It felt great to sit on my horse again after so much time off! The vet declared Shorty ready for light riding, which is good enough for me. We started very slowly, due in part by Shorty's stifle arthritis. Today, I hopped on with my trusty bareback pad and hackamore and we walked in big circles in the arena.
Normally, a horse that had five weeks off, particularly an OTTB, would be breathing fire. But truly, Shorty didn't have his time completely off. We did lots of ground work, got out of the stall often, and even had the opportunity to put him back on turnout with SMBs, provided he was cold hosed/iced before and after his romp outside. Certainly, he did not spend five weeks couped up in his stall, but instead got out just as much as he would if he were completely sound.
However, his activities were monitored closely, and the swelling, heat, and tenderness is completely gone.
Last week triggered a chain of events that led me to think about a new way to help Shorty. Bear with me: on Thursday, I broke my glasses. They're flexon, apparently indestructable, but I've broken five pairs of them in twelve years. All weekend, I had duct tape, and later plumber's putty, holding the fragile frame together. On Tuesday, my eyes were checked, I picked out a new frame (since I break flexon no matter what, I opted for cheap plastic frames this time), and they told me to come back in a few hours to pick up my newly-made glasses.
Normally, I would have gone home and come back, but the starter on my car is shot. I try not to start the old girl more than is absolutely necessary. I hold my breath when I start my car if I'm running errands or filling up on gas, because I never know when it will refuse to start.
Anyways, I decided to walk around downtown. I walked over to Borders. After browsing through the literature and historical non fiction sections, I headed over to the horse section. There, amid titles of "My First Pony Book" and "Horsekeeping for Dummies" was a spiral bound manual on equine massage. Massage you say? Intrigued, although slighly put off by the steep $30 price, I ended up purchasing the book and a few others, including "Centered Riding 2." Heck, my Managerial Economics book was $230.
I realize that one book will not give me the tools to practice on other horses, but I am comfortable with doing some of the lighter stuff with Shorty. Effleurage, or gentle, downward strokes, is meant to warm up muscles and encourage proper drainage. The idea is, the light touches slowly increase circulation before and after exercise. So, before hopping on today, I spent about fifteen minutes switching between superficial and deep effeurage. I didn't feel any knots or hot spots, but found a few sensitive spots (or rather, re-discovered them because I've found them while grooming many times). As I did this, Shorty looked worried that I would try to pull his mane (I don't anymore because he knocks me off the chair gladiator-style and gets very aggitated), but eventually he started to fall asleep in the aisle. I also did some stretches. Shorty loves carrot stretches from side to side, and I gently shook hands with him and stretched out his hind legs as well.
I rode around at a walk for twenty minutes. He seemed very stiff to the right, but moved nicely off my leg. Many joked that Shorty would be a ball of nervous energy after so much time off, but he was completely quiet and, actually, somewhat bored with the whole thing.
After our ride, I groomed Shorty very well, did more stretches and another fifteen minutes of effleurage. As I get a further in the book, I may try some of the other princples as well. Again, I would never administer massages to other horses without a lisence, but I feel comfortable giving Shorty's muscles some attention before and after rides to increase his comfort.
We will probably work at the walk for the remainder of the working week and hopefully start trotting again by the weekend, maybe as early as Friday. We'll see how Shorty feels.