My Injured Horse – Part 4

Part 4 of an honest reflection coping with injury and reha

bOnce we were at 8 weeks post op, there were no signs of anything wrong happening with two 5 minute inhand walks a day. If you know me and my research area you’ll know how frustrating I was finding the lack of knowledge about progress of the healing. I knew it wouldn’t really change anything but if I’d had my own imaging equipment, I’d have been rescanning and x-raying weekly!

As my horse’s behaviour was good and all feet were either on the ground or stepping as required and not launching around it was time to think about more movement. Controlled exercise was required. Fortunately the decision to have him on rehab livery @devonequinehydrotherapyspa was working out better than I could have hoped for. Because I am away from home for long periods there’s no way I could have been able to build up the exercise gradually, or certainly more than once a day. The irony of needing to work to afford to pay for rehab for my own horse was not lost on me!

When my horse was younger he was taken on lots of hacks inhand. He had previously been very comfortable long-reining so it was decided that was the way forward now. So his programme outside of box rest was increased to include longer duration walking on the long-reins. Once this was going well the next step was to plan his return home. How to transition from the safety of the rehab yard, back to my care, was something that kept me awake at night. I knew I wanted him home but what if I wasn’t able to keep up the good work? The only way I could cope with him home and for him to cope without causing him stress was for him to be able to be turned out.

We had to bite the bullet and give him his freedom. But what if he injured himself in the field? What if the ‘frayed’ suspensory or the bone healing was damaged even more? All these questions and risks needing consideration. If I didn’t consider his mental well-being or had the knowledge that graduated increased loading was needed, I would have stuck with the box rest forever! However, frustratingly, I know that bed rest doesn’t help humans and immobility has its own longer term consequences.

After the decision was made it actually turned out that turning out was a non-event! The trick it appears is to put them in a small area, with a stable neighbour in the next paddock, and with lots of buckets containing a little bit of food. Such a simple but effective idea. I awaited photos of him out and could have cried when I saw him head down mouching about. Finally a bit of freedom for him.

I’m not sure if decision fatigue by proxy is a thing but by this stage I was definitely exhausted from lying awake at night worrying. I am not sure which is worse, worrying about children or your horses? Being told that the outcome of all of this is likely to be ok, not 100% of course but probable it’ll be fine, didn’t stop me being really fretting about the future for him.

As I’m writing this I still don’t know if he will be ok. I wish I had a crystal ball. But at this stage you can’t do anything else but stick to the process and be brave.