Getting Your Horse Back into Work after a Tendon Injury
Part Two of Four: Adding the Trot
In the previous post we examined the two walk phases of equine rehabilitation after a tendon injury, which included walking in hand, on the horse walker and under saddle.
When your horse is being ridden for sixty minutes a day at walk, and an ultrasound has confirmed that his damaged tendon is healing on schedule, it’s time to include trot in his routine.
How Much Trot?
Your vet will probably suggest trotting for five minutes in total during his one hour exercise routine, still working in straight lines and large circles.
Whether using the horse walker or riding, start each session with ten minutes of walk. This rule applies regardless of the horse training method, even when the animal is fit, as an equine athlete’s muscles and tendons need proper warming up to prevent injury or re-injury.
Introduce thirty seconds of trot at regular intervals between the walk phases, building up to sixty seconds during the first two weeks.
Gradually add five minutes every fourteen days, until you’re up to twenty minutes at the end of eight weeks – or other prescribed time period. Always call your vet if you detect any heat, swelling or lameness.
Starting with the Horse Walker
Your horse has been ridden under saddle for the past eight weeks. But all he’s done for four months is walk and the addition of trot could prove exciting for him.
With a european style horse walker, your horse can naturally move up from walk to trot in an enclosed space, and the partition will prevent him from gathering too much speed.
A calm equine companion will help your horse stay level-headed, and your control over the machine’s speed will enable gradual walk-trot-walk transitions.
Once he has settled down, you can progress to riding again.
Trotting Under Saddle
This walk and trot riding phase is an ideal time to work on collection.
Valuable for all horse riding disciplines, and not just dressage training, collection distributes weight more evenly over your horse’s four legs by shifting some of the load onto his hind end. The uncollected horse carries the greater proportion of his and the rider’s weight on his forelegs, which is especially undesirable after a tendon injury.
Collection also creates smoother, less ‘choppy’ gaits and transitions, further reducing tendon stress.
Here is a very informative article on achieving true collection (not the forced type, which makes the horse tense and rigid and more likely to hurt himself): SustainableDressage
If possible, ride with a friend on a quiet horse to keep yours calm until he gets used to this change in his daily exercise. You may want to use a stronger bit for extra control, or ask about a safe sedative for those first few trot rides.
Life is finally becoming more interesting for you and your horse. When an ultrasound of his injury shows sufficient healing, you’ll get the green light to include canter work. We’ll examine this in our next post, together with tips on how to prevent re-injury of the healed tendon.