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What to do while waiting to see how your injured horse heals?

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    What to do while waiting to see how your injured horse heals?

    Apologies in advance for the long post. I know there’s far from one right answer here, but I’d love to hear what you all did in similar situations to mine and what you all would recommend.

    Background: My one and only horse (A/O hunter, 11yo) has been off for 18+ months now. After a lot of barking up wrong trees, she had two surgeries this year (2020, sigh...) for a blind splint. She did not come back sound from the first surgery, and the second surgery cleaned up an excessive amount of scar tissue in the area. That second surgery was in June. We tried to do *everything right* this time around - I put her at a hospital board facility, bought a GameReady, personally visited daily to make sure she knew I cared about her recovery , did shockwave, weekly legend, other injections, everything else that the vets recommended. At about 8 weeks post-surgery, and one week into tack walking, she threw me off at the mounting block and I fractured 3 vertebrae. The vets and I felt that turning her out was our only choice at that point, given that I couldn’t ride and no one else can ride her. It’s been a month now, and she is super happy and also looking GREAT. She was never as sound after the first surgery as she is now, per my vet.

    Dilemma: I can’t get back on her for at least another month due to my back injury. We’re getting into fall and early winter at that point, and that’s never been her best season behaviorally. I *adore* this horse and emotionally have a lot tied up in her, but — perhaps for that reason — I am very wary of rushing things for both of our sakes. I question whether the failed first surgery was at least in part due to bringing her back as quickly as we reasonably could. I also know I can’t suffer another injury at her hands. Do I play it safe and turn her out for 6+ months? Do I stick with the schedule and try to return to tack walking/progress from there?

    And then the million dollar question: She’s the only horse I really want. I don’t have the time and money to deal with two show horses in the long run (thinking multiple years). But I have no idea if she can stay sound and sane after all of this, and I’ve lost a lot of riding and showing time already. If I turn her out for a while, I could get another horse — assuming that I’d sell it in a few years if my mare comes back fully, or I could retire my mare and keep another if she doesn’t come sound. Is this actually logical or is it crazy horse person thinking?

    Any and all thoughts appreciated.
    Last edited by Mareish; Sep. 17, 2020, 09:57 AM.

    #2
    You say fall/winter are not her best seasons behaviorally - I'm assuming historically she's been stalled with probably not more than eight hours turnout per day, and possibly turn-out time decreased around that time of year due, as is typical for show/training barns? If so, it's possible that if you keep her on 24/7 turnout while bringing her back into riding, you'd see a great improvement in her behavior.

    Either way, yes, your thoughts are perfectly reasonable. Turn her out for six months, and see where she's at in the spring. Or give her a year or two and buy something. If she's still not fully sound when you bring her back up, retiring her and getting another show horse is perfectly logical.

    Comment


      #3
      This is also a good time to think about a lease or part-lease, if you aren't ready to buy another horse.

      When mine was recovering from surgery, I had a mix of free lease horses (sadly, neither worked out -- one could not stay sound, and the next, frankly, was too scary on the trails for me at that time), part leases, and lessons. And hand-walking mine 6 days per week.
      You have to have experiences to gain experience.

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

      Comment


        #4
        Oh no, sorry to hear you were hurt.

        Would it hurt anything at all, to keep her on turnout (24/7 if ideal?) for the remainder of the year, and start legging her up this spring?

        You mention you really enjoy her and you want to make it work -- sometimes, taking it very slow after an injury and layup is the best way. With the way things are going (2020), it's not as if we will likely have many showing options right up at the beginning of the year -- so with no goal in mind besides enjoying the time you have together, you may have a very different horse come spring.

        There are also other ways to enjoy your horse without being on their back. See if you two can pick up a new hobby, maybe clicker training, or mini/home made 'desensitation' clinics in hand? We used to have a really fun in-hand night with the boarders once a month a few years back when I was a BM, where we'd place out poles, tarps, pool noodles, etc, and just have fun doing mini obstacle courses in hand.. which should be fine for you and her to do, if your vet okays it.

        I do not think that taking more time after an injury is ever a bad idea -- but a good rule of thumb to follow when you bring them back to work after a layup, is to be really conservative with work and double the time it takes to get back to full work as they had off (IE, 3 months of stall rest means you should take 6 months to bring them back to their prior level of work!). The added benefit of 24/7 turnout is, it conditions their limbs and soft tissue very well, and you will have a stronger/healthier horse at the end of 6 months of 24/7 turnout than you would at the end of 6 months of stall rest.
        AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

        Comment


          #5
          I'm just going to throw out some options, building on what yourself and others have said.

          Leave her be until spring, giving her that extra time to heal and chill. In the meantime consider a part board or occasional lessons if you want saddle time. Or save your money and pay for a pro to rehab her for 2-3 months in the spring so that you don't get hurt again.

          Try 24/7 turnout and see if she's more rideable. If not, then go back to option 1.

          If you can afford two horses than you could consider purchasing a baby (weanling or yearling). You should be able to find somewhere cheaper to board a young horse. As long as there's safe fencing and somewhere to groom then you can still get a lot of basic training and handling done. Then you've got a couple years to figure things out with your mare. If your mare works out then you can just start your baby and sell it. If your mare needs to be retired then you've got a young one coming up.

          Comment


            #6
            It is a sucky situation; have been there. Agree with others - turn out at least until spring. Back when I was at a hunter/jumper show barn, there was always an opportunity to at least hack other horses - owners out of town, family commitments, sick, etc. Gave me the opportunity to ride a bunch of different horses. Given your A/O experience, you are obviously a competent rider, lol. This would give you opportunity to get strength back. Re another horse, begin looking - that will give you time to think about what you really want or can get within your budget.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Mareish View Post
              Apologies in advance for the long post. I know there’s far from one right answer here, but I’d love to hear what you all did in similar situations to mine and what you all would recommend.

              Background: My one and only horse (A/O hunter, 11yo) has been off for 18+ months now. After a lot of barking up wrong trees, she had two surgeries this year (2020, sigh...) for a blind splint. She did not come back sound from the first surgery, and the second surgery cleaned up an excessive amount of scar tissue in the area. That second surgery was in June. We tried to do *everything right* this time around - I put her at a hospital board facility, bought a GameReady, personally visited daily to make sure she knew I cared about her recovery , did shockwave, weekly legend, other injections, everything else that the vets recommended. At about 8 weeks post-surgery, and one week into tack walking, she threw me off at the mounting block and I fractured 3 vertebrae. The vets and I felt that turning her out was our only choice at that point, given that I couldn’t ride and no one else can ride her. It’s been a month now, and she is super happy and also looking GREAT. She was never as sound after the first surgery as she is now, per my vet.

              Dilemma: I can’t get back on her for at least another month due to my back injury. We’re getting into fall and early winter at that point, and that’s never been her best season behaviorally. I *adore* this horse and emotionally have a lot tied up in her, but — perhaps for that reason — I am very wary of rushing things for both of our sakes. I question whether the failed first surgery was at least in part due to bringing her back as quickly as we reasonably could. I also know I can’t suffer another injury at her hands. Do I play it safe and turn her out for 6+ months? Do I stick with the schedule and try to return to tack walking/progress from there?

              And then the million dollar question: She’s the only horse I really want. I don’t have the time and money to deal with two show horses in the long run (thinking multiple years). But I have no idea if she can stay sound and sane after all of this, and I’ve lost a lot of riding and showing time already. If I turn her out for a while, I could get another horse — assuming that I’d sell it in a few years if my mare comes back fully, or I could retire my mare and keep another if she doesn’t come sound. Is this actually logical or is it crazy horse person thinking?

              Any and all thoughts appreciated.
              I think what you propose is perfectly reasonable. Trying to rehab (tack walk, etc) a horse that reacts "with enthusiasm" to fall / winter temperatures can be risky anyway; if you also need time to recover, then turning your mare out for a bit and taking things slowly makes a ton of sense. And getting something that you can enjoy in the meantime will help get you back in riding shape and provide the enjoyment and progress that will make it easier not to rush the return to work for your mare as well.

              FWIW, I've been through something quite similar over the last couple years with a horse that was misdiagnosed for quite a long time and therefore got very unfit; he had to be brought back super slowly. I bought another horse to ride at that time and it really helped everyone's composure and sanity. Good luck.
              **********
              We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
              -PaulaEdwina

              Comment


                #8
                I know you love her but it sounds like you also really miss riding (or will, when you get the green light to start up again).

                I'd find a good non-show-but-safe/competent farm w/in an hour or so, and send her for 24/7 (or at least lots of it) turnout (with grain, blanketing, supplements, etc) and give her a lot more time to recover. Then maybe lease a horse to ride for the next 6 months or year. You can get your strength and balance back, and maybe get to show and have some fun again. Then you'll be fit and motivated when Miss Mare is ready to come back into more serious work.
                You could buy a second horse too, but since you're already dealing with a long layup/potentially unsound horse now, I'd want to lease to minimize the risk of ending up with two of them). Give your mare a year to really show you what she's comfortable doing and take the time to build her up slowly, even more slowly than you think you need to. Let her be turned out all winter and spring, and then you can start riding her a bit (lots of trail rides would be ideal as it's low impact but hills and footing changes work their bodies, and it's great for their brains) while you maintain your fitness and eye on the lease horse. Then you can take some time to evaluate if your mare will come back and be competitive, or if you should just continue the lease/buy a new show horse.

                from personal experience: My AO mare (was stepping down at that point anyway to the 3') injured herself a couple of years ago (soft tissue). I did stall rest, shockwave, etc and it didn't really help. I figured she'd be retired and just let her turnout with her friend (I have my own farm). She wasn't out 24/7, but she wasn't limited to a small paddock or only a few hours--she was out with my regular schedule, so 12+ hrs a day usually. Then one day I watched her playing and thought "hmm, she looks pretty sound" so I started riding her, then riding more seriously, then jumping. 2-3 years later, and she's still sound, jumping around the 2'6 occasionally, and I'm delighted. She's my heart horse and while she has a retirement home with me forever, I really enjoy riding her.
                A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's wine...wine does that...

                http://elementfarm.blogspot.com/

                Comment

                  Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thank you all for the helpful comments and thoughts so far!

                  One clarification: I have been continuing to ride what/when I can during the 18 months my horse has been largely off. At a minimum, I've been able to take some lessons, usually once a week or so. More recently, I've gotten to borrow a horse for a show, and I presently have a temporary free lease (sale horse who needed to be legged up). I have continued to ride the free lease, who is very safe, notwithstanding my injury. That horse will likely be going back to the sale barn fairly soon, though, and I don't think another option like that will easily present itself. These opportunities have definitely helped to keep me going, but it's not the same as having your own to focus on, show, and progress with...

                  All of the responses that supported longer turnout and finding another (whether leasing or buying... or ideally, lease-to-buy) seems to align with my gut feeling on this. My vets are still discussing their collective recommendation, which will obviously get a lot of weight, but I am generally of the mindset that more turnout and time can't hurt, especially after seeing her backslide and become unsound again while getting back to work after the first surgery.

                  ETA: the multiple suggestions regarding groundwork are very appreciated! I hadn’t thought about that very much and will look into it more! My mare is very smart and very personable so it could be a good way to keep her engaged in the meantime.
                  Last edited by Mareish; Sep. 17, 2020, 11:38 PM.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    As someone who is just now putting a horse back into work after an injury resulted in them being off for two years, I feel your pain! Add in your back injury....I would turn her out for the winter. I would spend the winter working on my own physical strength so that you don't reinjure yourself either (I have that t shirt, it sucks), ride different horses as much as possible, and work with her on the ground.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Given the situation I'd leave her turned out until the weather is decent in the spring. The extra time off certainly isn't going to hurt her and she's already there and you know she does well in the situation. And then try to ride other horses when you can, as you've been doing. If you want to ride more, consider a lease, even if it's one that you wouldn't necessarily buy.

                      I'm currently in a similar situation. Horse injured himself stepping on a rock in May 2019, we got him going again and even showed, and then he re-injured it at the beginning of April. Somehow. The consensus of two vets was that it was relatively mild and he'd be right back to work. No. I have two more weeks of tack walking left before we're supposed to check him for soundness. At that point, if he's not sound, I am seriously considering sending him someplace for some Dr. Green through what passes for winter in these parts, even though he's generally a gentleman to tack walk. Depending on where I send him I would then consider leasing something, but it would probably need to be a feed lease or a very small fee. At the moment I get one lesson a week via a friend's horse and usually a couple of extra hack rides.
                      The Evil Chem Prof

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