One of my strongest convictions related to horses is that horses need jobs. A horse with a job is more likely to be fed and cared for. A horse with a job has opportunities to be good and be rewarded for it. A horse with a job gets mental exercise as well as physical. A horse with a job has the best chance at happiness, or at least healthiness, if you prefer to avoid anthropomorphism. The job can be anything; it doesn’t have to be super rigorous or difficult.
(Incidentally, my thoughts are ever-evolving on the “dangers” or folly of anthropomorphism, largely because in domestic mammals and birds especially, emotions are observable and often apparent. On parallel and interconnected tracks, animals and humans are continually evolving to work and live together (and have for centuries, if not millennia) and the more I read on it, the more it seems likely that emotions of animals and humans have more in common than not. Which to me means every moment we are with an animal, we are communicating with it. What the animal thinks of us when we are not with it, who can say? But yes, horses need jobs like people need jobs.)
Right now, Eli is facing unemployment. Alternately, he is about to be claiming workers’ comp … although I am not sure he was injured on the job? Maybe?
But hold up. While it’s true that Eli cannot perform at the job he usually does, he is not without employment opportunities.
Right now, the sole opportunity is hand walking. We are in that cooling-the-inflammation phase of his recovery. So he is going to be the best at hand walking that he can be. I am sticking with walking in the barn because it is a hard surface, and it’s just for a few minutes a day right now.
This isn’t much work for Eli. My main concern is his mental state. He is going to get very bored very quickly, which is why I am trying to think of things he can do day to day as he gets cleared for additional activities, if he gets cleared. I also worry about his physical condition — he will lose some fitness, of course. But I want to give him enough opportunities to move around so that we don’t end up with that muscle soreness in his lumbar area. It may not be avoidable, but maybe I can mitigate it a bit.
I see this as an opportunity to improve our ground work — it’s a different job for Eli, but it is a job! To this aim, I plan to order the Cherry Hill 101 Ground Training Exercises. I have the Linda Allen 101 Jumping Exercises and I love it. It’s arranged the way I like to use instructional literature — steps, diagrams, adjustments; and the spiral binding is awesome because the book can lay flat and not flip closed on itself.
Eli seems truly disappointed to return to his stall right now. I am hoping to change that, even if his new job involves a lot of walking and nothing else. I want him to feel like he has a purpose, and that it’s a purpose at which he can succeed. Sport breeds like thoroughbreds need both physical and mental challenges.
I thought I would be bored and antsy about Eli being off, but then I turned it around in my head. I don’t need to worry about me. I need to worry about Eli. Duh. This opened up a valve of streaming ideas in my brain and I hope we can do a lot of things at the walk over the course of Eli’s recovery. I may be getting ahead of myself here, because we are still in the icing phase. But I know Eli will be happier with stuff to do, so I am crafting a plan for that hope of mine. What we are trying to avoid is existential doom and I think we can. (Yes, I actually just wrote something that makes it seem like I think that horses experience existential doom.)