While Eli is still okay’ed to walk under saddle and have limited turnout, all last week I only hand-walked him. His shoes are definitely a bit loose, and if I can avoid the setback of him stepping right out of a shoe, I will. The farrier should be out this week.
So of course all Eli has done is walk. I have been fortunate enough to catch a ride on my trainer’s mare every so often, so I have had a little trotting and cantering, too. But I haven’t pointed a horse at a jump since April.
I am not sure how much apprehension I truly have about this. Superficially, I have none. What is there to worry about? Presumably, Eli also has zero apprehension right now about jumping. If he has apprehension, I think it’s along the lines of “will I ever be turned out again” (poor guy).
But how deeply ingrained is my muscle memory? Riding the classy little mare on Sunday morning, it felt functional enough. I haven’t forgotten how to post; I can still hold a two-point the entire time I’m cantering. I can still use my seat and core for adjusting speed. Nothing feels off. Nothing would stop me from pointing a horse at a fence.
My fitness, however, is another matter. As is Eli’s. He’s getting chunky, and I definitely could stand to tone up a bit more. We are going to need every minute of the gradual upping of our workload to get back in shape. And then of course I realized those programs for rehabbing injuries are just as much for reintroducing the exercise itself, as for the healing of the injury successfully.
As I think about this, I know I am just not that hard of a worker. When I ride Eli regularly, most times it’s just for about 20-25 minutes. Having some previous experience with rehabbing a soft tissue injury, I am prepared for the vet at some point to say, horse is okay to trot 5 minutes each way. Just as we started at 15 minutes of walking and added 5 minutes a week, I also hit a limit. Could we walk up to 30 minutes at a time? Yes. But did we? I’ll be honest, after about 25 minutes of walking in the heat, I say enough. And I’m thinking, 10 minutes of trot is about what we might normally do anyway; what could I add to that?
I am rethinking our fitness. Does every ride need to be 45 minutes instead of 25? Probably not. But it could be if we warmed up at the walk for longer. So maybe I do need to suck it up and walk for 30 minutes for now, until we can add more gaits. I can’t say I think we need much more trot at 10 to 15 minutes, but we could spend more time cantering. And work more on transitions.
These things are still a bit far off, and there is no guarantee any soft tissue injury will heal well enough for a return to full work. But I can at least think about it in advance. Eli obviously doesn’t, so it’s up to me to make sure our fitness gets built back up just as much as Eli’s injury heals with healthy tissue. Something tells me the thoroughbred very much has the advantage over the human in this endeavor.