Getting Back on the Horse

This is not actually about me falling off a horse. It’s about a horse who was hurt, who went through a long(ish) rehab, and whom I finally had to approach with intent to, well, get back on.

It started last October with horse vs. fence. Fence 1, Horse 0. At the time and based on the damage, the vet calculated that he would need a month or so to recover, and then be OK.

Horses however are masters of the art of making a bad thing worse. The prescription of stall rest? Ha. Ten days in, he came out worse than on the first day. He’d hung  himself up somehow, unhung himself, and really done a number on the body politic. He was well and truly Messed Up.

I emitted the war cry of the horse clan: AAARRRRGGGGHHHHH! I called his masseuse. She worked on him. She gave me further rehab instructions, mostly involving massage, movement, and consistent scheduling of same.

And he got better. And then he got worse again. And then he got better. And he got worse. And then he performed a truly heroic episode of Stupid Horse Tricks: he got out of his pen, where he lived in lordly stallion solitude, and let the entire herd of mares and gelding in.

My first clue was looking out and seeing that the horse in his usual noontime snooze spot was considerably taller than my noble but appreciably short stallion. And had a mane on the wrong side. And was, ZOMG, a mare.

Him, I couldn’t see. There were mares all around. And gelding looking pleased with himself. As he usually does.

Finally, ‘way down in a corner, behind the largest mare (the one whose feet are literally the size of salad plates), I saw one little curly ear. Also, a fallen set of fence panels. And his foot caught in between.

It was an Adventure to extricate him–nothing broken, by a miracle, and only a couple of kick and bite marks, and he was extremely snorty and archy and generally a handful to get out of there and steer past the very interested mares and out to safety. And then there was an hour’s worth of medicating, treating, and determining that he didn’t need a vet.

By that time his masseuse was heard to observe, “Once is a Stupid Horse Trick. Twice is O_o. Three times is a Message.” That I needed to keep my adrenaline levels up, apparently. Along with my vet and masseuse bills.

And so we carried on. Rehab and PT hit a plateau. He was still not looking right. Muscle tone was nonexistent. Horse drawn in circles was now notably tubular. And had some weird muscular oddities in his flanks that none of the horse professionals had seen before.

Finally, having tried the regular vet, massage therapy, PT, groundwork, longeing, ground-driving, and in-hand work, and having opened up a slot in the budget, I called an emergency vet who is also an acupuncturist. I described a bit of this in the last installment of this particular saga, and for those who were curious then, here’s photographic evidence.

Note that this horse is getting a needle in his leg. And he is standing like a rock. He is not tied down at any point.

It does help that there are treats. There are treats, yes?

Then the endorphins hit.

Oh yes. We are happy with this therapy.

The acupuncturist, however, is also a vet, and he understands all about rehab. And he said, “This is clearly helping, but in addition to all your PT, you need to put one last bit of stress on the injured muscles. And that is to ride him. To make him carry weight.”

I looked at my tubular horse with the severely sucked-in flanks and the stalled-out recovery plan, and I said, “Well. You’re the vet. But I’m the sacrificial body here.”

Vet shrugged. “All you can do is try,” he said.

Any horse after a long layup can be, shall we say, excitable. A stallion can be rather sensitive about weight on his back to begin with, since unlike a mare, if he’s carrying anything in the wild, it’s either a large predator or another stallion, either of whom is not acting in his best interests. And my stallion comes with warp drives and a patented ejector seat, activated by pretty much any nonoptimal sensation on his back. (I had to get a new helmet the last time he had a small muscle spasm just aft of the saddle.)

However. The horse had his prescription from the vet, and he was checking out OK except for aforementioned lack of muscle tone and odd muscular development (visible below–see that deep hollow right behind the saddle pad?). I set up a session with the riding instructor, prepared him with further PT including sessions in which he wore the saddle, to reaccustom him to the way it felt on his back, and sucked up my courage and went for it.

We started with a round of by then familiar PT in saddle–exercises to get him sitting down on his hindlegs, balancing from side to side and from end to end, and moving forward, back, and sideways, sometimes one leg at a time.

When he was relaxed and comfortable with that, I ventured into the cockpit. (Mounting block though he’s a short horse, to minimize the strain on his back and withers from mounting.)

It felt like sitting on a chimney. Leg at each corner, big hole in the middle. “WTF?!” from the horse. Eight months, after all. And no muscle tone.

Also there was the warp drive. Which was thinking about revving up to Factor 10. But instructor, who is also his beloved masseuse, persuaded him to think it over, and had me repeating ground exercises from the saddle.

Notably the “Pendulum”: diagonal pairs of legs back and forth, one coordinated step, no more. Which is hard. As he declared with some vehemence.

But he didn’t blow up. Or eject me. And he managed to walk forward out of the exercise, though at first with some trepidation.

And then a little more confident.

And then–trot! Oh my! Wheee! Also, ripsnort (there being MARES! off the stern to starboard).

And finally, as we both relaxed into the whole idea of the thing, came the sensation I’ve missed for eight long months.

Honey, I’m hooooome!

There is work still to do. Muscle to gain–in both of us. The perfect round little rocket of the opening graphic is some months away. But he’ll be back. He’s as determined to get there as I am.

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Getting Back on the Horse — 7 Comments

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