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How do you fix a problem when you have limited riding time?

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  • How do you fix a problem when you have limited riding time?

    My guy is currently injured- hopefully coming off of an injury, but we'll see!- and is in limited work. No more than three days in a row of active work, no more than about 15 minutes (not counting 10 minutes each walking warm up and cool down.) Just enough to get his heart rate up and maintain a pretension of fitness.

    Partly because it's the way he goes, likely partly because of his injury, and partly because of the way I am built and the way I am riding, he travels crookedly- tight on the right side of his body, doesn't want to bend left, carries haunches right. In the past when he was in active work I fixed this by flexing and stretching all his parts- shoulder in, haunches in, haunches out, leg-yield, side-pass, activate this leg, activate that leg. I am worried about doing this now with a healing suspensory and sesamoiditis. First of all I don't feel like his winter self is warmed up enough and loosened up enough to do good flatwork after 10-15 minutes of trot and canter, and I've also been warned off of a lot of lateral work while he's healing. I don't want to let him continue side-winding like a crab because that is not going to help any part of him, leg included; but I also don't want to aggravate the injury by trying to fix the problem.

    I think the root of it is the tightness all over on the right and I'm doing neck stretches on the ground before and after riding to try to get him to loosen himself up. What else can I do to improve the straightness with the limited saddle time I have and the restrictions on turning and lateral work you'd expect with a horse coming off of a suspensory?
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

    Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
    Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.

  • #2
    Great question!

    You know a lot and so you are fully capable of training with surgical precision. You also have to rank your priorities.

    First, then, is the suspensory injury on his left side, particularly the left hind? If so, you keep that in mind and limit the lateral work, and bend-to-the-left work you do at speed.

    IMO, however, the crooked-a$$ beast *can* spend lots to of time bending to the left at the walk.

    In general, I was taught that we need to spend 60-70% of our time working in the "bad" direction. Lots of people can't bring themselves to do this on a daily basis. The ones who do (like yours truly) are rewarded with much more symmetrical horses. But the project never quite ends.

    If you are the crooked-a$$ beast in this scenario, then you can also take this time to learn to ride straighter. If you have had time off with your horse and lost a bit of fitness, that actually makes your straightening-out job easier. You can rebuild all the subtle muscles that hold you in balance on your horse from a clean slate; it's harder when you have to undo asymmetrical strengths/weaknesses while you are strong in that pattern.

    If you can get someone to help you on the ground, that's good. Tieing both stirrups to the girth can help if you are alone. Same for riding figure 8s and "taking inventory" of how your body feels (any part that you can perceive) in the good direction and then trying to reproduce that feeling in your body or in the horse (any sign from the horse you can perceive) in the bad direction.

    Good luck to you guys.

    Oh, and if you have to choose between protecting the healing suspensory and getting straightness, choose protecting the suspensory. But if this were my horse, I'd choose "walk and work on straightness while not damaging the suspensory" over "get back some cardivascular fitness" as my goal for a ride. Just as you have a clean slate from being unfit, your horse does to. Weak muscles help make the horse's body putty in your hands.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


    • #3
      Are you doing the warm-up on a longe or in the saddle?

      In the winter, my horse tends to get a bit tight, partly because her turnout goes down considerably during the winter months. The most effective warmups for me have been when I do 5-10 minutes of handwalking and then a couple of trips around a 20m+ circle at a walk and canter. I keep a blanket on her the entire time as well. Once I get on, she walks out in a nice relaxed rhythm with a large stride and is ready for the schooling session or lesson.

      Have you spoken with your vet about Robaxin to help relax your horse's muscles during this recovery period?

      Another thing that might help are dressage lessons with someone who has a background in body alignment issues. For example, people who teach in the Mary Wanless style are very good at working out issues with crookedness. There are plenty of other dressage trainers who are as well, but I know its a particular focus with Mary.


      • Original Poster

        Both the horse and I are MVP's crooked-@$$ beasts with SI injuries. It would be nice if we were each crooked to opposite directions but alas, our hips are both a bit high and forward to the left. I am working on this, but unless I fall off and whack the right side of my hip the same way I once whacked the left side and eventually gave myself scoliosis, I am not sure I will ever not be a crooked-@$$ beast. His suspensory (mild reinjury of an old lesion- not making him lame and not prohibiting him from working, but not something I want to make into a major reinjury) and sesamoiditis are both to the left fore.

        We start with 10 minutes of active working walk, outside the ring if possible. Goal is to loosen muscles by traveling forward and straight. Eventually I think that a good work on a longe line especially to the right may help him figure out how to displace his own stuck haunch (or rather, replace it where it belongs) but I am not going to do circles with a suspensory. We spend a lot of time bending left at walk. We will spend more time once he has seen his dentist on Wednesday as he chews on the right, gets sharp on the left, and thus towards the end of 6 months quite reasonably does not want anything to do with the bit on the left side of his mouth. We spend time bending left at trot, and we spend time practicing big square turns at canter. To the left, his canter is actually quite decent. To the right his canter is abysmal because all of that "my haunches go to the right of me" does not a good right-lead canter make. Actually what I've started doing to start the canter work is counter-canter tracking right on a straight line, simple change to correct lead in the turn, which requires a) left bend and b) shifting the haunches and c) shifting the shoulder.

        My priority is getting this leg better, if it can get better; I perceive the straightness (lack thereof) to be a potential issue that impacts the leg because it impacts the way he's loading it. We walk. We walk a lot. But the vet recommends that we continue to trot and canter so that he doesn't gain any more weight (air fern) and maintains some of the CV fitness that historically has been harder for him to regain after time off.

        I'm also watching Dr. Deb Bennett's series on straightness presented at the GHM clinic and archived at USEFnetwork (thanks guys!) and that's helping me conceptualize what I can do to help him, too.
        "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

        Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
        Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


        • #5
          Do you and Tip know how to ground drive/long line? Sometimes I like to do this instead of ride on days when I'm feeling exceptionally crooked as it allows me to both watch the horse and have less to focus on in terms of my own body. Using two lines allows you to walk with him and so you could do quite a bit of work at the walk without needing to work him in circles.


          • #6
            I know this question was about riding exercises, but I had a couple of other thoughts...

            Another thing to think about while he's healing and getting back to a little bit of work is getting some massage and/or chiro work done. It's a good time because he is not still on stall rest. He will actually be able to hold the adjustment once it is made.
            I don't know about you, but when I feel "off" to one side or the other or just not quite right, I usually need to be adjusted. The same is true for my horses! So, maybe both of you could get adjusted?

            As far as you feeling like the horse isn't warmed up enough to do a lot of lateral work (and shouldn't be pushed to do it right now) after your short workouts, maybe you could try one of the Back on Track blankets to use prior to the ride? I know some of the reviews on this product are good, but I have not used one myself. Other than that, I suggest what the other poster mentioned about Robaxin while he is healing...

            Good Luck... Rehab sucks, but you will reap the benefit in the end!
            "The Prince" aka Front Row
            Cavalier Manor


            • Original Poster

              Hill- I don't know enough about ground driving to feel I am really doing it properly. It's something I want to learn.

              Jubal- his vet does chiro/acupuncture and that helps him lots! I'm looking for a new chiropractor. We are both less crooked-in-the-@$$ beasts that way.

              Robaxin is a good suggestion. Right now he is living on bute per vet's recommendation. I've never used robaxin on one of my horses so I have no idea how they may interact, if at all. I'll ask the vet for sure. Maybe she'll write a script for me too.

              Thanks for the suggestions! I am fortunate that he might have a shot to come back, and he is not the kind who would be happy retired, so I want to give him every shot at returning to a low-level job.
              "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

              Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
              Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


              • #8
                Renn, I am having the *exact* same issue with my mare. Probable old SI injury, plus sesamoiditis and an old lesion that was aggravated. She too is living on bute, and is now sound enough for light work at the moment. We have the vet's blessing to get back to it so I am going to attempt it. My hope is that I can get/keep her sound enough for light hacking and maybe some lower level dressage, if we are lucky.

                I've also been struggling with how to proceed with her rehab, and as a relatively green OTTB, I'd like to try to progress her training as much as possible without hurting anything in the process. It's a balancing act.

                She is also stiff on the right side, I have issues with straightness and her right shoulder, which at first I attributed solely to her being an OTTB. Now I suspect it comes from her protecting her LH (where the sesamoiditis/suspensory issue is.)

                Anyway just wanted to let you know you are not alone... maybe we can be rehab buddies.
                We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                • #9
                  Bute and Robaxin aren't known to do bad stuff together. In fact, it's a useful combination for a muscle-sore horse where you need to break a cycle of pain and muscle spasm.

                  Ask your DVM and note what your horse says about the combo.
                  The armchair saddler
                  Politically Pro-Cat


                  • Original Poster

                    FlashGordon, sorry to hear you've got the same issues! Mine is in the opposite place in his life- he's coming 18, been there done that ate the T-shirt- and I think you may have the bigger challenge since you're working with a greener horse who may not completely understand her job yet. What are you doing for treatment?

                    MVP- that's about what I figured, but my guy metabolizes some things differently from the norm and is on some other prescriptions too. Which reminds me I need to call my vet back about that Cushings test.
                    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                    Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
                    Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.