I have a pony that had a big time hoof injury and has been lame and just standing around for 4 months. He now seems to over his gimpiness and I need to bring him back gently. I have no one small enough to ride him, and he has been turned out for 2 months so has some exercise. Can I start with hitching him to my light cart and just walking 10 minutes on soft ground? He needs some actual work to get in shape?
Last edited by JustFive; Aug. 29, 2012 at 11:07 AM.
Reason: Left word out
One of my Clydesdales had a long lay-up from a broken coffin bone, and the vets had absolutely no idea what the right rehab program was for a driving horse. So we rehabbed him like a riding horse. First he was hand-walked for 30 days. Then driven short periods at the walk, then trot sets added in. Your vet can give you the specifics on the length of trot periods and the way you should increase, based on your horse's injury. He actually ended up being a very good riding horse and a side benefit is that I am able to work with him on driving-related issues under saddle.
Since he has been on turnout for months, I feel like he is past the hand walking stage. He canters while playing and changes leads without a problem. I actually see him trot less than any other gait as it's either stand around or run like an idiot.
we all just assumed that he was on stall rest since you did not give very many details as to his recovery. BUT you are also missing the big picture on how important the walk is.
Go back up and read my post about starting out doing 20 mins of walking. Walking while being ground driven, hitched, or other wise is good for the body and mind. Engage his body, make him use his back and hind end. You have an opportunity to basically start from scratch when it comes to him physically.
As always, do straight lines with minimal turning big, swooping turns are fine, but tight serpentines are not.
after a couple of weeks of walking, and I am going to assume that you drive him every day since you have not specified how often he is worked, you can add in trot sets, 5 mins of trot for every 15-20 of walking. Always ending on a nice cooling walk. Add a min or two every few days. Once he is trotting well, using his body correctly, the trotting can be the main part of his work. Walk in warm up, trot, then cool down walk.
Bringing back a driving horse is just like bringing back any other discipline. You did not say if this is a competition pony, a pleasure pony, a once and a blue moon ride pony, these factors and details count when bringing back a horse/pony. If he is seldomly worked (the once and a blue moon pony) just walk with small trot set, the fact that he is out of shape will determine how long you can trot for.
I was also assuming the horse had been on stall rest. Mine was for 4 months before his "rehab program" and he was a competition horse. MunchingonHay gave great advice. You need to take all the factors into account (including what the injury was that caused the horse to be out of work. No tight circles, though, is good advice no matter what since ending properly depends on muscle being built properly.
My horses get 4 months off (usually) in the winter. Generally they're off from Nov-March, and I start them back some time late march/april weather depending.
They are out on pasture all the time, but I assume that they lose conditioning just hanging out and not actually working. Sure they canter and play, and I put them in the arena for some fun time and make them really go (if not slippery), but they're not in a true work program over the winter.
So, each early spring, I start them back up ground driving. For at least 2 weeks, sometimes up to 4 depending on how cold/rainy/muddy the conditions are. I won't get back to driving them until I'm not freezing my bum off or getting soaked, and until the footing in the arena is suitable, or the roads aren't wet. And when I do get back to driving them, generally the first few drives involve quite a lot of walk and very little trotting.
I like to give them time to leg up and condition back up.
So my healthy sound horses get weeks of ground work and very easy drives before they get back to a normal work load. I would just be tempted to take it slow with your laid up pony, and opt to do lots of ground driving first.
But that's just me. I love ground driving, and I'm a huge fan of it. I can do so much with my horse (and me!) on the ground at the walk, that I find it to be such a good builder (and great exercise for me!) for everything else.