This month's blog post is a personal reflection on a topic that hits close to home for many horse owners – stall rest. Currently navigating through this challenging period with my own horse, I want to share my experiences, challenges, and coping strategies for those who find themselves in a similar situation. Stall rest is undoubtedly a tough journey, but with the right approach and mindset, we can make the best of it.
The Unpleasant Reality
Let's start by acknowledging the difficulty of stall rest. It's not the ideal scenario for any horse owner, and the limitations it imposes can be disheartening. Whether your horse is recovering from an injury, surgery, or facing a medical condition, the reality of stall rest can be emotionally taxing. "Optimum healing requires controlled exercise. Often horses needing stall rest require hand-walking to slowly go back to work. There are a few tips to keep your horse happier and to help ease this process." (Malone 2021)
Adapting to Stall Life
While Scotty is on stall rest for the next 60 or so days, for a torn peronius tertius tendon. I have had to become pretty creative on not only trying to keep him mentally entertained but also how to deal with bedding his stall, making sure that while he almost always has hay, not trying not to make the ulcers I’m assuming he has any worse.
- I have been so excited to share this tip, and they are those shavings pine pellets. OMG, they are actual lifesavers! By adding the pellets to the base of his stall, it's been keeping his stall dryer, and easier to clean, and it adds some fluffy layers to help make it more comfortable and keep his feet much dryer.
- I had already given Scotty some stuffed animals to have in his stall, but I've also added some other creative, and for Scotty, who is 100% food motivated, such as my genius hay ball creation, filling a grain bag with some hay and tying it up, I've even tried filling a box with hay and some cookies to give him something to do as well.
- I must confess, I HATE hay nets! With a passion. They can be detrimental to your horse's neck health—encouraging an unnatural eating position and causing uneven teeth wear. Despite this, I value providing Scotty with constant access to hay, especially since he can't graze. After some research, I found the perfect solution—the Hay Pillow. Using it for a few weeks, I've noticed his neck doesn’t have that overdeveloped look in his Splenius. Check out their website; I'm not affiliated, but I am a very satisfied customer.
Living Better through Science
- Drugs can help take the edge off of your horses stall bound stay. However, decisions regarding your horse's care should always involve a conversation with your vet. It's essential to consult with them on any scientific approaches to ensure your horse's well-being.
While Scotty's saddle time is currently limited to tack walking, I'm utilizing this period of stall rest to focus on groundwork and apply the principles of the Balance Through Movement Method and Moving Massage. I believe these methods provide a lighter option during Scotty's phase of calm walking without abrupt movements.
Both of these techniques serve not only to center Scotty but, hopefully, to retrain his movement pattern, release tension in specific muscles, particularly the brachiocephalic muscle, and teach him to engage his core properly. Moreover, the groundwork is a crucial component of building a strong partnership.
My goal is not to emulate Amy from Heartland, and while I welcome others rehab cases, my primary focus is on fostering a positive connection with Scotty. I want him to genuinely enjoy working with me and find motivation in our partnership.
Groundwork, even in this slow, modified version necessitated by his healing process, plays a key role in strengthening our bond. It's about more than just rehabilitation; it's about building a foundation of trust and collaboration that will extend beyond the healing period.
For these past few weeks, I've learned so much more about my horse and reading his moods. I try to keep our routine as close to normal as possible, and I am also trying to keep his mood up; thankfully, so far, Scotty is a stellar patient. But I also see him becoming frustrated if he doesn't feel like he has been out hand grazing long enough, and I ask him to walk more, or I tell him it is time to go to the ring to work on some of our groundwork exercises, or if it's time to go back in.
All of the Feels
During this time of stall rest, it's not just hard on the horse, and believe me, it's hard on the horse, but it is also hard on the caretaker. I am so grateful to have such a great support system made up of a great friend who picks up my slack at our barn and my general horse friends who have imparted their words of wisdom and also the fantastic barn owners. While I know Scotty is feeling frustrated, I am also. I have had to acknowledge my own feelings of frustration, sadness, stress, and irritation. While it seems like both of us are going to be missing a considerable portion of our show season, I am trying to utilize this time to rebuild him, as I stated above, and to also improve our bond as a pair.
While I am most certainly not being overly positive about this situation, it's also teaching me to have compassion for myself and also to let go of some control. I don't know about anyone else but I am a bit of a control freak. Leaving my horse in the care of others some days is really hard, but for work reasons or, quite honestly, when I need a day to myself for my own mental health, I am forced to give up that control and to also take a deep breath and realize while other people are doing the best they can too, they aren't going to do things perfectly my way. Some days his hay ball toy isn't going to be hung the way I do it, his grain isn't going to be made up by me, and his stall isn't going to be cleaned the way I would. But I also get to realize that it's okay; he lived to see the next day no worse for wear. I think this experience is also helping and teaching me it's okay to depend on other people, and for anyone else whose horse is also on stall rest, I am saying it to you too: if you have competent and capable people around you willing to help, let them. If you don't have those people around you, well, I think that's a different blog post from a different person.
Onward and Upward
Navigating this particular injury, the outlook for a complete recovery is notably optimistic. I conscientiously follow my vet's advice, meticulously aligning each step with the optimal healing process. As the head practitioner of an equine bodywork business in Ocala, Florida, my role goes beyond standard practice. Leveraging my extensive experience in equine rehabilitation and performance, I specialize in equine bodywork services, offering PEMF therapy and equine sports massage, among other equine wellness services. Located in Ocala, Florida, I actively contribute to Scotty's healing and introduce a valuable dimension to his overall recovery.
If you find yourself on a similar journey, my advice is to lean on your community. Together, we can navigate challenges, find strength, and create a positive impact on our horses' lives, drawing from the collective wisdom gained through various rehab cases. Even when circumstances don't unfold as planned, our shared experiences contribute to a resilient and supportive equine community. In closing, I want to express my sincere gratitude for being a part of our equine community. Your experiences and insights contribute to the richness of our shared journey. If you ever need support, have questions, or want to share your own stories, I'm here for you. Whether you're in Ocala, Florida, or beyond, my equine bodywork services are ready to assist your horse on the path to recovery.
You can contact Rachel at 954-821-8966 or check out our Instagram and Facebook pages for the most up-to-date information. Your feedback and engagement matter, creating a space for valuable discussions within our community. Let's continue supporting each other and making a positive impact on our horses' lives. Thank you for being a valued member of this equine community, and I look forward to connecting with you and your horse in the future.