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When to add circles etc to work of rehabbing horse?

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  • When to add circles etc to work of rehabbing horse?

    I am (thankfully) back riding a gelding that was off for 1.5 years. His injury was never diagnosed..three different vets, three different opinons. However, it was narrowed down to right fore-quarter based on diagnostics. Whatever it was, it was definitely not below the shoulder.

    So...has been under tack for two months now, mostly walked for first month and I am at the end of the second month, we are trotting straight lines, doing some lateral work at the walk (leg yielding, shoulder fore, shoulder in). A lot of walk/halt transitions, some walk/trot transitions. No canter or circles yet.

    Some in hand work including backing up, leg yielding in hand. Each work session is finished with some stretching work and tummy tuck, pelvic tilt sort of exercises.

    So far so good, horse occasionally felt a bit "off" (only to my feel...no one else could see it) at the start but he worked out of it. The degree to which he feels "off" is gradually diminishing, last ride I felt nothing at the start at all.

    Does it seem appropriate to start introducing some large circles at this point? What about canter?

    Sorry for the long winded preface...thought it best to give more info than less.

  • #2
    How much trotting are you doing? With a horse off this long, and especially with an undiagnosed injury, I would avoid doing dressage until the horse has a base of being able to do an hour hack with approx 3 ten minute trots comfortably (with 3 minute walks between them) out in the country on slightly rolling terrain. That gets the bones/tendons/ligaments strong and makes going on to any further training much safer IMO. When they are at that point, you can safely add anything you want, as long as you do so gradually.

    Good luck!
    http://www.MyVirtualEventingCoach.com

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      In one 40- 45 minute ride I probably do about 5 - 7 minutes of trotting. I recently started going all the way around the arena (well, I guess the circle question might be moot since I have already been doing half circles..), as opposed to transitioning to a walk before the corner.

      Hacking out on rolling terrain...sigh...how I would love to be able to do that. I lose daylight by 5:00 p.m (I'm not even home by then) so that leaves weekends for outdoor riding and we will be under snow by next week. I could hack out on the gravel roads on weekends for a few more weeks until the windchill becomes unbearable but then I'll be back in the arena full time.

      Bringing a horse back from an extended lay off in an indoor arena...not ideal I know but I think I might be stuck with it....

      Maybe I can convince my family we need to go south for the winter so I can properly recondition my horse

      Comment


      • #4
        I've been asking myself the same question recently. This is the most difficult part of rehabbing to me.

        At the risk of waking up hubris or karma or whoever it is who has been responsible for my REALLY FUN year (not just this horse...) I'll tell you my story to date:

        My horse had a "mild" suspensory strain back in February. Got the all-clear via Ultrasound to go back to real work at the start of June. He had the odd bobble, but I was told to expect this as the scar tissue broke down. 99% of the time he felt great.

        1st of August, he was dead lame again. Literally, sound to lame overnight--someone decided it was time he got turned out again, swore to me that he just hung out and ate grass. Hmmm...) Same leg, same deal. So I took him home, laid him off completely (stall rest until sound in hand--all of 10 days, then small paddock, handwalking,) for 6 weeks, then started riding him--rolling hills, etc., at a walk and an easy trot on hard surfaces for another 6 weeks. He was solidly sound, no bobbles at all at this point. Better than he had been back in June.

        For the last month we have been adding in the sand arena. Firm, damp footing, not too deep. Walking only for a few days to start with, then trotting in straight lines, and we've just graduated to big circles and big corners in the past week. We've also started cantering about 6 of the straightaways per session. No lateral work at all at this point. There will be none until the New Year.

        He's stayed solidly, no bobbles at all, sound through all of this, so far, so I think I'm on the right track. We also walk for at least 10 minutes on asphalt during each session.

        My feeling is with the benefit of heinsight is that I shouldn't have pushed it at all back in the summer when I was feeling the odd bobble. Even though other people who supposedly knew better than me were telling me that he was fine. I think I was actually very lucky that he tweaked it again just to the point that he did rather than this ending up being a career ending issue.

        So I guess this is my long-winded way of saying if you've got even the remotest question in your mind, back off from pushing it any harder.

        Boring as batshit. Really, I know.

        Comment


        • #5
          After a month of walking u/s, up to 40 minutes, we added trot five minutes at a time per week until we were trotting for 20 minutes. That should have taken a month but actually took three months (see blog). No circles no lateral work. Then we started to add the canter, again five additional minutes per week, until we built to 20 minutes of that. So now we were walking 20 min, trotting 20 min, and cantering 20 minutes. Still no circles or lateral work. At the end of the month of trot we were released to start normal flat work. I started with circles and gradually built to leg yields, shoulder-in, counter canter, etc. At the end of that month, we were cleared to jump. The vet told me to stop riding and call her immediately at any point when we felt any lameness.
          The Evil Chem Prof

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Mozart View Post
            I am (thankfully) back riding a gelding that was off for 1.5 years. His injury was never diagnosed..three different vets, three different opinons. However, it was narrowed down to right fore-quarter based on diagnostics. Whatever it was, it was definitely not below the shoulder.

            So...has been under tack for two months now, mostly walked for first month and I am at the end of the second month, we are trotting straight lines, doing some lateral work at the walk (leg yielding, shoulder fore, shoulder in). A lot of walk/halt transitions, some walk/trot transitions. No canter or circles yet.

            Some in hand work including backing up, leg yielding in hand. Each work session is finished with some stretching work and tummy tuck, pelvic tilt sort of exercises.

            So far so good, horse occasionally felt a bit "off" (only to my feel...no one else could see it) at the start but he worked out of it. The degree to which he feels "off" is gradually diminishing, last ride I felt nothing at the start at all.

            Does it seem appropriate to start introducing some large circles at this point? What about canter?

            Sorry for the long winded preface...thought it best to give more info than less.
            to much to soon if the horse is off and you feel it stop working
            to the trianed eye a horse can be seen as unsound to everyone else hes not
            time for new rad with a vet and a farrier to re acess the case
            an when ones re habbing a injury to do with legs one doesnt start with riding
            but more with in hand work over serveral months start with in hand on shart walks then moving up to ground poles so the leg is built from the foot upwards

            i have done serveral cases of rehabbing and have a programme which i devised myself which is aprroved via vets for certain injuries

            so one whould have to run it past the vets 1st for approval ie equine vets

            the 2nd part is one would do circles yet as this would add extra strain and stress on damaged mussles and tissue
            the object of any exercise must be in conjuntion with the injury,
            as its to do with legs then you gotta build the mussles up slowly from the foot upwards so that the good mussles and tissues build up to support the damage ones

            as we dont know what type of injury it is - it cant take a long time
            for exsample any tendon or ligamen injury can take up to 2yrs before the horse is deemed fit for work and in that process it takes time on each stage

            for exsampel you have had the horse for 2months in work
            weight of you plus your tack is added weight on a horse with an injury

            has no one told you that when you work in hand - its a naked horse 1st working the horse through aplanned exercise programme from walk to trot
            over serveral months
            then you add the tack as a bit of weight, then you work the horse through the starting at the very beinging as you did when horse was naked
            then working to the planned programme from walk to trot
            then next stage you add you and start it all over agian
            the next stage is to work the horse in baisc flat work of walk and trot
            then the next is to continue with added movements of canter counter canter and going large as in large
            then continie to add the large and then smaller 20mtr circles
            then add the rest - once the horse can cope with all of the work
            then he would and might be deemed fit enough to conitinue with his carreer at each stage you have a reaccessment with a vet and a farrier

            what your doing is to much to soon so the horse is off as you feel it becuase the horse isnt ready yet for all this extra movements
            dont rush it - injuries take time to heal and patience is a verture

            Comment


            • #7
              When the vet says it's ok, I personally would probably add canter before I would add circles. There's just a lot of repetitive motion stress that happens on a circle.

              So, I would add canter on the straight lines, just one each way, trot before the corner, and then build from there. You need the canter to build the wind. If the horse is having trouble getting one lead or being disunted then I would slow down and revisit the physical issues.

              Comment


              • #8
                I have heard mixed opinions on the subject and it really depends on the injury, which in your case was never diagnozed
                My horse has been off for almost 2 years with front foot lameness. MRI revealed chronic lesion in DDFT. I gave him a year off, did another MRI this summer. He now had lesions in both front feet (he has some weird anomaly in his feet, which makes him prone to tendon injuries) and he now had adhesions between navicular bursa and tendon sheath.
                So, we did surgeries to clean it all up in July. He had 60 days of stall rest and handwalking and began rehab program on Sept 1st. They started his rehab at the clinic, and I brought him home on October 1st. At the clinic they had him handwalked for 5 mins twice a day, gradually increasing walking time to 20 mins in a day and started him troting.
                Now comes the interesting part- they had him trot on a longe line in circles, and actually recommended doing the same at home. I expressed a concern that circles would be stressful for tendons, but they told me with his OLD CHRONIC injuries it did not really matter.
                He was immediately cleared for under the saddle work, and we started with 20 min of handwalking every morning, and then 20mins of walk under the saddle, with 6 mins of trot on straight lines, increasing trotting time by 2 mins after every 6 rides. So, now we are at 16 mins of trot, and canter is happening on Dec 20th We do circles, but only after he is really warmed up and working. We also do a lot of lateral work but in short intervals.
                Vets at the clinic and our home vet told me to KEEP going if he looks off. For us its inevitable process as his adhesions need to break down, and as they do, he will be off. My instructions said to call the vet if he is off and has not been getting better after a full week.
                Now that I am reading all the suggestions, maybe I should back off with circles and wait with canter

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have been rehabbing my horse for almost a year. Granted its a completely different lameness issue (torn DDFT on left fore, lesion inside hoof wall *headdesk*), but this is what I did.

                  Injured in October 2008 - jumping accident, hand walk and tack-walk, until the injury was diagnosed in February 2009 using an MRI.

                  From February - June he was in paddock turnout only, increasing to Aqua-Thread work. I was hoping to get him sound enough to do dressage - vet said that should not be a problem.

                  In June I brought him to a private barn where I could ride him in a ring with trail access. Vet recommended trail-riding only for the first couple months, to keep the resistance that sand provides down and the path as straight as possible. I didn't start trotting until late July. And once I started trotting, it was only for 5 minute intervals, adding a couple minutes every few days on a straight line. At the end of August I started doing some light long-lining at the walk and then the trot, horse was becoming holy-living-terror on the trails and I needed to work him down a bit before I got on. This was fine for a while, he was a sound as could be.

                  Come Octber 2009 I had just started cantering in a straight line, while keeping all trot work and lateral work to a minimum. I did large circles at a walk, and had only done about three at a trot to date. The temperature dropped one day and he had a freakout - which rendered a new injury, so he is now out for the winter in pasture, because I honestly don't think I could deal with his winter personality, bucking and rearing with no covered arena, and having to do most of the rehab on trails - which are not always open in the winter. (Don't be discouraged - my horse is a special horse - he is Murphy's Law Horse).

                  So, that all being said. I agree with a poster above - I would start cantering straight lines before you do any circle work - or keep the circles at a walk for now. Be patient - even after this long rehabbing it took one freaking windy day to send my horse sky high and he tweaked the other leg. I know how you feel - wanting to do stuff - and I would fathom a guess that your horse probably WANTS to do more like my horse. But, I would recommend taking it easy, especially if you are working primarily in a ring. What does your vet say? The only time I resorted to circle work (on a line(s)) while I was rehabbing was because horse was too high to safetly go out on the trails.

                  So, bottom line, whatever your vet recommends what is the correct path for your horse with his injury/lameness, and judgement if vet did not give specific instructions. Also, based on what you said about him feeling off - I would count that as a red flag - have you watched him jog out? I only found my guys second injury by practically forcing it out of him on a small circle - I know that me personally can see if my horse isn't tracking up by a half inch - others who do not know him as well would say he looks sound.

                  Hope your guy has a good recovery!

                  Equus_Girl and I have had very similar issues with our rehabbing horses, I am thrilled Jax is on the road to recovery! I wish Creggan would stop messing around and get serious about life... oh well, I can rest easy knowing he is happy being a horse/mashmallow in the pasture for the next few months - hoping it will work wonders.
                  Coruscant Stables

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Thank you all for your thoughts and suggestions. As you can imagine, my horse's lameness has been a frustrating experience. One thing is certain, we are not talking about a forelimb injury. He twice had nerve blocks from the point of shoulder down; he did not block out sound. So, two out of three vets said it was right forequarter. Vet #1 initially thought shoulder muscle (but no "ouch" response anywhere on palpation). No result on flexions.

                    Vet #2 thought it was an SI injury and everything began with uneven hoof angles (which has now been resolved; different farrier). Vet #2 did shock wave therapy and advocated a return to work (this was early summer of 08..did not see improvement).

                    Vet #3 thought it was nerve damage to the shoulder (not sweeney, different nerve, sub scapular he thought) and the only remedy was time. He also thought it might be hairline fracture, diagnosis of which would require nuclear scintigraphy for which I would have to travel 14 hours).He also suggested six weeks stall rest which was done in the summer of 08, horse even lamer after stall rest.

                    Vet #1 re-evaluated horse a couple of times, thought maybe neck was involved, maybe arthritis in neck. No radiographs are possible here; I would have to travel at least 14 hours for further diagnostics. Regardless, Vet #1 and Vet #3 said turn out for 6 months to a year and wait and see.

                    Vet #1 re-evaluated him in mid-summer of 09 and said "This is not a lame horse". So I did begin in hand work in summer and then some work at liberty. I started sitting on him in a tiny bit in August, took until mid November to introduce trot in the indoor arena (did trot a wee bit outside, long sides of ring, in September).

                    What I have noticed is that the more he works, the better he feels . My thinking on the lateral work at the walk is that it would stretch and strengthen the shoulder and hindquarters?

                    My preference would be to do as lstevenson suggests, but that is not my reality unfortunately. Nor is more diagnostics (or frankly, getting more vet assistance....my vets have pretty much shrugged their shoulders and I am on my own).

                    Interesting to hear other peoples stories (and to know others struggle with this too!) Thank you.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      With what you've said, if he were mine, I'd just sensibly fit him up and ride him and see where that took us.

                      Good luck.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Well if he is better with work, then I would progress in work. I know my horse gets worse regardless of his past lamenesses with stall rest (hence why his last major lameness was not stall rest, but a stall with a paddock so he could move around without going bonkers in there) because he overcompensates with the other side to protect ouchie limb. In fact he quite often first comes up lame in the wrong leg because of this.

                        Good luck!
                        Coruscant Stables

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