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Re-conditioning after a lay-off.

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  • Re-conditioning after a lay-off.

    Hello all. I ran a couple Google searches targeted at CoTH, and while I found a few threads that were useful (including one I started back in 2012 about a different horse!) I have more specific questions I hope can be nailed down a bit more using knowledge from the general masses.

    14yo TB gelding is coming back to work after nearly 3 months off. Two of those months were due to crappy weather, me not being in a good state mentally, work schedule, and moving him. The other month was due to him being nerved (successfully, just the RF) at VA Tech and following their post-op protocol. I am not shy about that procedure, so if anyone has questions I will answer the best I can. . This horse has, amazingly enough, retained more muscle than I was expecting. He has been cleared for full work and the surgeon wants him back to being used, aka "don't baby him". I suspect this will be the hardest part for me mentally due to his history (he injured the superficial distal sesamoidean ligament in the non-nerved foot in 2017 and has since been completely rehabbed. Knock on wood, he's had no issues with it since, plus the on/off lameness that ultimately led to the nerving).

    Edited for clarity: Post-op he was strict stall rest for two weeks, then hand walking for up to 30 minutes a day for two weeks. He has been getting turned out regularly since mid-April. He was upgraded to a larger pasture last week and has since been frolicking quite a bit. He did manage to whack himself hard enough to leave a lump (doesn't feel like a splint) but it doesn't bother him. I do plan on having the vet check it out when they come to do his annual farrier rads. Prior to February he was in regular work. He was on regular turnout (stalled at night) up to the day of his surgery.

    Our current boarding situation is at a low-key H/J facility. We have access to a very large arena with good footing (most of the time) and his turnout field, which has a slight incline. There is a dressage trainer that visits the farm weekly, and the BO is a H/J trainer that I would like to take a lesson with here and there. There are trails in the area that I can haul to, and once we are more settled from moving I plan to go exploring. I am trying to come up with a safe, solid conditioning program that will put us on track to complete a Novice event (probably schooling) late summer/early fall. I have not jumped him yet ***please do not lecture me on jumping a nerved horse, he is VERY aware of his feet and I have had extensive conversations with our regular vet and surgeon*** so only time will tell if A. He can take it, and B. I am comfortable doing so. But as of now, my plan is to dink around at Novice and have as much fun as possible. I aim to ride 5x per week. If anyone could give book recommendations (Wofford's is one that keeps being mentioned, just not sure how relevant it is since we're LL) or a program they have used in the past, I would be very grateful.
    Last edited by runNjump86; May. 10, 2019, 12:50 AM. Reason: Needed more clarity since I posted so late at night
    runnjump86 Instagram

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  • #2
    Firs one would want to know their post-op protocol. Stall rest, pasture turn out, hand walking? All of these lead to a different initial rehab mode.

    Do not be fooled by the amount of muscle he has.
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

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    • #3
      Sorry to hear the last few months have not gone smoothly, but glad to hear your guy is ready to go back to work.

      I have not found there is a hard and fast conditioning schedule when it comes to bringing back horses after injury layup. It depends on the injury, if there was any sort of surgery, and what kind of reconditioning you did in hand before saddle work.

      The general adage is for coming back from injuries is, however much time they needed in full rest, times that by two for how long it should take you to get back to their prior level of work. So if a horse had 2 months off for an injury, it should take you 4 months to bring them back to work.

      I am with Merrygoround, and my first question would be -- what is his turnout schedule like now and what has he been doing in-hand? That will dictate your conditioning schedule. You can bring back a horse on full turnout easier than a horse being stalled at night. I've noticed I don't have as many set-backs with the 24/7 horses, but YMMV. I believe this is because the full turnout reconditions their bodies way better than in-hand work can.

      The best thing to do also, is limit circles as much as you can during the reconditioning. I have found that soft tissue injuries abhor repetition and circles are hard on the horse's body and very repetitive. It sounds counter-intuitive, but straight lines are much better when it comes to rehabbing from soft-tissue injuries. Also do not discount how much walking leg yields can strengthen the body, which helps when it comes to trying to rehab from a tendon or ligament injury.

      A (conservative) conditioning schedule I have followed for (general) rehab purposes vs time off. Simple time off can have a 5 week schedule, but I prefer the 10 week for rehab reconditioning. By hacks, I mean walks around a bridle-path, or trails (no extreme hills).

      Week 1-4 hacks only, no circles in ring:
      Week 1: hacks 30m walk
      Week 2: hacks 40m walk
      Week 3: hacks 30m, with 1 m both directions trotting in flat ground (ring)
      Week 4: hacks 30m, 2m trot both directions straight lines

      Week 5-10: hacks, leg yields & ring work
      Week 5: 30m hacks, 5m trot both directions, straight lines. Introduce some bending and walking leg-yields to the wall (never on circle).
      Week 6: 30m hacks, 7m trot both directions, some circles ok. Continue walk leg-yields.
      Week 7: 30m hacks, 7m trot both directions, 1m canter straight lines, continue walk leg-yields, add some trot leg yields.
      Week 8: 30m hacks, 7m trot both directions, 3m canter straight lines, continue trot leg yields.
      Week 9-10: Continue as above, increasing canter duration but keeping trot the same. You may now use circles more often. (By this point you would have a horse fit enough to show, but not yet jumping.)

      By week 10 you will have a good idea if your horse is able to maintain work. This is an incredibly conservative schedule for a non-injured horse, but it will give you plenty of time to gauge your horse's future abilities. Once you are at week 10, and if there have been no set-backs (btw, any time a horse is sore during any of these, go back at least one week) your horse is ready to jump. For jumping, keep it limited to low and slow for the first three weeks, and increase height every other week.
      AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        He has been cleared to return to full work. His soft tissue injury was completely rehabbed and he was back to work before life got in the way. He is sound, can do circles, figure 8's, etc and feels better than he ever has. His movement is vastly different in a good way since the surgery, and paired with a new dressage saddle that makes him happy I'm almost having to relearn how to ride him. He's better balanced and so willing to lift his back up. I almost cried the first time I trotted him under saddle post-op. Turnout is weather dependent. Cooler days/nights he's out 24/7 in a good-size pasture. He played hard the first few days since it was his first time back in an open field in over a year. If the bugs or heat get bad then they are stalled during the day.
        runnjump86 Instagram

        Horse Junkies United guest blogger

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
          Firs one would want to know their post-op protocol. Stall rest, pasture turn out, hand walking? All of these lead to a different initial rehab mode.

          Do not be fooled by the amount of muscle he has.
          I followed their protocol. From my OP, "He has been cleared for full work and the surgeon wants him back to being used, aka "don't baby him". I suspect this will be the hardest part for me due to his history (he injured the superficial distal sesamoidean ligament in the non-nerved foot in 2017 and has since been completely rehabbed."
          runnjump86 Instagram

          Horse Junkies United guest blogger

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          • #6
            I have been rehabbing my Tb from a different type of injury. I got the equicore system. It allowed him to use his core muscles effectively when we were limited. It is now added to our hacks as an extra resistance since we dont have hills. He has never felt better. I feel like it helped build correct muscling.
            http://equicoreconcepts.com

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            • #7
              Once upon a time I found 'the 60 day' protocol from stall rest to full work
              I thankfully never had the need to try it, but it came highly recommended.
              Aside from that I love the old tried and true method By Sheila Wilcox on bringing a horse back from a prolonged vacation.

              Good luck with your steed though.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think the reason they asked about what the protocol is, is that rehab from stall rest is very different from rehab from a horse that has been turned out. With a horse that has been on stall rest, I would go the route described by beowulf. If he has been turned out and being a horse, he has some baseline fitness and can be re-started faster. I think you can probably start at about week 5 of her protocol, adding a minute of trot per week if you'd like.
                "Cynicism is a sorry kind of wisdom" Barack Obama

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by BrendaJane View Post
                  Once upon a time I found 'the 60 day' protocol from stall rest to full work
                  I thankfully never had the need to try it, but it came highly recommended.
                  Aside from that I love the old tried and true method By Sheila Wilcox on bringing a horse back from a prolonged vacation.

                  Good luck with your steed though.
                  Thank you, I'll search for her method!!

                  EventerRN I have that system too, just haven't had the chance to use it yet!!
                  runnjump86 Instagram

                  Horse Junkies United guest blogger

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                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by HiJumpGrrl View Post
                    I think the reason they asked about what the protocol is, is that rehab from stall rest is very different from rehab from a horse that has been turned out. With a horse that has been on stall rest, I would go the route described by beowulf. If he has been turned out and being a horse, he has some baseline fitness and can be re-started faster. I think you can probably start at about week 5 of her protocol, adding a minute of trot per week if you'd like.
                    This is exactly why I should not post late at night when my brain is tired. I swear I had put something about him being back to normal, aka no stall rest, in my OP. I'm going to edit accordingly since it really isn't as clear as I (at the time) thought.

                    My apologies, beowulf and merrygoround. Lots of chaos the past few weeks with moving, then the excitement of having my horse back had my brain all flipped around!
                    runnjump86 Instagram

                    Horse Junkies United guest blogger

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                    • #11
                      As he has been on full work already, and has just been hanging out in a pasture, he has a baseline fitness. I would start with short timed trots. with active walk work between. It's not a bad idea to go slower, rather than faster. Gradually decrease the walk work interval, and lengthen the trot work. Gradually add canter work again for short periods with trot and walk between works.

                      After 8 Weeks I would start lateral work at the walk, graduallly
                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by HiJumpGrrl View Post
                        I think the reason they asked about what the protocol is, is that rehab from stall rest is very different from rehab from a horse that has been turned out. With a horse that has been on stall rest, I would go the route described by beowulf. If he has been turned out and being a horse, he has some baseline fitness and can be re-started faster. I think you can probably start at about week 5 of her protocol, adding a minute of trot per week if you'd like.
                        the biggest things about turnout vs stallrest is that the horse won't be tempted to bowl you over of do airs above ground, and other silly things,

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Honestly....stop over thinking this. He’s cleared for full work...put him back in full work. Just be smart about it and judge how he feels. You have already put the base on him...canter a bit and see how he feels...I usually just go once around the ring both ways and see how they feel as to whether I do more. Most horses, I would do basic flat work for two weeks....slowly up the intensity depending on the horse. If they feel good...then add in a jumping a few jumps. This is some thing best to do by feel...not according to some set plan. And for Novice, they just need to be in regular work unless he is a heavy draft.
                          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
                            Honestly....stop over thinking this. He’s cleared for full work...put him back in full work. Just be smart about it and judge how he feels. You have already put the base on him...canter a bit and see how he feels...I usually just go once around the ring both ways and see how they feel as to whether I do more. Most horses, I would do basic flat work for two weeks....slowly up the intensity depending on the horse. If they feel good...then add in a jumping a few jumps. This is some thing best to do by feel...not according to some set plan. And for Novice, they just need to be in regular work unless he is a heavy draft.
                            This is exactly what I've been dealing with for the past 6 months. My horse was cleared for work, I was hesitant about it because other people told me that I shouldn't be doing anything with him except walking until he is 5 (just turned 4 two months ago), and definitely not ever jumping. So I took it reeeeeally slow, the vet came back out, checked him and told me to stop babying him and just work him. Start doing trot and canter sets, see how he feels, back it off if it looks like too much. If he is fine after doing that for a couple months he will be fine to start jumping. I still have the words of those other people in the back of my mind though, and the knowledge that if I did too much and he had issues again I would be talked crap about by all of them. So we still did just walk work with light trotting for a bit longer, took us a couple months for me to feel reassured enough to really start cantering, and finally popped him over his first crossrail at a trot last week. It's so hard, because you are so afraid to push it and possibly screw things up. Especially when you have people watching your every move ready to criticize. But just go for it, and if your horse says its too much just back down a bit. I wasn't in a rush because mine is still growing anyways, but your guy is older and should be fine. Just listen to him as you increase the load.

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                            • #15
                              Oh....and 3 months lay off really is NOT much time off. Used to be all horses got that kind of time off in the winter and no one took months and months to leg them back up. I’ve rehabbed MANY injures....young horses and older horses. And brought back several broodmare after Years off. Trust your vet. And trust your feel. And get on with it.
                              ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
                                Oh....and 3 months lay off really is NOT much time off. Used to be all horses got that kind of time off in the winter and no one took months and months to leg them back up. I’ve rehabbed MANY injures....young horses and older horses. And brought back several broodmare after Years off. Trust your vet. And trust your feel. And get on with it.
                                Three months layoff for time off vs layoff for an injury are different, though.. huge difference in the resiliency of soft tissue when you've been rehabbed by stall-rest, vs just chucked in a field at the end of a season.

                                One thing people don't realize, when you are bringing a horse back into work that has been stalled for any amount of time for an injury, is that you are not just rehabbing the leg that was injured - you're rehabbing the entire body. A horse that has had a few months of extended stall rest, or very restrictive controlled management (like medical paddocks) is going to lose condition all over his body -- not just the limb that was injured.. so it's worth it to take your time bringing them back into work. Soft tissue resiliency/strength as a whole degrades remarkably fast if it is not being exercised or conditioned daily. For instance, I am nowhere near as restricted as a horse in stall rest, I am only 5 weeks from an ACL operation and my muscles in my injured leg (especially the calf muscles) have already atrophied significantly. The same goes for horses - if they aren't moving around and using their leg[s], they're going to lose condition quite quickly.

                                Those horses that were turned out for time off in the winter were usually on field turnout, or full turnout 24/7. I definitely wouldn't bat an eye for a 5 week conditioning schedule for one of those horses.. But 5 week is just not enough for a horse that's coming back from an injury. It takes months for ligaments and tendons to be conditioned; very well supported by substantial research.

                                I firmly believe the reason why we have so many chronically re-injured horses while coming back from an "unrelated" injury is because they are rushed back into work and the owners don't take the proper time to actually rehabilitate them. I have watched it time and time again as a BM. YMMV.

                                There is no harm in taking your time when it comes to rehabbing after an injury.. If you rush, you risk everything.

                                (This is not directed at the OP, btw - just some thoughts/observations about the general attitude of bringing horses back to work after major injury or stall rest)
                                AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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                                • #17
                                  Yes and no Beowulf. A horse not been in work for years takes more time to leg up in general. A horse who has been on stall rest of COURSE needs slow methodical legging up. The OPs horse had a small procedure. He’s been cleared by the vet to go into full work......then you can put them into full work. If the vet says you need to do a methodical legging up because we are rehabbing a injury...that is one thing. But when I get the vet check and they say...go put them into full work, don’t baby them.....I follow my vets advice and get on with it. My vet WANTS to see how they do back in full work. So on a horse like the OP described....you get on with it. You light flat....w/t/c. You don’t need to time every minute. But you need to feel your horse and how he feels. You of course don’t do tons of small circles or collective work....you don’t work them into a lather....but you also don’t need to make this a big procedure either. That is more my point.

                                  This is NOT rehabbing an injury. This is legging up a horse who has been cleared for full work.

                                  ETA: I don’t rush tendon injuries. I know how to slowly rehab an injury. But that wasn’t the question here. For example, I’m picking up a horse this week. He had an evulsion injury. He’s been stall rested for months. Hand walked for months, sent to the rehab place for 6 months where they started him on the large euro walker building his trot work (he was too wild for us to ride).....they built it up enough and have introduced turnout in a smal round pen. He’s ready to come home...I talked with my vet and her instructions was put him into full work now. I confirmed ...so start to canter. The response was yes. Not canter for 1 minute for week etc. Just start full light flat work and go from there. He’s been scanned multiple times. We took our time...and now that he is able to be turned out, he’s good for full work. It is now about how he feels as we increase his work load and if there is a question...we will scan again. There are points at which people over think these things. Treat your horse like an athlete. Feel how he feels...and adjust to what you are feeling. I personally think sometime when people over think this and put them on a “program” they don’t FEEL what is going on as well. This can also be bad.
                                  ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
                                    Yes and no Beowulf. A horse not been in work for years takes more time to leg up in general. A horse who has been on stall rest of COURSE needs slow methodical legging up. The OPs horse had a small procedure. He’s been cleared by the vet to go into full work......then you can put them into full work. If the vet says you need to do a methodical legging up because we are rehabbing a injury...that is one thing. But when I get the vet check and they say...go put them into full work, don’t baby them.....I follow my vets advice and get on with it. My vet WANTS to see how they do back in full work. So on a horse like the OP described....you get on with it. You light flat....w/t/c. You don’t need to time every minute. But you need to feel your horse and how he feels. You of course don’t do tons of small circles or collective work....you don’t work them into a lather....but you also don’t need to make this a big procedure either. That is more my point.

                                    This is NOT rehabbing an injury. This is legging up a horse who has been cleared for full work.
                                    I get it! And sometimes going back into full work is really the only predictor of how well a horse can handle a riding career.. I agree always go with what your vet says for as they have eyes on the situation no one on the board does.
                                    AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by RainWeasley View Post

                                      This is exactly what I've been dealing with for the past 6 months. My horse was cleared for work, I was hesitant about it because other people told me that I shouldn't be doing anything with him except walking until he is 5 (just turned 4 two months ago), and definitely not ever jumping. So I took it reeeeeally slow, the vet came back out, checked him and told me to stop babying him and just work him. Start doing trot and canter sets, see how he feels, back it off if it looks like too much. If he is fine after doing that for a couple months he will be fine to start jumping. I still have the words of those other people in the back of my mind though, and the knowledge that if I did too much and he had issues again I would be talked crap about by all of them. So we still did just walk work with light trotting for a bit longer, took us a couple months for me to feel reassured enough to really start cantering, and finally popped him over his first crossrail at a trot last week. It's so hard, because you are so afraid to push it and possibly screw things up. Especially when you have people watching your every move ready to criticize. But just go for it, and if your horse says its too much just back down a bit. I wasn't in a rush because mine is still growing anyways, but your guy is older and should be fine. Just listen to him as you increase the load.
                                      I am very thankful that I no longer have people watching, waiting for a relapse so they can say "Told ya so, just get rid of him". That's not a good feeling! I firmly believe the hardest part of this will be my brain getting in the way. Best of luck to you and your horse!


                                      QUOTE=bornfreenowexpensive;n10392801] Trust your vet. And trust your feel. And get on with it. [/QUOTE]
                                      Thank you. Can you record this so I can play it over and over again while I ride??
                                      ​​​​​​

                                      Originally posted by beowulf View Post

                                      I get it! And sometimes going back into full work is really the only predictor of how well a horse can handle a riding career.. I agree always go with what your vet says for as they have eyes on the situation no one on the board does.
                                      I totally appreciate the conservative approach. The history with this horse has been a rollercoaster and I definitely need to work on moving past that. Ironically the surgeon used a very similar phrase: "riding him is the only way you'll know if he holds up".

                                      I truly appreciate the advice from everyone. It's nerve-wracking, and while I'm trying not to be too hopeful, it's hard not to be when my horse feels better than he has in years!
                                      runnjump86 Instagram

                                      Horse Junkies United guest blogger

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                                      • #20
                                        Rooting for you guys!

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