The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

23.1.2023 Max and Zen

A Guest blog by Hilary Moses


It was the third week in October before I was able to start ridden work with Zen again. It had been a long slog with the box rest and limited turn out, and we were both ready for something more interesting. The knee boots which I’d ordered had arrived, and it was tricky to get them fitted so that they were tight enough, but not so tight that they cut off Zen’s circulation! Our first hack was with Max and my friend, and I was so glad that they came along because we’d only gone about 100 metres before one knee boot was round Zen’s fetlock. It happened twice more, which was very frustrating as it meant getting off and adjusting before putting it back on. I can’t get on Zen from the floor so our training in standing still whilst being mounted came in very handy, as I struggled back on from walls, fences, and gates. He was also not too happy about going forward and seemed irritated with his girth, which was a borrowed one. So, we stopped again and swapped the girths so that he was wearing his usual one. He still wasn’t happy and was actually trying to bronc in walk and run me into the hedge. So, I had to get off and walk home, which he was happy to do. On untacking him I found an area of raised skin in his girth area which could have been a bite, so that might explain his odd behaviour. He does seem to have very sensitive skin. I’d arranged to have Zen’s knee x-rayed to give me peace of mind that there were no floating pieces of bone or anything in there, and we decided to do a foot balance x-ray at the same time, just to check that there wasn’t anything obvious which could be causing the tripping. All x-rays were good, and the foot balance ones were sent to my farrier so that he could see anything of interest.

Max’s month consisted of hacking out with Zen, which only happened a couple of times, and a few hacks with me when I wasn’t able to ride Zen. I was very grateful for this as it gave me time to relax and also time to just ride, which I (obviously) wouldn’t have been able to do if Zen was my sole horse.

By the end of October, I was still hoping for more normality to resume with Zen’s ridden work. What a long road it’s been.


This month, things descended into chaos in a big way. I’m very grateful to be a healthy person, I don’t suffer with anything on a regular basis or get ill. But this month started with a headache which was so debilitating that not much got done. Long story short, I had discompensated myopathy, which basically means that the muscles behind my eyes had become very strained and were causing the headache. It also meant that for a while, I was actually seeing double, which is really unhelpful when trying to do anything! With correct care and new glasses for driving, things slowly returned to normal. I was also house sitting for a friend about 6 miles from home, so I really had enough on my plate looking after things there, as well as doing my horses twice a day and going home to cook for my partner in the evenings. Safe to say there wasn’t much riding going on!

When I did manage to ride Zen, things were not going well. He seemed to be really struggling with the transition into canter, and when in canter he wasn’t going forward properly. My trainer rode him in my lesson and experienced much the same problem, so we decided to concentrate on suppling work in walk and trot. My vet was later to agree with this, as she said that because Zen had had so much time off, I wasn’t so much bringing him back into work as rehabilitating him. It also seemed to make matters worse if I didn’t ride him for about a week, he seemed to need riding more or less every other day to feel anything like normal. So, all in all, I felt like I was getting nowhere and not quite understanding why Zen was behaving this way. I was quite happy to take things slowly and work in walk and trot until he started to improve, but I was seriously wondering how long that was going to take. As in October, I was thanking my lucky stars that I have Max, who was always there for a hack if I had the time. But that was in short supply this month.

Keep an eye out for my next book, “Harmonious Horsemanship: How to use the Ridden Horse Ethogram to Optimise Potential, Partnership, and Performance”. This ground-breaking book is co-authored with Dr Sue Dyson, and will be available summer 2023. Sign up at to be kept up to date with new information as it comes available. In the meantime, you can find out more about the Ridden Horse Ethogram here.

Books by Sue Palmer M.Sc. MCSP:

‘Horse Massage for Horse Owners’

‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’

Book cover for Horse Massage for Horse Owners

Book cover for Brain, Pain or Training?

Sue Dyson and Sue Palmer, authors of 'Harmonious Horsemanship'

Sue Dyson and Sue Palmer, authors of ‘Harmonious Horsemanship’

January 23, 2023
Sue Palmer