely need a new girth. With the recent change in girth, and the increase in riding, you're finding out that what you have didn't work. I have a friend with a VERY girthy horse, poor boy would get rubs from just about anything. She finally switched to a Wintec PVC dressage girth, get the tube-waffley kind of one with NO SEAMS or EDGES. That worked perfectly for her and her boy, who would rub from everything else she tried (mohair, wool, neoprene). The no seams and no edges was the one thing that worked for him.

Ironically, I've been using the non-dressage version of that girth for years and years now and have had zero issues. I love them. You also don't have the neoprene reaction that some horses can get since they aren't neoprene, they're PVC. Plus they aren't very expensive. =) You will need some kind of breastcollar loop though since they don't have rings. I have one nylon one that fits snug and stays on the girth really well, and another biothane one that's big and will fall off, so I just don't unclip that one if I use it, instead just pulling the entire girth out of the loop.

Best of luck!

Boots and Saddles 4 Mel said...

I use a 100% mohair girth and I love it. I've never had any problems with it.

Welcome to endurance riding! It is always something. And when you get this issue solved, there will be something else for you to learn about....Fortunatley (at least for me) the problems seemed to come one at a time - girth issue, then a electrolyte issue, then a saddle issue...etc etc. Just at the right pace for maximum learning.

Karen Chaton said...

I love mohair. BUT, with Chief because of how he is built I have to take out the cross-hairs that hold them together on the side. If you need I could get photos to show you.

I've had a couple of super sensitive horses that have done thousands of miles so you can manage it -- what you need to do so sponge bathe their armpits after every ride (unless it's freezing) and keep them free of salts - the salts and friction is what burns them and melts the hair right off.

Get some Bickmore's Gall Salve. Valley Vet has it if you can't find it locally. It's green. Put a gob on and rub it in. In a minute it'll warm up and be easy to spread. Put that on before your rides for awhile to help speed the healing.

Do leg stretches and pull each leg up forward towards you after you tack up.

Make sure your girth is always clean - rinse in a bucket of water and twist to dry, or wash on gentle cycle inside of a laundry bag.

If you can use center-fire rigging or find a way to move your girth back if it isn't already that will also help.

I use Eqyss rehydrating spray after riding and cleaning them up to keep their skin healthy and supple. You can also use pure aloe juice and sponge or spray that on.

I never use vaseline as it is petroleum based and will trap heat and make the problem worse. I also don't use Desitin, it's messy and I don't think breathes well enough to be used in the armpit area.


Endurance Granny said...

Nicole, I got a really nice neoprene dressage style girth from Down Under Supply, seems like it was less than $40. Phebes is very thin skinned and she did really well with it. I also use Neoprene on my western saddle with her and have had ZERO issues with that. ~E.G.

Nicole said...

Thanks all for your helpful tips and girth suggestions!

Arabee's swelling is gone (yay!) after having had 3 days off.