Sorry this is long - but I wanted to give you all the info:
I have this very strong, thick boned WB cross. I started him when he was 4-5 and evented him a little but for 3 years he was ridden mostly by teens learning low level started eventing.
Last year in the spring, I decided to show again as my son is now 4 and I feel like I can focus on my riding again - my horse did surprisingly great - until September. When he was 5-6 years old, his dressage was consistent at 6s but nothing spectacular and his problem was his canter but he was a baby so I was happy with consistency. This time around, we get 8s in the canter at least one direction in every test. He is only training level but whenever I go out there and give it 100% he usually scores @70%. If I go out there being conservative, I get in the low 60%. So clearly its me most of the time!
But in September, he did an unasked for move = he is an overachiever mentally and we were doing canter work and working on loops and I slipped my right leg behind the girth slightly to move his haunches more towards the rail at the end of the loop, I felt him tip out of balance and so I did a mini half halt and -he did a real collected change. It was really COOL and felt awesome. BUT he popped a butt muscle doing it.
I seriously could read his mind - he said "oh, ugh". And then he started to get tight. So first I tried to work him through it because he was not lame and loosen him back up with some stretchy canter and trot and bendy work. Then I got off, massaged him everywhere - looked everywhere to see what it could be. Could not feel anything - just tightness in that buttock.
I gave him a few days off. And went back to work. He was fine - - but he was not willing to collect as much and I was using more leg than usual. SO I took him to a great massage guy who works on high level sport horses. He found that butt muscle and worked on it. My horse was better but not the same. still - So basically, he has had most of the winter off.
I have been slowly working him back these last 2-3 weeks and yesterday I did my first canter work involving loops. I found that he was great unless we cantered the right lead and at the end of the loop where we change bend and go towards the rail. He could not do it. So I decided to just canter him on the right lead and bend him left in small doses. In small amounts he started to really come together as he was prior to last September BUT I could tell he was working hard and thinking harder.
SHOULD I do this in small doses and build - should I crosstrain him over some grids in jumping - this often stretches out those muscles - what would you do?
Yesterday I just did it in small doses and then massaged linament all over that hind butt cheek.
With muscles, you want to take it reeeeally slow and easy. Lots of gentle, smooth motions, and really work on stretching it. Stretching is what is going to help it get back to where it was. (Obviously, this means something different for the horse, lol. Lots harder to stretch one of their butt muscles!)
I would think that anything that works those mutt muscles (poles, cavaletti, et.) should be done. Maybe start with poles, to start off small. Then work your way up.
You sound like you can easily tell when the horse is not "feeling it" so that's a step in the right direction! Don't push him if he feels uncomfortable, and he'll be back to normal in no time! Sore no More is going to be your friend, as well. :-)
"On the back of a horse I felt whole, complete, connected to that vital place in the center of me...and the chaos within me found balance."
Ainsley is giving you good advice. If you have a good vet in the area, ask his/her advice about rehabbing such a muscle injury.
I would think hillwork on gentle slopes would be good for him. Travel diagonally and sidewise along the slopes to give him a variety of stretches. Likewise low cavalletti work at the trot.
Yes, proceed slowly and with caution. Listen to your horse and when he seems to be struggling, quit. In fact, don't push him to that point for the first two or three months. It may take a year of rehab to get him back to normal. It did for my horse. No cantering for now. Only strengthening and stretching.
Massage therapy, accupuncture and other therapies (electro-magnetic things, Back on Track blankets, etc.) helped my gelding's back trouble, so use what's at your disposal to help your horse.
I think when it comes to rehab, the slow way is the fast way and the fast way is the slow way. If you can, I'd avoid getting to a place where there's something he can't do.
Ideally, try to build strength and increase range of motion a little bit every day. Sometimes that will simply mean doing exactly the same thing you did the day before; sometimes it will mean doing more.
It can be hard with some horses to gauge how far to go. So it pays to be able to understand what is too much for a particular horse and what isn't enough.
Sara Wyche's book on rehabilitation is worth reading. Liniment, supplements, Back on Track blanket, etc. are all good things that may help your horse. Periodic examinations with thermography can also let you see how the healing is progressing.
The aids are the legs, the hands, the weight of the rider, the whip, the caress, the voice and the use of extraneous circumstances. ~ General Decarpentry www.reflectionsonriding.com
It is so muddy here and my fields are pretty level. They are great to canter when they are solid ground - as the ground is up and down just enough for a horse to pay attention to where his feet are. There is only ONE hill I can think of that would work his buttock muscles I think and it is very muddy. HMMMMMM grrrrrrr
I have spoken to my vets - basically they stated what I was thinking - linament and stretchy work which in October did not really help (but I did stretchy over the back cantering work not jumping or hills) so I gave him 1-2 months off. So I am back to linament and stretchy work - I just need better stretchy work.
I think part of the issue is he is a POWER house and he uses that so much when he does things. But I need him to not power through things but to stretch.
Like I am going to do some trotting poles today when I ride and set them a wide so he cant just power through them - he has to stretch. I will also lunge him over a few small jumps strategically placed - I want to WATCH that hind and SEE if I am getting my target area.
I think you need to work with the equine professionals around you (vets, massage therapist) and understand exactly how the things you do affect him as well as try to understand the cause of the problem.
Trot poles with a long stride are going to encourage him to use his hind end alright, but not to stretch it. You may end up making him sour from being more sore... or you may end up helping him.
My horse has a much weaker right hind than left. It's naturally his weaker leg plus he had a major fall in turnout which made it worse. I have to pay a lot of attention to all the muscles on that side and straightness on that side - he has no stop in him, so he will happily make himself sore by working VERY hard, and I have to step back, work him more lightly and let him work through it. He also gets regular massage. But it has taken a while to figure out his body and what works/doesn't work for him.
Originally Posted by Silverbridge
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L & S, proceed with caution! Easyrider's admonition that the slow way is the fast way is correct. Do not rush your horse or he'll never get better!
My vet told me it would take a year of very careful work to rehab my boy. He insisted on NO CANTER WORK for the first two months -- or until he could come out and check Figaro's progress. We did a LOT of walking on a loose rein or into long & low contact. Also long & low & SLOW in trot. That's your best stretching work. I'd advise no jumping for now, and don't tax him too much with cavaletti. For now, more up & down than big steps -- ride him at trot slightly under tempo, stretching him over the back as much as you are able. At first, keep your work sessions short. Do not overwork the horse. It WILL set him back. Ask me how I know!
Walking over cavaletti can substitute for hill work if your ground is not suitable.
Your horse will tell you what's working and what's not.