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As we round out week 2 of Elf’s stall rest, I’ve found a vaguely unsatisfying but effective rhythm. More than anything, it is making the impact of saddle time on my mental state perfectly clear.
The plan for this phase of Elf’s rehab is simple. Stall rest, 15 minutes of hand walking/grazing, 20 minutes in the ice boot and a re-wrap are a daily occurrence.
Splint Rehab Routine
I’ve been visiting Elf in the evenings, around 7:30. My son is already out of school for the summer and while he’s up for visiting the barn periodically, he’s a seven-year-old. It’s easier, quicker and less stressful if I go by myself after my husband gets home from work.
Typically, I arrive when Elf is 3/4s done with his dinner hay. Stall rest isn’t terribly exciting so he’s pretty excited to see me. He knows that this is when he gets to walk around. Fortunately, Elf handles stall rest well. He enjoys being inside and doesn’t need a ton of turnout to be happy. He has started to get a little restless, but SmartR&R® Pellets take the edge off. I’m generally skeptical of feeding “quieting” type supplements other for a magnesium deficient horse. But more than 3 weeks into stall rest (he’d been mostly inside for a week before his splint because of his nose bleed), Elf handwalks without a chain and is happily quiet in his stall. I wasn’t sure it was the supplement until my barn manager stopped me last week to sing it’s praises. We’ve had a couple horses on stall rest for one reason or another in the last few months and she’s been blown away by how much more settled Elf is in comparison. Feeding, turning horses in or out, moving him to clean stalls – he stays cool as a cucumber.
But first, ICE
After grabbing the things I need from my locker, I take the wrap off his injured leg and put on his ice boot. I use Tough1s because they are easy to use, conform well to the lower leg and a horse can walk around in them easier. After taking his other wrap off, we set out on his walk. Dr. Robertson, our vet, suggested that his walking should be kept very low impact – more of a hand graze with some movement than a proper walk. Splints are exacerbated by hard ground, so we meander down the grassy sides of the driveway or along the back of our indoor arena which tends to stay a little wet.
In the last few days, Elf started to pull a little on his walks. No chain has been necessary and I’m hoping to keep that way. Fortunately, his desire for fresh grass is stronger than the need to jump around.
Next, it’s time for a good groom & a check over. Every few days, he gets hosed off just because. This is the only part he’s gotten really fussy about. While Elf appreciates a good grooming as much as the next horse, he’s never loved being curried or anything else particularly pokey. He’s a typical thin-skinned red head in that regard. However, he loves these grooming gloves so I’ll often stick to just that and a soft brush.
Next, he gets his face washed with baby shampoo because of his allergies. Then, it’s time for meds & wraps.
All the laundry
One of the things I didn’t expect? The significant increase in the amount of horse related laundry that happens when your horse lives in standing wraps. Over the years, I’ve read that the need to wrap both legs is a myth, but it’s how I was taught. I already had several sets of no bows (isn’t it amazing the things you accumulate over the years?). However, I somehow lost all but 6 of my standing wraps. I realize that I don’t have to wash them every single day, but I do like to rotate them frequently enough that they are washed about once a week.
In the process, you develop clear favorites. The Lettia CoolMax® No Bow Wraps are the best. Seriously. Elf’s leg stays noticeably cooler (which is appreciated since I’m out there icing said leg in 90+ degree, super humid summer evenings). They also stay put better than the older no bow wraps that live in the bottom of my tack trunk. I’m planning to slowly restock until 4 pair of these, which would have felt like overkill until I was washing leg wraps every four or five days.
A Patient Horse Husband
My husband has always been understanding and supportive of my riding – it’s been extra appreciated. Between the allergies, the splint, daily wrap changes and hand walking – this has been a lot of time and a solid jump from normal spring vet bills. Along the way, he’s simply encouraged me to do what it takes to protect Elf’s long term soundness. Now, when the UPS truck drops off another package from Smartpak, he tells me that Elf’s mail has arrived.
He isn’t always the most helpful when I’m trying to clean or balance our calendars – but when push comes to shove, he’s there when it matters
This week we will treat with Shockwave and adjust our plan from there. Tentatively, the plan is three more weeks of stall rest and then easing back into work. As much as part of me hates missing a summer of riding, the reality is that I wouldn’t be getting much in right now anyway. The weather is hot and humid. My primary free time happens in the evening after dinner – not when I’m inclined to be super active.
Elf comes off stall rest on July 10th – at which point I’ll only have 3 weeks before my son goes back to school and I have a little more time to get out to the barn. So, it works out.
Which part of rehabbing an injury do you find the hardest – the initial, acute stage or grinding through rehab/recovery?