A horsey update–land o’ conditioning

And so the horsey rehab continues. Mocha marched off sound from her last round with the bodyworker. Last week she got shoes on all four feet, and the farrier was pleased with the condition of her hooves–so far. But we all know the white line is sneaky, and so tonight I have a hot date with gallon bags and Gorilla tape to make enough cheapass redneck soaking bags so that I can soak all four feet without blowing out a bag due to her shoes. It’s not optimal to soak shod feet with White Lightning, but…it is what it is, and it’s doable. I got hints of the white line reappearing yesterday, so I expect I’ll see more tomorrow and should treat it ASAP.

I have been hitting those feet pretty steadily with a straight iodine flush, and I may do just that tomorrow since the temps are still going to be on the coldish side. Or not. I may just suck it up for forty minutes of keeping her mellow while her hooves soak. Fun and games.

In any case, we’re now back to conditioning. Monday was her first day under saddle in six weeks. She stepped out pretty good, with a long and forward stride like she hasn’t had in…well, ages. Feeling that under me felt like things were right again…though, really, that’s a long way off.

For one thing, she’s desperately out of shape after the last six weeks and the previous six weeks or so of being lame in her right shoulder. I’ve kept her on stall rest with only walk work, mainly to protect the integrity of her hoof wall until we could get shoes to support the hoof capsule on that white line area. We’re now beyond that, but still, a few arena laps at a working trot leaves her winded. Considering that she was doing higher level canter work easily without drawing an uneven breath a year ago, this is a big deal. I’m basically looking at rebuilding both muscle and endurance from scratch.

Which means…lots and lots of walk work, much of it in straight lines, for a highly trained horse who enjoys pattern work and exercises which make her concentrate and think. Not every horse is this way, but Mocha likes it when we do things which allow her to puzzle out a problem or else work fast. If we can do both, she’s even happier. The challenge in bringing a horse like this back into work is to keep her mind engaged without rushing the level of schooling she’s doing. It’s far too tempting to rush a horse like her along, but given that she is a middle-aged mare, it’s better to be conservative and build up wind and muscle slowly. Especially since we are doing this at the start of winter. If she could live where we have a drier climate and turnout, that would be better, but that doesn’t happen until next year.

I’m mixing up saddle schooling and long-line schooling, because some of the muscle tightness issues that brought about her lameness are tied into her cinch area. I don’t want to make her back sore, either, which means we have to spend time getting her (and to be honest, me too) reacclimated to the saddle. I’m asking her for more complex and longer work on the long lines, which allows us to execute movements which will help her rebuild flexibility and strength, only without the pressure of the saddle. We can’t do that work under saddle yet until she’s had enough time to recondition back into the saddle. I’m also riding her in the sidepull because she needs to be working long and loose, going forward with no restraint or collection. If there’s no bit in her mouth, I’m not tempted to try to fiddle around with collection. It also means that I can focus more on using seat and legs for cueing so that we can develop the light whisper of cues that we both prefer.

So right now it’s all just a matter of long, slow work and time. I’m not expecting to be ready to do more under saddle than just walk for another month, because I want to lay down a solid muscle and aerobic foundation. From past experience with this mare, I know that she needs to build strength to a certain point before I can ask her for even basic canter work. Oh, I could ask for it sooner, but the results wouldn’t be the best. Better to build the muscles and wind, and get a nice, relaxed canter rather than have the horse strain, and the only way you get that strength is by taking the time to develop it.

So it’s a long, slow slog back. That’s the way these things just happen to be.

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