Horse restricted to walk work only.... Need ideas - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 12-12-2018, 04:05 PM Thread Starter
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Horse restricted to walk work only.... Need ideas

My mare injured her suspensory ligament 4 months ago. She has just been cleared by the vet to walk under saddle, but we are not allowed to trot until after she gets a follow up ultrasound in April. I'm looking for ideas of things that I can do with her to make the next 4 months as productive and fun for us both as possible. Here is some background on her....

- Before she got hurt we were schooling second level dressage. Before I started college, we evented quite successfully through training level eventing. She is the type of horse that is too athletic for her own good. She has a lot of energy and loves to play and winds up hurting herself.

- She is and always has been extremely sensitive to everything. It took years for me to get her to hold solid contact in front of the vertical at all gaits and to react appropriately to light leg aids. It seems like she has forgotten this over the past few months and has reverted to hiding behind the vertical again. She gives me almost no contact at all. I do not know how to fix this without asking her to trot. Tips for exercises I can do to get her to stretch, relax, and supple that do not involve trotting would be much appreciated.

-We have access to a lot of fields for hacking. She was always nervous when we went for hacks and would jig/rear quite a bit. We worked those issues out this summer by doing a lot of small circles, one-rein stops, etc. and she became a really reliable trail horse. However, I'm worried she would be naughty if we went out for a hack, especially after having all this time off, and I don't want to risk re-injury.

- I thought about doing some ground work, trick training, or in-hand dressage. She is very sensitive to the whip and easily frustrated and bored so I need to be careful with how I go about this. For example, she exhibits very dangerous behavior when I try to lunge her. She will refuse to walk off and if I move the whip, she will rear and sometimes charge at me. This was a behavior I was able to work through and fix, but I don't want to go through that process again now that she is hurt because she could hurt herself more. There is a lot of rearing involved.

- She is clicker trained for what it's worth

I know I just made her sound like such a handful, but when she is in regular work and she has a job, she is such a superstar and a fun horse to work with. It's going to be a very long recovery and she can be naughty when she gets bored. She loves having a job, so any ideas for things I can teach her would be great.
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post #2 of 14 Old 12-12-2018, 04:40 PM
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With that injury, I would be riding at a walk on flat level ground only. Lateral moves, small circles, haunches in/out, etc should also be put on hold until cleared by the vet or you risk re-injury. She's been off work and healing so give her all of the next four months to slowly strengthen and rehab that ligament. That goes for in-hand and liberty work as well.
I know you are excited to have her back under saddle, but stressing her too soon could leave you without a riding horse again. Give her all the slow and gentle time she needs.
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post #3 of 14 Old 12-12-2018, 08:09 PM
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I, too, would only walk with her. It's the right thing for now.

I would strive to be very low energy myself when around her. As positively as bland as oatmeal! I have to do this with sport horses in rehab.
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post #4 of 14 Old 12-12-2018, 08:25 PM Thread Starter
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I should have mentioned that there was actually no tear in the ligament. Just inflammation. We have been cleared for hacking, lateral work, and ground poles by the vet. She has been on full turnout the entire time- no stall rest.


My plan is to just walk with her, but if I don't give her something to do while she walks, I'm certain she will find ways to entertain herself (aka spooking, trying to trot, hopping around). I just need ideas of things I can do with her at the walk.

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post #5 of 14 Old 12-12-2018, 09:26 PM
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Walk the dressage test patterns. Go up the levels from w/t to GP. Substitute in the smaller circles when you come to them though

Does she long line? You can long line around the arena if she'll do it quietly.

Ground pole courses/patterns.
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post #6 of 14 Old 12-12-2018, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ApuetsoT View Post
Walk the dressage test patterns. Go up the levels from w/t to GP. Substitute in the smaller circles when you come to them though

Does she long line? You can long line around the arena if she'll do it quietly.

Ground pole courses/patterns.

I've never tried long lining her. I might give it a try on a day where her brain seems to be in a good place. The dressage tests are a good idea! I'd just need to figure out how to get her stretching into the contact again for them to really be helpful.

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post #7 of 14 Old 12-12-2018, 11:21 PM
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Oh. In your original post you said the vet cleared her to walk under saddle.

It is concerning that she rears and charges at you, though. Perhaps now would be a good time to get some outside help on her "hypersensitivity."
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post #8 of 14 Old 12-13-2018, 05:17 AM
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If a horse is very sensitive and prone to explosive energy, I would ace before rides. Dosage talk to your vet because I think of it as a safety precaution to prevent the horse from hurting itself and a lot of horses when on rest. Even a perfect saint of a horse can be naughty or wild when they dont have a work load. The ace can also be a good tool for re-training the mind to be more relaxed about work and not get too intensive.

My dressage horse is very hot and intense and when I had PRP done on his stifles he had one month of lighter work. He could walk and trot but had to ace him and no collected work and minimal laterals. He was ridden on the bit but more like a training-1st or 2nd level frame vs in more collection. Depending on where the injury is located you dont want to over load the hind end. No small circles or one rein stops. I did a lot of in hand work with him and that was when I taught him spanish walk. Leg lifts are good and a lot of desensitization. It took months to be able to ride him with a whip. Why ride with a whip? quite honestly to improve the quality of collected work like half steps, piaffe, passage and laterals and to show the horse the expectation. Helps a lot with half pass, shoulder in, haunches in, walk pirouettes, etc. I worked a lot to get him to accept the aids, as Charlotte Dujardin says hot horses need to learn to be ridden with the legs on and lazy horses need to be ridden legs off. Over reaction is not a correct reaction or true acceptance or obedience of the aids. Mine is very stallion-like and so it is always coming back to listen to me, don't take control, take a breath dont anticipate, listen. Breathe, faster isnt better. And teaching him to react in a relaxed, balanced way rather than a tense, anxious hot way. Sometimes long, low and through leg yields or shoulder in or haunches in. I dont have to have him in collection for those things, what I need is relaxation, suppleness and elastic acceptance of the aids and reaching through in a relaxed way vs being tense and horses like this always seem to carry tension. So it's always working for a balanced brain.

If the injury is front end, I'd work on transitions walk-halt and work on developing a decent collected walk and try to get her really true on the aids and understanding them. The aids can always be made clearer. Play with collected walk a few strides to the maximum level she can bring the hind end under to long and low stretching, gathering back up and making sure she has correct responses meaning balanced mind, not too sensitive or anxious about what is asked and listening to you. Not assuming. Use patterns like shallow loops, clover patterns, even just using your body and saying here follow my weight. When I warm up, I often ask for quite little and still have the horse working into the contact but for steering I make it super simple and say just follow my weight. If I sit lighter in the saddle and shorten my rein, I can put my leg on and get more collection. Sit lighter in collection and invite the horse's back up into your pelvis. And play with how sitting heavier or lighter influences the horse and how you can put your weight and ask for leg yield, etc and receive basic acceptance and understanding of the aids.

You can do a lot in the walk. When mine is too much into his head I go back to the walk and try to help him take a breath, else it's mediums and explosions all over the place. Always sit light in the walk, more weight down your stirrup irons to take the weight off the back. A lot of people sit too deep or grind in the walk. It is best to sit light and think of opening up and getting them more relaxed by rocking their barrel inbetween your legs. Follow the rib cage and encourage that rib cage to have a bit more swing.

Turns on the forehand, Turns on the haunches, walk pirouette. Haunches in into the pirouette can make it wide or make a square where at each corner walk pirouette or turn on the forehand or haunches in. Sometimes just standing at the halt. Yes boring but important.

I also agree with not lunging if she is a horse that challenges and plays games when she is restricted in what she can do. It isn't worth it but in hand is very good.

Last edited by DanteDressageNerd; 12-13-2018 at 05:23 AM.
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post #9 of 14 Old 12-13-2018, 08:03 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boots View Post
Oh. In your original post you said the vet cleared her to walk under saddle. "
Yes, sorry. I can do those things at the walk only.


@Dante thanks for the ideas! I have some Ace, but hate to use it if I'm only going to ride 15 minutes. It's definitely a tool I have if she really starts to need it. In the past, I've gotten her to accept my leg aids by just using them correctly, and eventually (over the course of several weeks) her over reactions settle down. Did you approach it differently? At this point, if my legs even brush her sides, she thinks "trot". Starting over is so frustrating...

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post #10 of 14 Old 12-13-2018, 02:28 PM
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You should take a look at cowboy challenge exercises. There is so much lateral work over poles, walking over on narrow planks, walking over uneven exercises. There are "obstacles" like backing up in a weave etc. Lots of different types of things you would not normally do that can provide a new type of challenge and keep your horse's mind busy with different type of work.
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