Five tips to make the most out of bringing a horse back to work after an injury
Rehabbing your horses’ injuries is part of being a rider. There are endless ways horses can hurt themselves, many of which will require some time off. Whether your horse bows a tendon and requires months off or suffers a minor injury that only needs a few weeks of downtime, you will need to bring your mount back to work gradually. To ensure your horse does not re-injure itself or develop a new ailment as a result of returning to work too quickly, you’ll need to spend a fair amount of time walking and trotting on straight lines. During my limited experiences rehabbing horses, I have discovered a few ways to make the endless hours of mundane walk/trot work more productive. Mix it up with these tips the next time you find yourself bringing a horse back to the workplace:
1) Crush boredom with Audiobooks: Listening to audiobooks on your smartphone or mp3 player is an easy way to make the time fly by. Immersing yourself in your favourite book can turn any boring and monotonous task into a fun one. Don’t suffer through another long walk ride again without an audio book ready to listen to.
2) Shorten your stirrups to work on your leg strength: Develop a galloping position that everyone will be envious of by using this time to increase your leg strength by ten-fold. Tack your horse up in your jump saddle and put your stirrups up to the shortest hole. If you are feeling really brave, you can roll your stirrup leathers once to make them jockey-level short. Get on your horse and start walking/trotting in your two-point. Yes, you will feel a burn!
3) Perfect your sitting trot: What’s the best way to improve your sitting trot? Lots of practice, so throw on your dressage saddle and try to mirror Charlotte Dujardin. Work on finding your rhythm by staying relaxed in your lower back. Remember to focus on keeping your legs quiet and toes pointed in because you don’t want to look like a spastic duck. The good news is you will likely just be trotting laps around the arena making it easier to hone your equitation when you don’t have to worry about finessing your horse’s way of going.
4) Work your horse long and low to improve its back strength: Stretch your horse’s frame down and out when you are bringing it back from time off. There is no rush to work on the show ring frame because competitions are still a long way down the calendar. This long and low work will make your horse significantly more supple and stronger over its top line. Another bonus is the long and low work will give you an excuse to quit working on your sitting trot and do some posting trot.
5) Get an early start on ‘No stirrup November’: Losing a stirrup in the show ring will be no big deal if you practice sans stirrups at home on a regular basis. Get ahead of your fellow riders by doing some no stirrup work outside the month of November. You can work on your sitting trot without stirrups or test your leg strength by practicing your posting trot and two-point –the choice is yours.
Injuries suck but instead of looking at them as a setback for you and your horse, view them as a chance to work on the ever-important basics!