Hi Everyone! So I am in the very long and tedious process of rehabbing a horse from a ligament injury. I was looking through various rehab plans, and many of them contained trotting on the long-line shortly after the walking under tack phase. I think this is great physiologically, but my question is.... When you have a sport horse that has had its work load significantly reduced, how do you put it on the long-line without worries of it bolting off and ripping its ligament open again? I know many of you may be thinking "Duh... drug it". Which I totally get. I currently ace this horse for its walking time just in case something spooky happens (would hate for it to reinjure itself for such a stupid reason). But, I feel like to really insure the horse wouldn't gallop off or buck or whatever on the longe-line, you'd have to use quite a bit of drugs. Which could then cause the horse to be over drugged (stumble, not use itself correctly, etc.). Am I being overly cautious or does anyone have any experience with a good way to do this safely?
Tack walking is the ONLY way I'm willing to rehab. I don't even like to hand walk rehabbing horses. I hand grazed my horse most evenings during his rehab from a MINOR tendon injury (I tack walked him in the mornings), and it was far more terrifying to me than the riding.
I have a mare that I'm going to start bringing back from a weird wither injury; part of the plan includes long lining at the walk even prior to adding in the saddle/rider. BUT this mare is on regular turnout and is not known for over-exerting herself. If you have to worry about what the horse might do, skip long lines and sit on it, in my opinion.
We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........
I agree with most of what has been said - I prefer not to longe or long-line my rehab cases because if someone has a Little Moment I feel I am more able to control where the feet are when I am on the horse, as opposed to hanging on to the end of what is effectively a string with a thousand pounds on the end. Obviously this depends on the horse and the injury and all the other factors, but that's my general preference - if I can just ride it, I will ride it over long lining.
Beyond the potential for goofing off and re injuring as you mentioned, doing circles, especially smaller ones if you're trying to maintain control, isn't ideal for ligament rehab IME. Straight line work is much safer to start. I would also take a good hard look at the footing available. Deep footing can cause problems too--even at a walk. Ideally, if you've got a nice fenceline you can ride, a lane to walk down, etc, I would tack up and ride as others mentioned. (minus the sedation!)
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
Yeah, I would not lunge or long line for rehab. Hand walking followed by tack walking CAN be done, even with a young TB, and even in winter. I did it with a 4 year old TB and lived to tell the tale. I ride well enough, and I'm pretty sticky, but I'm no pro, so I bet you can do it too! I personally would sedate for at *least* the first few rides.
When I was rehabbing my horse, I sedated for all of the rides until we got to the point where we were cantering and pretty much in full flatwork (he still wasn't being turned out at that point).
The portions of rehab that I found the most, er, exciting were:
1. Handwalking, at first. It was more like taking an ill-mannered pet dragon for a walk. This was partly due to the horse's personality in general and his level of training at the time. By the end of the hand walking stage, which lasted a whopping 6 months, he had really quite good ground manners.
2. The very first few walking rehab rides. The first one, I got on, he took two steps and then just stood up, came down, stood up, came down, stood up...and then walked off. I thought then, "Well, that's it...rehabbing this horse is how I will die." But he actually, he settled into the walking work very nicely and behaved very well most of the time (yes, he was sedated).
3. The first few times trotting. We had very limited braking capability, and no power steering. He trotted a million miles per hour. This improved quickly, and the good news was that his stamina was so poor that he tired easily and lacked the motivation to kill me.
4. The first few times cantering. Off to the races, lol.
I have a gelding who is capable of being quite high strung and snorting fireballs if he's been out of work for any stretch of time. He can no longer be ridden due to a back injury, he is now my driving horse. He also has a possible shoulder/tendon thing going on, so I avoid circles like the plague. Long lining and in hand work are our only ways to return to fitness before returning to work. This is much easier said than done with a horse who is all to happy to walk on his hind legs or bolt to the next county out of pure 'up-ness'. Add 30' of driving lines and things can get western real quick.
So what I do is a lot of baby-step type training and employ the copious use of treats
Over the years I've learned some simple, non restrictive focusing exercises for close in-hand work, and before I take 'ol Tornado out in the long lines I spend around 15-30 minutes running through them. Dialogue pretty much consists of "I know you're crawling out of your skin with excess energy, but its real important you don't forget about me pal and take off for Canada."
When its time for long lining, its at least 30 min of walking and not just in circles or out on the rail, but doing activities that require he think things through. Not too much thinking required though as that can be over stimulating in itself little tasks and lots of rewards.
When it is time to trot, since we do straight lines it requires I jog along for much of it too. This can be enormously exciting for an up horse, and mine is all to willing to show off how quickly he can he rip 30' of line through my hands So I help this by establishing a predictable pattern at a walk where what will become the trot section is a very short distance, he halts at a mark on command and receives a big treat reward. Perhaps I'm lucky that my horse is very greedy for treats, but if he knows he had to trot X paces and stop and he gets a goodie, he will not miss that opportunity When we can trot and stay at least mostly sane for 20' or so, then I start increasing the distance.
I guess the reason why I am sharing this is because that I wanted to express it *can* be done, but in my limited experience it takes a lot of planning, a lot of patience and a willingness to go real slow to try to spend some of the physical enthusiasm through mental tasks. I long line my fresh horse routinely because I have no other choice with a horse that can't be ridden and probably shouldn't be longed. I have survived to tell the tale (thus far), but I do walk with a slight limp now from having my knee bent backwards a couple of times
It is very important to have a safe secure location for long lining work, where the horse can't escape, and wear gloves.
And I wanted to share that imho, long lining is a skill that needs to be taught, like riding or longing, or anything else a horse does for the first time. Some horses are naturally obliging, but many require thoughtful slow training to be successful and be a non-event. Deciding to start trotting on the long lines out of the clear blue usually doesn't end up too well the first time out. The good news however is if you stick with it, its amazing how quickly the pieces fall together and how quickly a horse and handler can improve.
One problem with long-lining for a tendon injury is that the circles are pretty dang small. (That's the reason I use 50' lines, not the standard 30'.)
Also, one of the ways to stop 'em is to do a roll back. Or you reel 'em in. Either way, you are adding some torque on those tendons in your sharper turns.
And if you and your horse aren't already quite good at long-lining, this ain't the occasion to learn. F-ups happen on both sides.
One of the first vets to see my horse for his suspensory injury suggested that I rehab him by ponying him off of another horse. He was like, "If he raced, I'm sure he knows how to pony." LOL, well *I* don't! Might as well just set him loose!
I agree that rehab isn't the time to learn new things.
Thanks so much to everyone who replied. I currently am at the point where I am riding this horse at the walk, and yes I definitely give her some drugs just in case. It is good to know that when she is ready to move to the next step I can do so under saddle. I was worried that I was just being a chicken about the long-ing and would miss out on an important part of her rehab. Once again, I really appreciate the feedback and different stories/examples of what has worked for you guys!