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5 Things To Do With Your Horse When You're Injured

So far 2017 has been incredibly eventful here in the valley! Now that it is spring time, like every other horse person on the planet, I've gravitated to that "one track mindedness" and have one thing on my mind--RIDING HORSES!

I love springtime. You just cannot beat it! The pastures are green, the rain is refreshing, flowers have taken bloom, and all of the adorable babies are being born.  We have adorable kittens and chicks running all over our place and our neighbors have the cutest calves and puppies.

As a horse enthusiast, in general I'm obsessed with anything having to do with my horses, but springtime just seems to bring out a special kind of "horse crazy", not to mention the shedding of winter coats....EVERYWHERE! (Seriously, by the time I got in my car to head to work this morning, I was covered in horse hair). I think the people at my office believe I live in a barn.

Well, I must sadly report to you that I have had some really bad luck on the road these past months, resulting in several car accidents and a pretty painful set of injuries. My back, neck, ribs, and foot have been totally out of commission the past couple of months, and I've only been able to ride my horses for about five minutes at a time. Then the pain sets in.  But anyone who knows me knows that I am not one who can sit still.  (Really, it is just not possible for me).  I'm like that Energizer bunny in the old commercials, only I always have hay in my hair and my bra....which brings me to my point, I think.  I had to find a way to squeeze in my much needed springtime horsey fun, without spending time in the saddle.  Thus, the inspiration behind this post. ; )

Here are five things that have allowed me to continue to have fun with my horses, while also helping me feel better about my current physical limitations.

#1 - Horsey Yoga

There. I said it. Yes, I have attempted yoga. But what is more surprising is that my poor horse has also attempted yoga....with daylight....where the neighbors could was nuts. Actually, I wasn't that bad! It was kind of fun and I think my horse felt super relaxed by the end of our "session". 

How did we accomplish this you ask? I ended up just combining the stretches that I do for my injured horses with regular "people stretches".  So for example, when I stretched my horse's front legs, I would engage my core, and give my back a deep stretch as well, and count to ten.  I did this in 2 rep series, first counting to ten, then twenty.  When I did lateral stretches with my horse's neck, I gave my arms a good stretch as well (just like I would in a regular yoga class).  This continued with downward neck stretches, back/hip stretches, and hind leg stretches. 

I'm sure there are tons of varieties of these equine-friendly yoga poses for one to discover, so get creative and give it a try! You'll be surprised at the relaxation you and your horse get out of it.  Plus, who doesn't like a little quality time with one's beasty? (Also, I should note that this really did help my back and neck feel better and I think I'll continue this once or twice a week with my gelding since he is injured as well).

#2 - Ice, Ice Baby

Okay, okay sorry. I digress. However, ice truly is awesome for injuries and most horses just happen to love it. Ever give your horse a bucket of ice cubes to play with? If not, I highly recommend it. You are sure to be entertained. Actually, that isn't what I tried though.  After lunging my gelding, I wrapped his legs in his ice wraps and gave him a nice cold liniment massage.  Then, while I waited for his ice wraps to thaw, I too enjoyed some cold therapy with my own ice pack on my elevated foot. I used an old plastic lawn chair and a stepping stool for elevation, and just hung out with my handsome steed for about twenty minutes while we both cooled off.  Not a bad way to take a chill pill (no pun intended). More horsey bonding time--CHECK!

#3 - Take a Hike, Bro

Not really. While a good, long stroll is recommended for back problems, I'm pretty sure that hiking (with a horse nonetheless) is not the greatest idea I ever had.  But what is a great idea is taking your horse, or horses for a good old fashioned walk! For reals. If you haven't done it in a while, it's pretty much like walking a giant dog on a giant leash. (It'll come back to riding a bike). If we're going to be proper -- it's called "hand walking" and I highly recommend.

I have actually made this an almost daily exercise since just after my last accident, as it really helps with the back and rib pain.  Even though I'm a little wobbly due to my injured right foot, it is so nice to just get out and walk.  I can tell my horses are loving it too.  We walk for about a mile around our property.  Super easy, right?

#4 - Try Some New Round Pen Exercises

When the saddle just isn't an option, head for the ol' training pen! I went through my tack room and pulled out a bunch of old stuff like flags, blind folds, plastic bags, lunge lines and training sticks. One of my horses is particularly sensitive when it comes to "spooky stuff" so I chose him for this one.  We worked in the round pen for about an hour just on desensitizing exercises using various "spooky stuff" and I even ended up taking out my .45 revolver (used for mounted shooting) and dry fired it to get him used to the sound. We worked on lateral flexion exercises too and ended our refresher course with a little lunging around the pen. Time well spent, I'd say.  

#5 - Give Liberty Work a Try

I saved the best for last I think.  This was lots of fun for me, but also for my horses. I think they enjoyed liberty work just as much as I did. My SO helped me make a super inexpensive obstacle course in our pasture using old tires, cones, buckets, PVC pipe, and wooded beams.  I took the horses through it several times to get them used to the idea, and then started working on getting them to focus on me through the course at liberty (no halter at all).  Now I'm itching to try a new, more complex course and I think I may even sign up for agility in our area.  So much fun and you can go at your own pace, which is perfect for someone like me who is recovering from injuries!

Not only do the aforementioned activities work well for times when you just can't get in the saddle, most are also excellent options for the times when your horse is injured. But if your horse is injured, chat with your vet about scheduling a PEMF therapy and body work session with a practitioner in your area, as that can help immensely as well!


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