Exercises to bringing back to work the "broken" horse...
Ok, so my welsh cob mare is now 6 months into recovery from her torn annular ligament. A month ago i tried ground driving her at a walk and she started to go a little off again. She's never been more than a grade one through the whole injury. So her "little off again" is more like a slight hesitation with that foot, kinda drags that toe ever so slightly, my husband thinks i'm nuts that i see anything... But i saw it. So i gave her another month and that was last week. I ground drove her a couple days and she's stayed sound. Yesterday i rode her at a walk, she was wacko tense and silly thinking monsters were going to come out of the walls of the indoor arena and eat her, so unfortunately i had to throw in some straight trot strides down the long side of the arena just to give her "work" because getting a tense horse to relax when you cant do lateral work or tighter circles is like asking my 3yr old to stay quiet for 2 minutes... It just aint gonna happen! I was really worried she would be off today, but she wasnt.
She seems to be staying sound this time, all i see is that the leg is very weak. At a walk she will twist it (always has had rotating hocks at a walk, but since the injury she tends to walk on the outside of the hoof and twist it worse and has completely straitened up the opposite hind with no rotating hock at all anymore). At a trot, she goes straight with no twisting. When she's been fit, her rotating hocks would all but disappear, so i know this is mostly just a weakness issue, and probably why we tore the annular ligament in the first place putting too much stress on weak tendons/ligaments during a storm out in the pasture.
I have a feeling it's going to be tough to strengthen that leg at a walk because of the way she wants to not use it correctly anymore. I wish we could do more trot work...
BUT, i guess that's my question. What would you do as a plan to get back to work? She's an incredibly smart mare that gets bored incredibly fast. I have an indoor arena which is flat, but everywhere outside of the barn has angles and hills which i'm not comfortable making her work on yet, maybe after a month of consistent work in the arena first to feel like she's stronger in that leg...
However, ground driving her in the indoor more than 5min and i'm practically beating her with the whip to keep her forward and to stop dinking around and pay attention. She's VERY bored with it. I tried throwing some ground poles out, she'll just wack into them when she's bored with them too... I would LOVE to hitch her and have her walk that way, although i'm getting my exercise walking too i suppose, lol... My marathon carriage is 400lbs though, and i just feel it's too heavy. I have a sprint cart on order to pick up next month, it's 200lbs and i think i'll feel more comfortable starting her back with that. But that's a month away...
I can ride her, but i know i'll have to throw in some trot, and maybe that's ok if i keep it in straight lines. I dont know if it would be good to try to lunge or long line her yet, she's a work-a-holic and will trot herself into the ground. She can be difficult when she thinks she's lunging and dismiss my slow down commands, and if wound up, will ignore my whoa too. She's always been that way. Always easier to put forget the lunging and ground work and just put her to work, then her brain focuses right away.
What are your thoughts and ideas as to keeping her interested but working in an easy enough way not to stress that leg? My vet's advice was just bring her back "slow." To keep it easy and ask a little more every week and if she holds up, keep going, if she get's a little off, back off or give her another month off.
I dont actually think ground driving her a month ago made her go off. My turn-outs here in IL are all on a slant and get slick with mud, so i think she just stressed it while she was outside. I try to keep her in when the mud is real bad, but then she spins on that LH in the stall and i dont really want that either. It's a crap shoot either way. But letting her sit seemed to help, so, we'll try working again and see what happens.
I have no competition goals for her next year or anything, just want to get her going sound and happy driving out on the roads. Mostly i'm just scared she's not gonna hold up, so i'm scared to set any goals!
Twisting the hock at the walk can also be indicative of a m/l imbalance in the heel. Its my knee-jerk reaction to just throw this tidbit out there, not to imply your farrier work is lacking in anyway. My morgan is cowhocked, when I balance his hinds I sight down from his hock to judge m/l balance rather than just relying on hoof in hand. I find when I trim to what I'm seeing from hock-view, it looks slightly off with hoof in hand but he wrings his hocks less. Here is a neat article showing how to sight down from the hock http://www.thehorsemechanic.com/hoofcare.html
I know nearly nothing about ligament issues (touch wood) so please take my thoughts with a grain of salt, but I too will be bringing back into shape the out of shape and easily bored horse(s) starting mid Jan. My geriatric (who will be my leader in tandem, does this harness make me look fat?) is only just pasture sound (arthritic stifle one side, club foot with arthritic pastern other side) so I need to handle him with kid gloves, no circles/longing for him and very very very little trotting.
Walking is the best. I keep it interesting by using props: tarps, cavaletti that are alternately raised, cavaletti on an arc, and I make zig zag patterns making a chute we have to negotiate. I always do a little work on more advanced stuff like TOH and lateral work, just a little here and there, and I do a LOT of advanced despooking, throwing pails and tarps around behind, letting my other loose horse canter around wildly while we work in hand, etc.
I also this year am doing a lot with really learning about the whip to help encourage bending.
It looks easy but its not and it really requires a lot of focus on the horse's part to get it right, and they seem to really really enjoy it.
I also have 101 Longeing and Long Lining Exercises, but a lot of that work is on a circle which I can't do with the oldster, and try to do very little of with my morgan as a bone spavin is finally rearing its ugly head. Sigh.
Buck - i learned how to do a correct barefoot trim 4yrs ago after watching farrier after farrier leave her inside heels too high and create more twist in those back legs... So we have that down now, i'm anal about keeping those insides DOWN! As you said, it's so easy to trim her crooked if you hold the foot and look down! I think most farriers are idiots now days. Does make it nice though when you move a lot that i dont have to search for farriers anymore! She has nice straight legs, my vet said her twisting is caused by weak ligaments. And after she tore a ligament, i guess we got a loud and clear answer that that's the case... An old vet back in OK wanted me to put shoes on her hinds, but i didnt feel that was right, and that was confirmed by a few other vets since then, if its a ligament issue let the feet twist if she wants to. If we prohibit it with too much traction, we just cause more stress on the ligaments. The main issue is keeping her fit. The stronger she is in the back end, the less she'll twist. But 6 months off and an injury that she hasnt used that left hind as much as the right, i now have a pretty straight RH and a horribly twisting walking on the outside heal LH... Pain in the rear!
I cant do lateral work until she's not walking on the outside of that foot so bad. I have to figure out how to strengthen her on straight lines. She's not clear to do more than 15-20min of a walk right now. She really shouldnt be jumped again. The annular ligament is in the fetlock joint, it's the "sling" that holds everything up, kinda the suspension spring if you think about it.
She's coming up a little off right now, but really i dont think it's anything to do with the injury, i think it's just sore from having to use it. I tried doing a slight incline with her the other day, i felt really bad about half way up cause she got more and more sore as she went. So i'll have to take it easy on that, but maybe use it more and more as we go along to build up the muscle in that left hind slowly. I'm really not sure if i should even let her trot under saddle yet, i know we dont want her cantering, even in turn-out yet.
She is a lateral work queen! She loves it, she likes to be thinking and she's pretzel pony, so it all comes very natural to her, but again, it's just too much right now to ask her to use that LH and take all her weight on it. We dont want her doing any turns on the haunches cause she twists the foot terribly, she does this in her stall. I think it caused us to be on a longer healing path than if she wasnt such a contortionist... That and the slick mud in her turn-out and her Highness trotting around on it... I do have Clays DVDs and she LOVES the long lining work, but i'm stuck at a walk. I really should use this time to get better with my whip though, working on getting better bend out of her, even on bigger circles, i think i can use that.
I would LOVE to do some more despooking stuff with her, she's really not that bad, she get's tense and her butt drops but she stays in place, that's about it. But i'm concerned she'll power off with that hind end if something does get her worked up though. Cob's are the most powerful horse/pony i've ever had in such a small package. One wrong powerful step and twist on that LH and i'm scared we'll be back at square one. I might throw a tarp out there for her to walk over though, something else to think about. I can use ground poles, maybe even lift them a few inches, but i dont want anything she's got to really lift to step over yet i dont think. Might be good to bring that in to play in a month or so.
I think i can do some big zig zags and cones to play with some patterns on big circles. Thats a good idea. It's hard to think of such EASY things to do with her that will keep her very smart brain busy and not bored! I just want her strong enough that she can be hitched next month for at least walking in the indoor with the sprint cart. I know her trying to push off with the hind end and the 400lb kuhnle is asking a bit much, but maybe we'll be worked up to that by summer... Maybe... I dont know that she'll ever get to be the CDE pony i was hoping for, but i'm sure hoping i can keep her sound for pleasure driving shows and some welsh shows under saddle and in harness... Time will tell i guess.