How can you tell if your horse needs some dental work? Well, I can give you some good pointers:
1) You refer to her as Ol' Ironmouth when doing your dressage work (i.e. she hangs on the bridle, she has difficulty maintaining bend)
2) Giant asymmetrical temporalis muscles on her forehead, indicating that she tends to chew more up and down as opposed to properly chewing side to side:
3) Oh, and this:
Chalk that one up as a big DUH for me. I've peeked in there before, and I KNOW how important dental work is to the entire biomechanical machine that is the horse, but I also weighted the prepurchase vet's opinion on this ("no abnormal findings") as one of those "well, I should get that done soon" things, but not as one of paramount importance. Of course, it occurred to me that I should probably check again when going over my checklist of reasons-why-your-horse-might-be-hanging-on-you, and was relatively alarmed by what I found. Well of COURSE she's hanging on the bridle, wouldn't you too? To go along with those honking temporalis muscles and those daggers on her third incisors, her incisors don't quite line up evenly when you look at them from the front - which means we have a probable TMJ issue going on. They're actually pretty common, but they suck to correct. The dental specialist is already scheduled to come out the morning of the 29th, so hopefully we can get this straightened out, quite literally!
In other extremely related news, here's some video of Pangea and I schooling dressage yesterday!
Thank you Future Hubs for being nice enough to let me drag him out to the barn to take some video for me even though it was 90 degrees outside. Thankfully, Pangea is adjusting well to the increase in temperature, and is getting fitter and fitter as time goes on.
You can see what I mean about the hangy-ness. She's not always hanging, but she likes to break at the 3rd vertebrae and bear down on my hands, which effectively disengages her hind end and lets it trail out a mile behind her. Those are the moments when I feel that I don't have the left hind under my control anymore. I think it's a rather complicated number of small things adding up: hocks, teeth, front feet.
First problem: Her feet are still mid-transition, and while they are a WORLD better than they were, they are still far from perfect and not only are her soles still far too thin at the toe, but the back of her foot still has beefing up to do. That, of course, negatively effects her on anything but good soft footing. You know what that means.... it's time for some boots and pads!
Second problem: Teeth issues. We'll have a better idea of what exactly is going on when the dentist looks at her. When her teeth are uncomfortable, she bears down on the bit and hangs, which lets her hind end drag out behind her. Which leads us to...
Third problem: Hocks/stifles. This is where everything adds up to create the big picture. If her hocks and stifles, which have some arthritic issues, are bothering her in any way, then she naturally won't want to push from behind, and will hang in the bridle in an effort to disengage herself. If she is pounding away on her front end because her hind end hurts, then it will make her front feet increasingly sore. If her front feet bother her and she weights her back end in an effort to lighten the load up front, it can make her hocks and stifles sore.
All of these things need assessment. Her teeth will be checked by the specialist, boots and pads will be ordered, and we'll be discussing a plan for joint care with my vet. I decided to start conservatively with the joints, like I always do, and have had her on Cosequin ASU from the get-go. She of course needs Adequan additional to this, which is the next step from here on out, but I wanted to see how much the Cosequin would help her by itself (and it did, quite a bit). If all else fails and teeth/boots/chiro/bodywork/joint supplements still aren't giving her what she needs, we'll probably be looking at injections. Sure, she looks pretty ok in this dressage video, but she starts out feeling like garbage and with a total flat tire on the left hind. If you look for it, you can see it in the video too, although greatly diminished.
She is getting on in age, after all.... 16 years old, if you can believe that. (I would never call a 16 year old horse OLD, but she is aging, albeit rather gracefully!) I had to check her papers just now to see when her birthday was, and it was on May 15th... dangit I missed it! I'll have to make that one up to her!