My Injured Horse – Part 3

My injured horse: Part 3 of an honest reflection coping with the injury and rehab.

The box rest went well, except for the occasional eating of therapy equipment, boots and bandages, he seemed to be managing. He put on weight because it is a real struggle trying to balance keeping them eating and not getting stomach ulcers. I would rather he had ad-lib hay and was able to keep up his foraging behaviour and fibre intake than start any stereotypical behaviour. The change of environment and amount of movement was already a risk factor in the development of behaviours such as cribbing and weaving. However the benefit of the yard he went to was that there was activity enough to ‘enrich’ his view but not too much to be considered manic and stressful. There was an air of calm there and all the horses seemed relaxed and settled or well managed if not. Where horses can’t have their friends, forage and freedom we have a responsibility to try and meet their needs as maximally as we can.

After one month of complete box rest, I took my horse back to the surgeon at Western Counties Equine Hospital for a re-scan. I am not sure at this point what I was anticipating as the result. My logical professional brain knew what was realistic but I admit I was disappointed when the results were ‘as good as can be expected for this stage of healing’. In my heart I wanted it to be that everything was fixed and we could skip all the next phases of rehab. Unrealistic I know though.

The good news was that he was allowed to start walking, just for 5 minutes twice a day though. This did cement my choice of the yard because they were there and had the driveway and tracks available to walk him. I dreaded the start of walking though. I feared he would not be able to stay calm and that would put the staff at Devon Equine Hydrotherapy spa at risk. I knew they were capable but what if their handling methods differed from my own, and my horse would get confused. He is bred to have a fun foreleg action and has been known to wave his legs in the air. He did stay calm but what if the healing would be damaged by walking. I know all the theory of the healing process, I know that graduated loading is essential to optimise the tissue repair but I also know that too much too soon would be risky.

I think my dilemmas often come from overthinking and the background knowledge I have. But I appreciate knowledge is power so it’s a fine line! Do you think it’s better to know too much or not enough? Have you had to manage a horse that’s starting work after box rest?

What strategies did you use? Safety is paramount, so hats/gloves and bridle and or the use of medication for sedation. There are lots of options and one that is right for your horse.