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Need walking-only exercise suggestions coming off tendon injury

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  • Need walking-only exercise suggestions coming off tendon injury

    Would LOVE Exercises & calming supplement suggestions for my OTTB coming off a minor front suspensory tear.

    After 8 weeks of hand-walking & no turnout, the vet has given us the all clear to start "walk only" under saddle. My OTTB is normally mellow & hard working, but very green. He is still learning to collect & move off the leg. The problem is he loves to run and is now jumpy & high-strung after 8 weeks of no turnout or real exercise. Grain has been cut back to almost nothing to curb excess energy.

    Frankly, I'm a little scared to get back on my big bundle of pent-up energy. I can't lunge on anything but a small circle because he WILL run. No idea when the vet will clear him for turnout again.

    Would really appreciate any feedback on the following:
    -Any suggestions on how to keep us both safe as we restart training
    -any fun, safe ground games
    -any good exercises to keep his mind active & learning (at walk under saddle or in-hand)
    -any calming supplement suggestions

    I*am really open to any creative things I can do to have fun with my boy, keep us safe, and still keep up the training process. * A HUGE thanks for sharing your expertise and experiences!

  • #2
    I don't think any calming supplement is going to have a significant enough affect for your situation. I have had good luck with Perfect Prep, the paste in a tube. Daily powder supplement had no effect. But this was for a horse in full training that got a bit distracted at shows. The PP just helped her to focus better.

    I've worked in and been a working student in a few top, large training facilities (80-90 horses). With such a large population, horses getting soft tissue injuries and going back into work was fairly common. In my experience, they ALL got either an IM or IV injection of Ace (acepromazine) prior to riding and/or prior to turnout. The Ace started at a dose high enough the horse was noticeably drugged, but not so doped to stumble. Over the course of 3 weeks or so it was gradually weaned down to zero. The horses that were have a particularly tough time coping with the stall rest were also given Reserpine to take the edge off. However, all the Reserpine horses still needed Ace for riding and turnout.

    Despite what my post sounds like, I'm not a pro-drug kind of horse owner and have never used a sedative unless I felt it was completely necessary. But the most important thing in my view when managing and injury is to get them sound and pain free and back to their normal routine as quickly as possible. If the horse is a danger to themselves or to you, or is at risk of re-injuring the tendon, then I wouldn't hesitate to use sedatives. A few weeks of Ace is better for the horse than for them to buck you off, gallop around the ring, re-injure the tendon (maybe worse than original injury), and now need 3 months of stall rest! And potentially have an owner with a broken arm that can't even safely handle and walk them. (worse case scenario)

    I would say talk to your vet and see if you can get a vial of Ace and some syringes. IM injections are very easy to administer and by the time you have tacked up, the horse is dopey.

    Good luck!


    • #3
      Things to try:
      1) A little ace
      2) a steady eddy horse to walk by his side like being ponied in the past
      3) exercises to keep his mind engaged while walking, leg yielding, shoulder in, haunches in, out etc. serpentines, circles, spiral in and out.

      I had to do the same thing bringing a horse back from injury and we walked under saddle for three months before we started trotting. I would write out a list of things to do on an index card just to keep myself from getting bored. Truthfully, my horses was much better schooled by the time we were back to full action due to all the exercises we did for those months!

      Best of luck to you.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Ponyclubrocks View Post
        Things to try:
        1) A little ace
        2) a steady eddy horse to walk by his side like being ponied in the past
        3) exercises to keep his mind engaged while walking, leg yielding, shoulder in, haunches in, out etc. serpentines, circles, spiral in and out.

        The above, although we used reserpine instead of ace. I can ride a grand prix test at the walk. Great opportunity to learn those dead square halts as well.

        Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to ace. A few weeks of better living through chemistry is far better than having him take an exuberant runner and reinjuring himself.



        • #5
          Hate to be a killjoy, but this walking under tack will not be about training but about healing, encouraging healthy tendon tissue to grow, and the very early beginnings of getting your horse fit again. My guess is you are not meant to be doing much more than straight lines and big loops on good footing (meaning, in a ring, not hacking). You should NOT be doing lateral work, small circles, or poles (unless your vet has said it's ok...then don't listen to me. But having been through this a few times, I have a feeling that's not what you're meant to be doing).

          You need drugs. It's not a bad thing. No one will think you're a wimp. You need the horse to stay quiet so he doesn't reinjure himself. Ace is a place to start, but reserpine and sedivet are other good options. Every horse is different, so it may take a little expermintation on what works...my horse was a total cheap date while rehabbing and could be given 1cc of ace paste in the morning, tack walk afterward, then hand graze in the evening. But others have needed serious chemical help. Talk to your vet about your option, and possibly clarify what you can and cannot do while walking.


          • #6
            If you have any suspicion that he will be naughty, jump around, dump you, spooky and jump sideways, or anything other than solid, even loading of that leg with even steps, then sedate him. Ace, sedi-vet, resurpine, work with your vet to determine what works best.

            You will likely need to be doing lots of straight lines, nothing more than a 20 meter circle to reverse direction. No lunging.

            Where can you do your tack walking? Indoor only, outside? Driveway?

            I was really lucky that I rehabbed Phinn at a great farm in Tx where I could walk him around a huge field very lucky that he was very good about this phase of rehab. Hand walking - was like attaching yourself to an alligator, he was drugged daily. When we started trotting he was very sneaky about throwing in bucks. Tack walking he was as good as gold. Go figure.


            • #7
              What YB said - you will NOT be doing lateral work on much "work" at all when you are rehabbing a tendon. When you are bringing one back and start walking, it's straight lines, careful, monitored walking, almost always with the help of acepromazine or other sedative. I would never suggest leg yielding or any lateral work when you start them back; heck, you're usually not even doing circles until well into the rehab process (with the horses I've brought back, it wasn't until they were doing hour walks plus starting trotting again). I tend to ride mine because I can keep the lid on more easily than if I'm ponying them, but ponying also can work well if you've got one who wants to be quiet/calm. Either way, it's all about routine, a good sedative if needed, and careful, quiet building up of the work. Way, way too easy to undo all of your efforts with a stupid moment if you're not smart about the process.


              • #8
                First, don't take these sorts of risks after a rehab. Talk to your vet immediately about drugs- real drugs. I tend to prefer giving them something like ace before every walking session, as opposed to something longer acting like reserpine- but you should talk to your vet about both and pick whichever is right for your situation.

                Second, you can't do any sort of exercises for quite a while. No lateral work at all, no longeing at all, and no small circles for any reason. Walk around the outside of the ring, making lots of straight lines, and sweeping corners. Don't go deep into your corners- that creates a sharp turn. If you need to get his attention, ask him to halt. Yes, it will be boring. This is where the drugs come in.

                On a trained horse, you can work on letting the horse take the reins out of your hands and stretch down to the ground, then bringing their frame back up from your seat. However, I wouldn't suggest this with a horse that doesn't understand the exercise already because the risk of you putting leg on and the horse trotting in response is too great.


                • #9
                  Rehab isn't about training. It's about getting the horse back to work without hurting itself, the rider, or any innocent bystanders. You do what you have to do, even if it means going backwards in your training. Drugs, letting it follow another horse, finding a good competent friend to lead while you ride, funky equipment--whatever.

                  On the lateral work. I've been told not to start lateral work until you are done with the trot and canter set type work. I don't even include transitions (except as necessary to start and stop the set). Once your done with the rigorously timed sets, then you can introduce transitions and then circles and then maybe some leg yields. I more or less introduce stuff in the order in which it appears in the dressage tests.
                  The Evil Chem Prof


                  • Original Poster

                    I definitely appreciate the ace recommendations from all. Didn't even dawn on me since I have never had to use it before. Would still love some training exercises, regardless of how basic they may seem. Even some suppling, quirky standing exercises for desensitizing or ground games. If anyone has book, website, or YouTube suggestions, I am open to anything.

                    My boy is very smart and curious, so I know keeping his mind active and body moving (at a walk only for now) will help us thru the rehab process.

                    As for 53's riding area question, our stable has a small round pen (hard footing & usually some standing water/snow), med-sized indoor arena that he is a little spooky in, large outdoor arena (mostly great sandy footing w/a few deep spots), and some concrete/asphalt where we did most of our hand-walking in the beginning.

                    For those reading this who may have a similar situation & are looking for advice as well, make sure you have a great farrier who really knows thoroughbred feet. This all started w/ one bad shoe job (shoes too small) that led to an abscess in his right hoof (which didnt want to present itself) and then the tendon injury on his left front when he was running around in
                    turnout because he was probably putting too much weight on it. If u are looking to buy an OTTB, I would recommend buying one who's feet aren't still in "racing" position to save yourself some grief, especially if you don't have a farrier that knows how to get them to a better riding position. I had to learn this lesson the hard way & I really try to educate myself...


                    • #11
                      Honestly- and I do truly get that you want to DO things with him- short of grooming him and hand grazing him (sedated, probably), I would not do much. There is too much risk of it being too fun and exciting and him getting silly and hurting himself or you.

                      My horse (who is an OTTB, but further along in his education than your guy...but generally a wildman by nature) basically lived in his stall, got groomed in the cross ties (he loves being vacuumed), got his 30 minutes of tack walking, and most evenings, if he was still feeling the effects of his Ace from the morning, we would hand walk down to hand graze and watch lessons (he was given the ok to be out that much by his vet). His injury was MINOR, but I was still extremely careful with him. I've rehabbed far worse injuries than his, and they were even more sheltered (a couple didn't even get the option to hand graze!).

                      Your first priority needs to be HEALING. Your second is to avoid re-injury. He's young. You have PLENTY of time with him to work on all the other stuff. Hang out with him, groom him, love on him, but otherwise, just get him healthy and sound, and worry about the other stuff later.


                      • #12
                        Ace was essential to my mare's rehab after suspensory surgery. There are other drug options, as people have said. You want a horse that will calmly go where it is pointed, and you should expect to be bored. Wide serpentines, gentle changes of direction, etc. It's a good time to work on accuracy.

                        This is what you want on the first ride. Not so drugged it won't move or will trip over its own feet, but a little low-headed.
                        You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                        1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


                        • #13
                          Quietanne, I wish our first walks u/s with a full load of reserpine went so quietly. It felt more like a walk to the post in a stakes race.Things did settle over time but were and are never dull. of course, reserpine went away when the trot times got up to 20-30 min/day

                          Justapoze, you need to talk to your vet about sedation. You have gotten good advice here but need to consider your individual horse. You may be able to get by with Ace only, and only during your initial rides.

                          Forget lateral work, forget small circles, forget lunging. all of these apply to much stress to the tissues you are trying to heal. After 10mo of walking, we are finally getting to the canter, and beginning to think of smaller circles than 20m, which only happened under ideal conditions.

                          There is another thread on this Forum about suspensory surgery. It has been joined by some who didn't have or need surgery but still had horse to rehab. Right now it's probably at the top of PP2.
                          Taking it day by day!