Bringing A Horse Back Into Work After Injury

Dressage Mastery TV Ep234

Welcome to Dressage Mastery TV!! Ollie, my young Friesian stallion had a breeding accident in December, and he’s been in and out of work, he just hasn’t been all good. We have just started working with him for the last two or three weeks and I’m bringing him back into work. We thought it would be a cool video to show you guys how you bring a horse back into work after an injury. So, obviously you just start slow and I’m a really firm believer in letting the horse tell you what he needs to do.

The last couple of days he’s been coming in and basically half rearing and piaffing – really wanting to go – which is such a good sign, because that means he wants to go, he’s feeling really good. Today he’s not doing tha, so I don’t push him. I don’t make him do anything. So all the rules of a dressage rider of you must trot when I say, and you must canter from the slightest aides, goes out the window when I’m working with a horse like this, because I really want to talk to them and I want them to feel that they can tell me that they don’t want to do it or can’t do it rather than having to be completely obedient and completely do what they need to do.

So in a second I’m going to ask for trot and I’m going to ask gently and again, like the last couple of rides, he’s been super – like the minute I’ve kind of gone, okay, would you want to think about trotting? He’s been trotting, which tells me he feels really good and he’s happy to trot. So I just say, do you want to think about trotting? And straight away he goes into it which is good and all I’m thinking about is okay, I want him to go forward but not in a you must go forward kind of way. Now he’s just hearing noises out there and wondering what that is and sometimes they don’t go forward.

He’s holding himself a lot, especially at the start because I think he was worried that it might hurt, but he’s naturally increasing his trot there. So he’s obviously saying this feels good, I’m happy to move my body in this certain way. And so I just go with him. He sets the pace. He tells me what he’s willing to do. Straight lines as much as possible. Obviously that’s a bit impossible in a 60 x 20 arena but I’m not going to start working on 10 meter circles or you know, really hard work. And again, it’s hard to know is he slowing down because he’s just lazy and doesn’t want to work? Or is he slowing down because he needs to slow down? You’ll get both and you’ll never know the full answer. Horses can’t talk, but when I’m rehabbing a horse I want to push them obviously to a point where they work, because they need to learn how to use the muscles again. They need to learn how to use their body again.

How I’m riding him is how I would ride a three year old. So a three year old breaker, you know, there’s no 20 meter circles, there’s just straight lines, go around the arena can go around the arena forward, soft, loose.

You can see there that I use my whip a little bit and he didn’t really give me the reaction that I would like to see – now is that a three year old retraining thing that he just needs to be told – Hey, when you go forward, you go forward. Or is he saying – I understand you want me to go forward, but I don’t feel comfortable doing that.

Then once I’ve done two laps one way two laps the other way, I got back to walk and have a rest and then I’ll go again into trot and sometimes the trots is way better because they warmed up a little bit. They feel a little bit better. Sometimes the trot is worse. And you go, okay, well I’m not gonna do anymore. I just build them up like that. Now obviously all injuries are different all things are different. But that’s just a basic premise on the horses that I have taken back from injury. I just start really slow. Same with the canter. I might start with a long side and if they’re happy to do the long side, a short side, if they feel uneven, they lose their balance. But to me it’s just talk to your horse. If they want you on their back, if they want to go, they are feeling really good. If they don’t, you have to think about what you need to do instead, maybe go slower or they might need some more time.

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