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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Monday, October 4, 2010

Brooding - what would YOU do?

I seem to be stuck sick at home today. All our wet weather combined with the October chill has sent my already stressed self into the thresholds of sickness. I am not feeling THAT poorly, but given the fact that today it is only 52 degrees and drizzling nonstop, I opted to stay home and nurse this thing right out of my system. I've has plenty of bronchial stress in my life, not to mention a life-threatening bout with pneumonia as a teenager, so I'd really rather keep myself as healthy as possible given the situation.

All this time in bed has given me far too much to think about. I've gotten some good things done, don't get me wrong, but the rest of the time I've spent brooding over my horse's recent schedule, and what we are going to be doing in the near future. And once again, I'm at a loss.

Readers, what would you do?

I am at complete odds with myself when it comes to working my mare. One minute I am all for a six day work schedule, complete with bits of dressage no matter what (during hacks, jumping, etc.), and then the next I am completely backed off, wondering if I should only be trail riding and nothing more. Most of the time, I am somewhere in the middle, wondering if I really should be doing more arena work and less out over the varying terrain, or doing less work period, or more work period. I'm completely at a loss.

My problem is this: I want to strengthen her without over-stressing her limbs. I want everything to get stronger, tendon and muscle alike, but I don't want to do anything that might hurt her. How much is too much? How much is too little? If I do too much, I run the risk of over stressing and possibly reinjuring her. If I do too little, I run the risk of losing the strength I've gained and potentially hurting her when I start her back up in heavier work. But I would also be giving her extra bonus time to just chill and be a horse. But since she can't go out in a big turnout yet, is it worth it to do less, or is it better to keep her moving? And do I want to work on a consistent surface, like an arena? Or will the varying surfaces she's been on do better things for her and build better muscles which can help her general locomotion altogether? I just want to have some fun with her, but what are the risks of that? I also just want to do some real work with her, but what are the risks of THAT?

I'm so at a loss. One day I am so sure, and the next I have no idea. What is too much, and what is too little? How can I go about all this without worrying constantly about whether it is in fact too much or too little? It's just these next few months that I am worried about. Once we get to December, she'll have a let-down of two or three weeks, and then we'll start up in all seriousness for next year's season. But what do I do right NOW? If I only trail ride and dork around, am I risking injury by not asking her to work her body properly? She is such a naturally crooked horse that it takes serious and steady dressage work to straighten her out.... if I only trail ride, how crookedly is she going to be marching around? Will she stress her limbs if I don't balance her body? But if I DON'T get out of the arena, will THAT stress her limbs by only doing the same thing over and over again? And will it fry her brain? (Yes.)

I really don't know what to do. I plan on giving her a few days off to just hang out while I sit and mull this over. I've not had a personal horse that made it to this stage of rehab yet, and I'm so terrified that at any second, it could all come crashing down. All I know is that today, I have a sound and happy horse. From here, I really just don't know where to go. What would you do?


Sarah said...

First of all, I feel for you! There is probably no perfect answer, but one thought I had was that maybe you could find a compromise by working her six days a week but keeping work sessions quite short, like half an hour. Between the two of us you are certainly the expert on tendons, but my understanding is that they become more vulnerable due to the combined effects of heat and fatigue that go along with longer workouts.
Anyway, just a thought. Best of luck!

Jennifer said...

I've been reading, following, and watching GoGo heal. Happy to see she's come so far, and is doing so great.
I would probably also keep "work rides" short. What's a "work ride"? Dressage, jumping, beaches, etc.
Then extend the goof-off rides more over time. Goof off - trail riding, bareback around the property, arena bareback, etc.
Maybe instead of setting a schedule, be random. She doesn't need three hours endurance at trot and canter any time soon, so why push for perfect?
You've already seen that extended time off doesn't make her more crooked, just more stressed.

Good luck!

Alighieri said...

If I were you, I'd do lots and lots of road work at a walk. Maybe a little at a trot. But that would keep you going to new places, like a trail ride (like drive thrus!) and also continuously strengthen those tendons and ligaments without continuously stressing them.

I wouldn't worry overly much about her crooked body until you are ready to gear up for next season, so long as she isn't in pain. No point in getting her completely straightened out, giving her time off for winter, and then having to start completely over with a crooked horse.

eventer79 said...

I totally sympathize, I do this freak out thing all the time about Solo too, we second guess ourselves horribly wanting to do the best thing!

But I agree that I think the road/trail work is the BEST thing you can do. Trail riding doesn't mean you have to wander aimlessly around on the buckle, you know. Pick up your contact, march her forward, and walk walk walk in a good balanced rhythm. I know a LOT of folks at the tippy top of the eventing world who would agree that many many many a horse has walked his way to fitness and muscle. It truly is much more work than you realize and it is not at all a "slacker" activity. She will be using all of her body and if you keep her on the aids, you can work on straightness too!

RuckusButt said...

Sounds to me like you know the answer - a little of everything and not too much of anything. A great time to just be dynamic and just do what feels right that day. I know that doesn't satisfy the planning part of you though.

Lexie said...

One, talk to your vet.
Two, do what you want to do! Don't stress yourself out so much! You know you can read your mare. I love dorking off, but it makes me loose my dressage mojo. It's a price to pay.
Three, use the tredmill to help keep her straight. And make a consience effort to work straightness and correctness into your hacks.
Four, I have no idea about various surfaces. Sorry.
Five, this is just my opinion, and you know way more than I do!

Good luck. Have fun, enjoy your mare.

Muriel said...

Well, don't I feel for you! I have the same problem with my little mare. Too much liberty let her do her own thing, and she is crooked that her right hind pastern swells. Or too much arena work and she is depressed and looses impulsion.

It is a constant dilemma for me. I resolve it by being in the middle. Until teh weather allows it she hacks. Then I mix arena's wrok, with Groundwork "games", lungeing session with Pessoa and riding. I try to keep different.

I am sure Gogo will tell you. On a forum many years ago, a lady gave a schedule for an endurance horse, she mixed it up with dressage. I will email it to you, when I find it in my documents ^-^

spotteddrafter said...

Well, I personally think that trails are so good for horses - it really challenges their minds and their bodies. That said, I think (from reading your blog) that Gogo is the PERFECT type of horse for that - she seems to be very smart and needs challenged on both fronts. You said yourself that it's not like you are gearing up for anything don't. Do some structured "stuff" in an arena and then get out of the white box! :) As someone else pointed out, trails don't have to be all about riding the buckle. Do dressage outside of the aerobic exercise outside of the arena! Even though my mare cannot physically "do dressage" anymore, we still work on our skills on trails. We work on leg yields, bend, getting on the bit, sidepass...only, it doesn't feel like work because we aren't in the white box. You know what you're doing with your mare, just go with the flow and enjoy a sound girl! :)

Jen said...

I agree with what everyone else is saying. Stay in the middle of doing stuff with her. Work her for 4-5 days and let her be a horse for a couple.
I know where you're coming from because my old man got a bowed tendon about 13 years ago and we had to figure out how to deal with that. 13 years later, that leg is super-sound and hasn't given any problems.
Just vary things up.

Hurricanes12 said...

i'd keep going along the lines you're going now, if it's working, why change it?
it's easy to worry about what might happen, & something could quite easily go wrong whichever way you play it! gogo looks great and happy, so you're obviously doing something right!

Val said...

I agree with those who commented on the value of walking. And I feel you are right on the money by keeping the variety in Gogo's work and play. You deserve to enjoy your horse after all the time you have dedicated to her recovery.

A word on straightness...I would make straightness a priority, no matter your activity of choice. Besides the impact to the training scale, straightness is essential to the soundness of the horse. In other words, a horse that is not straight is slowly breaking down.

~Kelley said...

OK, so I'm lame. That is, I have problems with my plantar fasciitis (basically a tendon/ligament issue) and sprained my ankle on the same foot last Christmas. So, can't walk much. It's much better now, but not all the way to "well."
Some days it hurts and some days it doesn't. On the days it hurts, I know it's hurt. On the days it feels fine I just forget about it and tend to do too much. Tendons/ligaments take forever. I really ended up on "stall rest" in March 2008 because it was simply too painful to put my foot on the floor anymore, and finally went to see a Dr. He said "don't walk on it." I said, "WHAT????" Basically, ice it, wrap it, stay off of it.
Sound familiar? Gradually work up the number of minutes on it every day, pay attention when it hurts and back off a bit.
I of course did not put myself on a strict protocol, because who does that? And apparently surgery success is pretty random.
Ok, but healing a human tendon/liagament problem is just about as tricky as healing a horse problem, especially because it's really easy for each of us to convince ourselves that since it doesn't hurt right now it's all better and it will never hurt again. Until we overdo it, of course, and cause another setback.
Anyway, I know that I don't actually have any advice other than be patient and try to have fun in the moment, when things are going well, which I'm sure you hate ;).

I just wanted to let you know that you aren't alone, and it would be just as hard if you were hurting like this instead of your horse. Your blog really keeps me going, and I sympathize every time I read about her setbacks, but the middle road is really best - and you can only find it day by day, moment by moment, doing the best you can.