Oh no! My horse is lame!
We have all been there! And it is not fun, most definitely not when you have a show coming up or a lot of work to get done.
But, don't get discouraged so fast! There are plenty of things to do with your horses even when their lame. Of course I do not recommend doing anything without/ or against vet advice. But ask them! Don't shy out- stall rest can be combined with walk, and some injuries do require movement. A lot of times we take what our vet says for granted and don't even bother asking 'why?' and 'what can I do?'
Well, I might be annoying in some people's eyes, especially vets- but I found out that asking my vet all sorts of questions helped me prevent and manage problems in the future, and I am lucky to have a vet that is a really good teacher and love explaining things.
What I'm saying is- don't prevent yourself from learning, and if your vet likes to explain and talks you through their train of thought- that is a win- win situation!
So, stall rest? Walking allowed? Yay us!
Horses, are not the biggest fans of standing in a stall all day, some won't get as cranky as others, but let's face it, would you like being in a box all day? I know I wouldn't.
So here are some ideas as for what to do with lame horses (like said- when walking is allowed!):
A) Go for a walk! Nope, not at all a joke. I find that taking my horse for a walk outside is highly beneficial; First of all, horses that are easily spooked (like Cisco) will benefit from any exposure.
Secondly, that is a great way to work on your leading- there's a certain point many people are 'done' with basic ground work; meaning they don't feel the need to work on it anymore, and as a result they lose awareness of their own body language, and even the best arena horse becomes a push & pull horse to lead, maybe even uneased while saddling/ cranky when tied up etc.
How to do it?
First of all, I love using rope halters with a long lead rope that way I can work on many things.
Make sure you are not dragging your horse behind you, and on the other hand, check that you are not too close and basically hanging on the lead rope like your life depends on it! Find a nice spot in the middle. I like standing with my shoulder parallel to the horse's eye and half an arm distance away.
Continue by trying to speed up your walk or slow down and see how your horse reacts to those transitions- we want to sync our feet and the horse's feet. If you don't feel a change and end up dragging your horse behind or having your horse dragging you, try these two tips:
Speed up; if my horse is not reacting to my feet I will use a whole body language- lean forward a bit like you're about to run. Still, nothing? Now is the time to use the lead rope, apply a little bit of pressure by stretching your hand forward while speeding up- release at the slightest try, you will feel the less tension in the rope- do not slow down your walk. And never look back! We all do it at the beginning, checking to see if our horse is still there, but have enough faith in yourself that if you lose grip of a 600 kg animal- you will feel it!
Slow- down; adjust your walk speed- gradually slowing down, if you horse is not reacting at all, try to stop- no pressure on the lead rope yet, and not turning around facing the horse- just standing. Why? Good question. Because we want to see if our horse is aware to our body, after that go back to walking normally, and again- slow down, nothing yet? OK, now we are going to apply short and very light pressure- shaking our lead rope backward and down asking our horse to maintain focus and keep in the position we started in. If that doesn't work, try to increase pressure- though I would recommend trying it for many time combining stopping and standing.
After that try to stop and ask your horse to back up a few steps. Like said, try to it with no pressure, stop, turn and no, you can face your horse and ask for backing up. Use the lead rope very lightly to and shake it a bit to create pressure, with very "sticky" horse (the kind that locks down all 4 and won't move) I will use a flag and tap them a bit.
Just a little advice; always treat your horse like they know it, starting with no/ small amount of pressure and increasing it as you go- if you have to. Many times we do not try enough times and don't release at the right moment.
Like the great Ray Hunt said- "notice the smallest change and reward the slightest try".
It seems like very little but easily takes 30 minutes and will get your horse to think and be less bored!
Will also help you realize how aware are you for your body language from the ground- remember, horsemanship is not only when you enter the arena/ roundpen- horsemanship is everything you do, it is a state of mind! And we only enhance that when we walk into a barn.
B) Flexing- great! Now that we have a horse that can stand and we refreshed our ground work, lets flex!
Flex the horse's head to both sides while keeping in mind we want our hands to work at similar position/ pressure points to the hand position while riding.
If you have a draft horse than I'm not expecting you to climb up on a ladder, no worries- but if you do send me a pic I'd love to see that!
C) The last one for today- Obstacles!
This is not for every lame horse, and if it is your first I do not recommend that- horses might spook and hurt themselves even more.
But, if your horse is ok with it, or you feel comfortable enough trying- than go ahead!
Here are some obstacles you can easily DIY:
Tarp pass- put a tarp on the floor and try to walk on top of it with your horse.
Tarp blanket- you can guess where I'm headed with that…
Roping- there is a whole post on ground work roping- click here to check it out!
Stage or swing- walking up and down easily. (requires pre building)
Ground tie- maybe not so much an obstacle but will also be a great mind game with your horse.
I think we have covered enough ground for one post!
By the way- not only for lame horses! I do it with every horse every time- like said, horsemanship is not only when you feel like it, it is lifestyle, a state of mind and even when you think you're not doing anything- your horse learns something.
Be a horse- always learn.
Need more ideas? Have a question? want to share your 'lame-horse-routine'?
I am more than happy to hear from you!
Comment below, or contact me in any way you want!
Hopefully Cisco will be better soon!