There are several reasons why we may need to rehab a horse but in general, we can narrow it down to two categories, mental and/or physical.
When rehabbing a horse with a physical problem the very first thing we need is a veterinary consult to check that the horse is ready to start its rehab program. This is highly important because if the horse isn’t ready, we could do more harm than good, and set the recovery back months or create lasting, potentially career ending problems.
Horse rehabilitation is a gradual step-by-step process similar to human rehab without the benefit of our being able to explain to the horse what is happening to him. To minimize the risk of aggravating the injury when beginning to work with the horse who may by now be quite high strong or on the contrary tired and listless, it is best to work him or her in an environment he is familiar with. If we cannot do this, it is a good idea to spend extra time in the first week or two familiarizing the horse with its new working environment. Most horses beginning rehab have been living in a box stall in the stable or only have access to a small yard with restricted or no exercise so are easily excitable. To help them recover, we need to create conditions around them that will make it possible for them to be attentive and calm and work with us harmoniously.
REHABBING MILLIE: Part I
Millie is a 3.5 year old Appaloosa mare. She arrived at La Mancha very stiff. Her right shoulder showed significant lameness and she also had an undiagnosed lameness in her left hindquarter, which we thought was likely to be secondary to her shoulder problem.
To start on a positive note, I began by just spending time with Millie to get her used to coming out of her paddock and checking out her new surroundings and of course...to give her the opportunity to check me out! I needed Millie to trust and like me, her new handler, since I would be encouraging her to use her body in a new way which may prove temporarily uncomfortable for her. She had been holding herself in an awkward posture for some time and had developed compensation patterns.
Since Millie is young and had yet to start her riding career she had little training. It was important that I not only think of rehabbing her but also that I carefully encourage her to cooperate happily and develop a good work ethic to prepare her for a successful career as a ridden horse. I introduced the work and the new environment slowly.
I took Millie out of her paddock twice a day.
On Walk One, I took us around the property or down the driveway to check the letter box. I took Millie with me everywhere just so we could develop a friendly relationship and she would bond with me.
On Walk Two, I took Millie into the arena and the grooming bay for a good grooming session and a red light treatment. Afterwards we walked around the indoor and outdoor arenas. Walking around the arenas was great for Millie, it allowed her the time to look around and explore what would become her working environment.
While on our walks, I asked Millie for very simple things and started laying the foundation for our later work. I asked her to walk and to halt and I used my bamboo to correct her posture gently. I asked her to put her neck down - giving her a little poll massage to encourage her, and to bring her legs underneath her if they were too far out behind. Just doing these tiny little corrections helped prepare her for the in hand and lunging work ahead. it was also a way to introduce Millie to the cavesson without any stress.
* I learned how to use red light therapy from Dr Kerry Ridgway when he came to La Mancha to lecture on and teach his Acupuncture/Acupressure courses. The points I chose to treat Millie were: Lung 1A Liver 1 - Hamstrings GV 3 - The whole hindquarter structure
For more information on Dr Ridgway please visit his website www.drkerryridgway.com