Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: New Shoes, New Saddle, and a New Outlook

Fin relaxes with her owner’s dog Basil. (Leigh Beamer Moller photo)

This month has not been the month I had hoped it would be. I envisioned lots of field trips, making progress on Fin’s canter, and several more lessons. Instead, this was the month of appointments and worries. It has been hard not to feel down about myself due to the lack of riding, but this is all still progress, just of a different kind! 

Keeping an eye on the farrier. (Leigh Beamer Moller photo)

When Fin had her abscess in March, our wonderful vet suggested that we work with her personal farrier to help get Fin’s feet in decent shape. She has some funky feet but admittedly, they could be way worse. She has low heels and on the right side of her body her front and rear hooves are a bit toed out. As a constant worrier, I really wanted to get ahead of her feet and make sure that they were as supported as possible for our work together and more importantly, her longevity. 

Now, every six weeks Fin is hot-shod – and what a wonderful sport she is for it, too! She is very curious about the process and loves to keep a very close eye on what the farrier is doing. I am so thankful for her curiosity and proud of the fact that she is so calm about it all. I was surprised to learn from our farrier how small her feet are! Her right front is a 00 and her left front is a 000; such a petite gal. I can already tell that she is much more comfortable with the extra support and watching her feet grow and change over the last few months has been fun for me. Because of how she is shod, she gets to wear bell boots at all times now. The one time I took them off while we were riding, she pulled a shoe. Lesson learned! She enjoyed the week-long vacation until the farrier could come out and got a fancy acrylic patch to help with some of the hoof wall she pulled along with the shoe. 

On top of dealing with a pulled shoe, Fin had also started uncharacteristically bucking under saddle. Being the worrier that I am, I assumed the worst-case scenario and was consumed with anxiety. We got on the schedule for the vet, and in the meantime Fin had her first chiropractic appointment with Dr. Bensen. Boy, she is obsessed! She thoroughly loved being adjusted and the difference between the before and after was great to see.

I thought things were resolved until we got back in a regular riding rhythm. As our rides progressed, the bucking and back soreness started again. Not wanting to cause any more issues, I decided we should spend some time doing groundwork until our vet could get out. We worked on playing with the contact, lunging, and her turn on the forehand skills. While I was bummed out to not be riding, I am happy with the progress she made on the ground. Her contact has gotten a bit more consistent, and she is eager to show off those turn-on-the-forehand skills to anyone that will watch.

When our vet came, Fin got the works: a new Coggins, vaccines, and a float. Dr. Moore also checked out her back. Her initial thought was that saddle fit was an issue. That made me feel much better, because I had already written off the pain to 1,000 awful things. 

I was able to reach out to our saddle fitter, Josh Shoemaker, and get on his busy schedule. Lucky for us, he was swinging through the area fairly soon so we wouldn’t have to wait long – and while we waited, I went out of town on vacation so Fin got several nice days to relax and reset. When Josh assessed her, he didn’t love how our current saddle fit her but said it wasn’t awful. The main issue is that Fin is very sensitive, so even a not-awful fit was irritating her. He did as much as he could with my saddle, but flocking can’t fix a tree shape and the saddle was still working its way up onto her big shoulder blades. The last thing I wanted to do was purchase a new saddle. But to the dismay of my wallet, Fin’s comfort and wellbeing is of utmost importance to me. Josh happened to have a consignment saddle with a flatter tree, more wither clearance, and the perfect seat size for me. Everything we needed. When we took it for our test rides, we both fell in love and had the best few rides that we had had in a month. So, I purchased the saddle. 

Looking forward to the coming month, we already have a lesson scheduled, Fin has another chiro visit, and with me being out of school on summer vacation we will have a lot more time to hopefully venture off the farm. I am excited to start plugging away at our training again. And, for those of you wondering, we are still practicing loading on the trailer daily!

The Jockey Club supports many aftercare initiatives including the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the only accrediting body in aftercare, and Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.), which encourages the retraining of Thoroughbreds into other disciplines upon completion of careers. View all of the initiatives supported by The Jockey Club.

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