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Fitting a horse for dressage that was lame

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  • Fitting a horse for dressage that was lame

    My warmblood filly was lame for several weeks and lost condition and is now pretty unfit. I had her right stifle ultrasounded (8 views, no findings) and she is sound at the present time. What was found was a still leaking abscess which the vet cleaned out on the rh. The farrier also found major bruising on both fronts and we have put shoes and pads on both fronts and the rh. Farrier comes again Saturday to remove pads, look at hooves and replace pads if needed.

    My question is now that she is sound again - she is four years old - given that there was a question regarding the stifle, what sort of program should I put her in to gain fitness. Poor girl, she's lost her topline and her butt looks weak. My trainer wants to begin with simple walking and trotting, some uphill work to strengthen the stifle (if it is a problem?) and then build from there. Would three times a week be too much at 30 minutes per session. We are NOT lounging her other than to check her soundness on a 20 meter circle as we do not want to put stress on the stifle.

    Any suggestions. Filly romps, plays, bucks and runs in turnout with no evidence of any lameness at all now. Just don't want to "overdo" things and end up with a potential soft tissue injury.

    Here are two pictures that were taken last Saturday to show her fitness.

    I really want what is best for her and so am being very particular about her training regime. Of course trainer is concerned as well, but since I am the owner I do not want trainer's enthusiasm to begin training to over ride the future soundness. Not that he would deliberately do anything to hurt the filly, but he is excited about her and so I would like to present a training program to him that I am comfortable with. Anything I put together will be examined by my vet prior to being put into practice.

    Of course I am a nervous mom, she is the nicest dressage prospect I have ever had and I do not want anything to happen to her..silly me I guess for being such a worrier.
    Last edited by sidepasser; Oct. 15, 2009, 08:09 PM. Reason: added pictures

  • #2
    I am in the nervous nelly camp too. I think every other day is a good plan and the walk -trot is perfect. I have read some old books about how grooms prepared hunt horses after being off for the winter. They were most concerned about tendon strains so they walk for several weeks before trotting. I am not going to be longeing my mare at all since she has had heel pain and it can't be good for it. Today I went to check out the round pen (no one uses it) planning for our first few rides (she has had a long time off) but there are old ruts around the edge of the pen and it is really packed down. I was thinking No way! am I using this place. One twist of the foot and back to square one. Your mare is a real beauty. Good luck.
    “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”
    ? Rumi


    • #3
      How long was she out of work, and how fit was she before the layoff?

      A couple of weeks doesn't make a horse "pretty unfit" unless they were pretty unfit at the start.

      *I* would spend a week walking - 30 minutes. WORK at the walk, but walk. If she knows some lateral work, do a little of that. At her age, there are ample things to work on without taking a single trot step

      If you were riding her 4-5 days a week before, then 4-5 days a week now, walking, is not going to hurt her.

      After that week of walking, add trotting - just a couple of minutes each way, just to gauge her continued soundness. As long as she's sound, there likely isn't any reason you can't work quickly back up to as much trotting as you were originally doing, then start adding in the canter work.

      Really, a few weeks off didn't set her back much But, because of her age, not having a really solid base of fitness to begin with, it never, ever hurts to go back to just walking.

      Walking is really underrated as a conditioning gait. I tend to forget that too until I'm forced back to just walking, and then I re-remember how much fun it can be actually
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


      • Original Poster

        She was off for two to three months total - she came to me because she was lame. All I have done with her for the past 3-4 weeks is let her be a horse and lounge her twice for the vet and farrier to see her issue. My trainer rode her for less than 30 minutes last Sat. at the walk primarily, did a little trot session around the dressage arena in both directions and called it quits for that day. Other than that she has not been ridden or lounged at all.

        Now that she is sound, I do want to bring her back to work with the trainer but want to take it real slow and easy - I am in no rush, am not trying to fit her up to sell or to show, we are looking at a small schooling dressage show in the spring so have all fall and winter to get her fit and back to work. We thought we might take her to Poplar Place or Big Bear for a schooling type dressage show just to get her hooves wet (let her look around with no real expectations of doing anything grand).

        PS - I have never ridden her - I can't ride trotters so only ride my gaited mare, my trainer is a dressage trainer and he rides the trotters for me. I think walking is good and some light hill work with trot sessions thrown in around the entire arena (no small circles, etc.) until her fitness level increases. No hurry and got all the time in the world to make sure she comes back sound and in good shape for spring. She knows w/t/c and stop, I believe she has hopped a few jumps in simple exercises, prior to my having her. I have no plans for jumping her at all. Just dressage and see how far she can go. I might sit on her one day to see how she feels but I have a feeling my back would fall apart if I did more than that on her. Her gaits appear to big and springy to me when she is trotting around the pasture. I am just enjoying her as she is and will pay the trainer to show her.

        Thanks for the assist. At my age, I love walking the gaited mare and I never get past a slow step pace and I enjoy that. My trainer has taught the gaited mare to canter, but I doubt I will ever canter her - her canter is huge - lol..so I leave that to my trainer and I just enjoy doing the simple dressage test that only require a walk/trot (or in my case, slow step pace).

        I guess I am just a worrier because I know how quickly something can happen to put one off for a long time.