Drifter saw the physio! Hurray! He’s feeling much better now, although it’s clear from his work that he’s lost muscle strength while he wasn’t moving properly. I haven’t had a chance to ask for too much yet, as he was on light duties post treatment, but it will need some work for us to get back to a nice balanced horse who can work nicely, bent or straight, on each rein. And I have no idea what to expect from the canter! It’s a bit frustrating that if he’d seen the physio when she was first supposed to see him he wouldn’t have had much muscle loss, but it can’t be helped.
I realised that we’re both in the same boat, he and I. We’re both going to be rebuilding lost muscle. Things we used to do are harder now, but we can still get back there. It’s just another part of our journey that we take do together.
I’m really starting to see the strong pattern of when he gets bad – it’s usually just after I have a cold or some other reason why I’m not maintaining his usual exercise patterns. I always make sure he gets out of his stable every day – if it’s not a day he gets some turnout then he will be either ridden, lunged or hand-walked, but it’s obviously not enough. I think I’m going to have to be quicker to put my hand in my pocket to get him schooled. At the moment if I have a cold his week might look like:
Saturday: Turned out for a few hrs
Sunday: I get on and force myself to make him do something for 20 min.
Monday: handwalked for 15 min.
Tuesday: Turned out for a few hrs
Wednesday: Schooled by staff (30 min., incl. tack up & untack)
Thursday: Turned out for a few hrs
Friday: I make a half-hearted attempt at lungeing him in a head-collar because anything else is too much for me. He goes like a bored antelope but hey, he’s moving, and he’s out of the stable and those are my targets!
I’ve never thought this was “enough” exercise, but I have hoped it was enough to stop anything bad happening, just while I get through another cold. When I feel better and expect him to work properly again, he’s all stiff and awkward and just can’t do what I’m asking for. People think I’m being over fussy and tell me it won’t hurt him to stand in his stable all day, but it does hurt him! With the single annual exception of Christmas Day (that’s a whole other kettle of fish) I never let him stand in all day and night. Even through all my health issues, by hook, crook or not inconsiderable expenditure, I have made sure he gets out of the stable every day. And it’s still not enough.
The majority of owners on the yard don’t fuss if their horse is in for 24 hours, 48 hours or even more when the weather’s inclement and turnout is cancelled. I’m jealous that they can be like that and get away with it. At least one person who does that has a horse who still moves fantastically when she does get him out. I know all horses are different but it’s hard to be the (only?) one who always turns up in the rain, when I’m not feeling 100% or when it’s really inconvenient to me, to make sure he gets out of the stable, and I’m still the one whose horse is suffering because he’s not getting as much movement as he needs.
I can’t move him to a yard with more turnout because in every other way this yard is perfect for my needs. I have considered getting a sharer, but as Mr S points out, I would find that very stressful. I am a control freak and would almost certainly be perpetually upset by the behaviour of even the most considerate loaner, because they would not be me! He generously said that he’d rather pay for extra schooling costs than endure the extra stress on me!
Anyway, this is mostly just a whinge. The bottom line, which I already knew, is that Drifter and I need to do more exercise. For the next few months while he’s on Summer turnout patterns (weather permitting) it won’t put too much pressure on me, which is lucky. Hopefully by the time we go back to the dreaded winter pattern I’ll be strong enough and fit enough to keep up, as well as quick enough to book him in for schooling or hacking. If I’m not well enough to give him the proper exercise he needs, I have to pay someone else to do it. And I have to remember to get help with him rather than pushing myself when I’m not well because if I have a relapse that’s really detrimental to his exercise regime.
Whinges aside, I’m glad we can start working properly again. I’m going to try to gradually increase what I can do in the saddle, and balance it with in-hand work. The in-hand long walks will strengthen both of us while giving my riding muscles a day off and I can do a ridden session until I’m tired and then get off and extend the time he’s out of the stable with in-hand work without wearing myself out too much. When he’s a bit stronger I’ll re-introduce pessoa lunging as well. We’re back on the right track now, I very much hope!