View Full Version : Riding with a Human Injury

Sep. 3, 2009, 08:17 PM
Okay. So I'm use to it being something stupid that my horse did that holds up or sets back training but this time it was me.

I tore what's called a UCL ligament in my hand (playing softball). This is the second time I did it, the last time being 7 yrs ago now (playing softball...notice a trend?). Anyhow the dr wants to give it 6 weeks in a splint (goes up and around my thumb and midway up arm) to try to fix itself before doing surgery (which would be 8 weeks in a cast). I'm trying desperately to behave but finding it extremely hard. My boyfriend is helping tack up the horse and I have just been longeing her until tonight when I just couldn't take it anymore and I rode her. I can't really grip anything in my left hand too tightly since the splint gets in the way. Without the splint my thumb is completely limp and just in the way though. So removing the splint to ride isn't an option.

I really just tried to stay light on both sides but my mare def picked up on my weak side being my left hand. Do you guys have any exercises that I could work on with her that would maybe give her a chance to balance herself and not work off of me so much? I want to keep her in work but I'm definitely limited in what I can do and what resources I have.

Sep. 3, 2009, 09:27 PM
If your horse is a greenie I wouldn't bother riding her if you're not riding correctly. She may just pick up bad habbits instead of learning anything good. Why not get someone else to ride her? Or do a crazy amount of groundwork & lunging.

Sep. 3, 2009, 09:49 PM
If your horse is a greenie I wouldn't bother riding her if you're not riding correctly. She may just pick up bad habbits instead of learning anything good. Why not get someone else to ride her? Or do a crazy amount of groundwork & lunging.

I agree. Get this thing fixed once and for all. The horse will still be there once you've healed.

Sep. 3, 2009, 09:50 PM
Find someone else to ride her. Ligaments and tendons are not to be played with! I broke my foot a few years ago (lol, i got in the way of a fat pony and his feed bucket. oops! *crunch*) and still rode--i just took the stirrup off that side, and since i wasn't putting any pressure on my foot it really wasn't doing anything (and i was on like the safest pony in the world back then. falling off wasn't even an option. like, you would really have to TRY to fall off this pony) and i wore some special shoe thing they gave me. but your hands are another story. you need those. just find someone else in the barn that's capable of riding your horse. are there any experienced juniors in the barn? most juniors (like myself) will be happy and very willing to ride someone else's horse for them.

Sep. 3, 2009, 11:11 PM
Don't mess with hand injuries! After my first carpal tunnel surgery the dr told me not to even think about riding for atleast 3 months. Well, it was middle of December when I had the surgery and I was leaving for Florida the first week in January and I had a horse to sell. So I waited maybe 3 weeks...Needless to say I had a second surgery not too long after....

Sep. 3, 2009, 11:35 PM
I broke my foot/big toe (because I was stupid and decided to braid a pony as a favor for a friend at the county fair while wearing sandals instead of driving the 2 miles home to my houseto get my boots like someone who's been around horses as long as I have would do) about 5 weeks ago. It was in a place that they couldnt cast it, but I between the toe and the fact that it ripped the entire toenail off (the single grossest experience of my life- and I have children! haha) I couldnt even touch the entire foot for about two weeks..

I'm a professional with a barn full of horses and had two back to back shows starting about 4 days after it happened. I basically borrowed a boot from someone who had a shoe 2 sizes bigger than mine, and I put it on at the last minute and limped to the horse and climbed on. At first it was AWFUL- but I did find a way to compensate for it the more I rode. I figured out that if I put my foot farther into the stirrup than usual and I survived- even took a very very green jumper around the level 2s the 2nd week without much pain. You can probably figure out a way to compensate for it if you ride enough, I was surprised that I did- but it was fine. My toe is still gross and big and purple, but I can almost wear my own boots! haha.

Hope you heal quickly!

Sep. 3, 2009, 11:37 PM
I keep my horses at home, so there isn't anyone close by that I trust to ride them (especially my mare). I'm still hopefull to avoid surgery but I still have 5 weeks to go in this splint thing before they can say yay or nay. I don't think I'll be jumping but I was hoping to be able to just hack her around the field and keep her fit. She's getting older and doesn't hold conditioning as well over breaks like she use too. She really looks to me for support and I just couldn't support her on my left side like I usually could. She was looking for the contact and I just couldn't pick it up.

Sep. 3, 2009, 11:48 PM
I broke my collar bone, so brought my horse to our dressage teacher for a month. Am almost ready to get back on, but will not push it. We'll both be in a better place.

Sep. 4, 2009, 12:44 AM
Go western and ride with one hand ;)
I had a horse flip on me once and I took off all the skin off my arm from several inches below my elbow up to my shoulder and it was bruised really bad and skinned my knee. Lucky it wasn't broken, I was back on within a week and rode with one hand for about a week because my arm was too weak to really use (granted the horse I was riding was comftorable with a one hand ride--she did however, almost throw me off once- jumping is not a good idea). However, it sounds like your injury is 100x as bad as mine and wouldn't it be terrible if you hurt it worse and were out for even longer? I don't think I could stay out of the saddle for that long but what if you just lunge her most of the time and only ride occasionally, lunge her before you ride too maybe.

You might try riding with your reins "bridged." I hope you know what I mean because I will probably do a terrible job of explaining. I prefer a double bridge where you hold both reins in both hands. You can also hold both reins in your good hand and then just add your good hand to one rein. I think it's a common thing in eventing, an event clinician introduced me to it. Good luck and hope you heal soon!

Sep. 4, 2009, 11:01 AM
I had a similar injury involving the same ligament in my dominant hand thumb. I was in a cast 4 days after the injury for 6 weeks (which turned in to 8 weeks because it didn't heal). Did PT/OT for the entire summer, in the splint that you described. Got sick of it, went a year ignoring that I had little use of my dominant (right) thumb, had the therapist build me a splint that didn't take away the use of my wrist, used that as my thumb. Went to the hand surgeon (now almost 2 years from injury), had the surgery, another cast, more PT/OT, a little more splint time, and Voila, I have a thumb again.

You will get VERY strong using a 'claw' between your first and second fingers. Give it time. I rode the whole time, casts and all (the nurse that took the cast off always laughed at the amount of hay stuck in the cast!). Once you get used to getting around using that claw to grasp things, you'll get along easily. The girth is the tough part of tacking up, but if you put it on very loose and don't mind walking back and forth from side to side to tighten one hole at a time, you'll be fine.

I put the reins between my ring finger and pinky, like normal, and then back through my 'claw' fingers. they were strong enough and soft enough to be successful. The biggest downfall is that now, a few years post surgery, I still tend to ride around with my right thumb straight up, not touching the rest of my hand even with my reins in the right place

Sorry this is so long, but don't be discouraged. They say that it's opposable thumbs that seperate us from a large portion of the animal community, isn't it?! :) good luck!

Sep. 4, 2009, 02:13 PM
Hmmm, right now I'm almost 7 weeks post surgery and 8 weeks post injury from a severe laceration of the right (dominant) thumb that severed my [deep breath] dorsal sensory nerve, ulnar nerve, volar plate ligament, ulnar collateral ligament and FPL tendon. In horse terms, i severed my deep flexor tendon, suspensory ligament, collateral ligament and nerved myself for good measure.

PS - carrying a lead crystal vase w/a small crack in it to the trash is a bad idea. really sucks when that vase falls ... thru ... your hand. Really. Sucks.

When I say you Do Not Want Surgery if at all avoidable, I cannot stress that enough. Really. My recuperation is probably a lot more complex and stands to be less than 100% recovery just because I don't do things halfway and have a few injuries with competing therapies and a whole lot of scar tissue in a really bad location, but the longer you are in a splint, the harder recovery is. So far I spent about 10 days post surgery in a Cletus the Cast (tm) with a really painful bend in the wrist and thumb. Or i thought it was painful until i met Barney the Brace (TM), where the bend was ... perfected ... just a bit more. Then 5 weeks later (yay! 2 weeks ahead of schedule) i got the ginormous bend taken out of the wrist, and that was a whole 'nuther level of pain. Today, 10 days later they were able to straighten it some more. Ow. Every tendon in my arm aches because they are ALL contracted, top and bottom. It's amazing, we aren't really into serious passive/active motion with my thumb yet, but the most painful part of therapy is just getting my wrist and fingers - you know, the uninjured parts - to move. or flex. just a little, not to actually hold things or have strength. And this is with me doing exercises every 2 hours! Supposedly I still have upwards of 6 more weeks Living With Barney. I think I can take it off for sleeping in 2 weeks, then start the weaning process.

So I would say that given how complex your thumb is and how interconnected it is with the rest of your arm, I'd take the 4 weeks very easy rather than risk dealing with even 50% of what I'm dealing with.

That said, I put off plans to start my 2 yr old u/s in august (waaaah!), but i can lunge him and crack a whip all in my left hand, and I even showed him in HB, but I had help getting him there and bridling him, and he's an awesomely well behaved horse, so I felt there was little risk to my right hand. Hey i can also put on eyeliner & mascara and open a bottle of wine as well, but that last one was such an effort i did buy a 1 handed bottle opener from brookstone. A girl's gotta have standards. :D

the rule i established with my other horse (who is an old campaigner who is as trustworthy as a horse can be) was that when i could tack himself up by myself AND i was off vicoden, then i could ride if i was in the mood. that ended up almost 5 weeks post surgery. It took a very long time to tack up and since i can't put on chaps, half chaps or boots yet, all i could do was walk once i finally got on ... but it was heaven. However the getting off? That was a problem. You need to think that one through. Scared me a bit, i was afraid i put too much tension on the arm, and this surgery is a "no do-overs" kind of dealio. Ride #2 was last night, and it worked to get off ont a platform on the off side, but you need to trust your horse to do that.

barney the brace (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3530/3774343945_b710d720d1_b.jpg)

showing in HB with Barney (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3552/3852132953_7b1c032cb7_b.jpg)

Sep. 4, 2009, 02:22 PM
Ouch Rebels Princess, it's no fun to be injured and not able to ride. I had ACL reconstruction on my knee last fall, so I empathize. Try to take it very easy, you really don't want to risk further injury or need surgery if you can avoid it. I know 6 weeks feels like a long time, but in the big picture it's really not. Especially when dealing with an injury that could have long term effects on your life. :)

DMK - OMG!! You are right, when you do it, you do it all the way. I hope you have an excellent recovery.

Sep. 4, 2009, 02:24 PM
Rehab sucks no matter what you're rehabbing!!! But, doing something you don't have to to jeopardize the level of future healing success isn't worth it!

DMK - YOWSERS!!!! OUCH!!!!!!!!!!!! Take care of you!!!!!!

Sep. 4, 2009, 03:27 PM
When I was 13 I broke my wrist and rode with the cast on, to my dr's dismay. Nothing bad happened because I was on a saint of a horse. At first before my mom knew what was going on, I asked for an old timey plaster cast. I would have my mom drop me off @ the barn on weekends like normal with promises to just bathe and love on the pony and hang out with the girls. Really I took a flathead screwdriver, hacked away at the cast until I could close my hand, and rode through the pain. Doctor caught me at checkup two weeks later and I was grounded - mom supervised me at every barn visit until it was all healed.

At 25 I got kicked in the knee and rode through the pain for a couple months. When advil stopped working, I went to the dr who suggested PT. I did six months of PT with no result before I was told under no circumstances to ride. I finally listened, and was better in 6 weeks. I could have had only 2 months of time out, but instead I had 8 months, seeing that I could really only hack around because of the injury.

All that said to conclude - lots of times we get away with riding while injured. However, in the long run it's often best to go ahead and let yourself heal.

If you really need to ride and you trust your horse, I would just keep her fit by riding one-handed on minimal contact, without jumping. Otherwise I would suck it up and take the time off.

Sep. 4, 2009, 04:43 PM
DMK your brace def beats mine in the scary catagory.


I'll have to try the claw system maybe. Last night I was trying to do some stuff with just one hand. I don't want to mess my hand up more but I can't stand to just sit around and my mare will go nuts. By the time I would be able to ride again, she would be in orbit flying around somewhere. She's actually been easier to ride then longe since she can really get to pulling and being a snot doing that. She is much better then she ever was before. She's just kind of a nut case and you never really know what horse you're getting that day.

Sep. 4, 2009, 04:52 PM
oh yeah, and they heat those splints up to "scalding" to form them to your arm. I'm just about ready to report my physical terrorist to the Geneva Convention. i think i have a good torture case.

Sep. 4, 2009, 06:59 PM
Sorry, I haven't read the whole thread but I thought I would throw in some of my personal experience. A couple of years ago I broke my right arm, pretty badly actually. I had a splint for 1 1/2 months before the swelling even went down enough to cast it. Once it was casted I continued riding, although I was instructed not to. To me, it was not really a big deal, I just wanted to ride. However, I could have really messed up my hand and now I have issues with my right hand when I ride. It tends to drop too much and pull outward rather than directly back, simply because that's how I had to ride to be effective with my cast on.

Perhaps you can find a friend, whose style you like, that could ride your horse a couple of times a week. That way it is still making progress and you can get better.