As I sort of glossed over before I went away: Tristan has developed what can only be a white saddle sore on his withers. Jen at Cob Jockey's post about a possible sore on her horse pushed me to 'fess up more completely about this.
At first, I didn't notice it because he is so roany, and the white growing in looked like an extension of the white in his mane.
Then, each time I worried about whether it was in fact a saddle problem, I investigated. He showed zero tenderness or reactivity when I palpated the spot. When I put the saddle on his bare back there was zero interference. I would even reach down while riding and could still fit several fingers between the pommel and his withers. But after a few weeks I had to admit that there was definitely something wrong.
So what was the problem?
Two things. First and most egregiously, his lack of muscling behind his shoulders/below his withers means that saddle pads tip forward and slide down almost as soon as I start riding. The front of the saddle pad works its way down and puts pressure on his withers - directly in the worry spot.
Second, his jump saddle is no longer a good fit, also due to the lack of muscling. I have ridden in it perhaps a half dozen times in the last two months, and always for hacking out, but the pommel does bump the wither a bit when I sit in it. So while I doubt that flat-out caused the problem, it certainly did not help.
Solution, in two parts.
- Better fitness program, to include longeing and work on building his topline.
- Sheepskin half pad, in which he looks very dashing.
I'm going to start doing weekly topline photos, and we'll see if there's a visual difference.