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What to Do When The Human Goes on Stall Rest

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All riders understand the pain and frustration of having to put their horses on stall rest. There’s nothing we hate more than seeing our best friends stuck in their stall recovering instead of having fun in turnout and in the ring. What we sometimes forget is the pain and frustration of having to go on “stall rest” ourselves. There really is nothing worse than having a happy, healthy horse that you’re not allowed to ride!

Up until this past winter, I had gone almost ten years without having to take an extended stall rest of my own. Unfortunately, that ten-year record ended when I took a fall after jumping a jump and sprained my knee. You probably think I injured myself falling off my horse after jumping a jump. Embarrassingly enough, I injured myself when I fell after jumping a jump on foot while my horse watched from the middle of the ring. In the words of the doctor I saw the next day, I hurt myself “showing a horse how to jump.” Or rather, “showing a horse how not to jump.”

While my knee was fully functional immediately after the fall, it quickly spiraled downward later that afternoon until I was limping and couldn’t bend my knee past a 45 degree angle. When it didn’t get better overnight, a trip to the doctor resulted in orders to wait and see if it got better after 10 days of resting, icing, and wearing a brace. When it didn’t get better, 10 days of resting and not riding turned into 4 weeks of not riding.

Like any horse owner, my biggest concern was what my horse was going to do while I couldn’t ride. My horse Sasha is still a little green, and her good behavior quickly goes off the rails when her work schedule gets off track. With the beginning of show season looming, the last thing I wanted was for her to spend weeks out of work. Fortunately (with a little help from my friends), Sasha was going just as well as she was before I got hurt when I got back in the saddle. Here are my top five tips for what to do the human is the one on stall rest:

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1. Do as much as you can (even it’s just patting your horse’s nose!)
There’s nothing that bums me out more than too much time spent away from the barn! Even though I couldn’t ride, I tried to get out to the barn as much as I could to give Sasha pats, feed her cookies, watch her get ridden, and even lunge her (until my doctor put an end to that activity).

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2. Recruit your barn friends
Though I could schedule Sasha for training rides twice a week, she still needed a rider for the rest of the week. When her main back-up rider joined me on stall rest (though she at least hurt herself falling off her horse, which garnered more sympathy than laughs from our coworkers), I set to work recruiting some of my other barn friends to fill in the gaps. I was lucky enough to have two awesome barn friends agree to ride her for me, one during the week and one of the weekend.

Sasha’s my baby and in the two and a half years that I’ve had her, she’s only had a few riders. Because of that, I was really nervous about having other people ride her. To help soothe my worries, I made sure to be at the barn to watch the first time someone new rode her. I was also lucky in that my barn friends were very communicative about how Sasha was – I loved getting updates and pictures from my friends, and even got a text from Sasha about her day was going one day. When you’re recruiting your friends to ride your horse for you, make sure it’s someone you trust, and be sure to let them know if you want updates on how their rides are going.

3. Keep a schedule
If you have multiple people exercising your horse, be sure to make a schedule so that everyone’s on the same page about who’s riding your horse when and what days your horse isn’t getting ridden. With Sasha, it’s always good to know if she’s been ridden every day for a week or if you’re the first one on her after she’s had three days off. It might help them determine whether to brave the great outdoors for the first time all spring or stick to the indoor where there’s less distractions.

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4. When you get back in the saddle, take it slow
I started riding again after about four weeks, and I was out of shape! To make sure that everything went as smoothly as possible, I did my best not to do too much, too soon. The first week that I rode again, I had my barn friends work her during the day and then I took her for a light hack in the evening after work. That way I didn’t have to be worried about her being too fresh when I wasn’t at 100% quite yet. I slowly worked up to riding her for longer and doing more in my lessons until we were back to where we were before I hurt myself again.

5. Unless you’re a nimble kid, just say no to horseless horse shows
Or at least refrain from trying to take a long spot and do a lead change over the jump at the same time. If you’re as clumsy as I am, it probably won’t end well. This moment sure didn’t!
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6 comments on “What to Do When The Human Goes on Stall Rest
  1. LindaH says:

    This came at a perfect time. I tore my meniscus walking the dog (ok she gave me a flying lesson) and I’ve been putting off surgery because I think omg what will my horse do while I’m on stall rest. I ride when I can and use my horse’s big neck to dismount (patient soul that he is). Of course he’ll be fine. He was on stall for 2 weeks and I didn’t even have to lunge him when I started back riding. But it’s reassuring seeing it from somebody else’s perspective. And I’d probably never try to jump – I can trip over a horse muffin and injure myself 🙂 Apparently even dog walking has its dangers!

  2. Judy says:

    Several Years ago I broke myself falling off a horse. I had about 8 months of not being able to ride. I spent time working with both my horses on the ground. I did a great deal of Parelli Natural Horsemanship. It helped keep my horses in shape and kept me from going crazy. When I was able to ride again I had two very well behaved horses as a result of my stall rest! I still get compliments about how well behaved my horses are. They are the horses that are used for the new workers at the barn.

  3. Tacocataplexy says:

    A version of this for permanently/progressively losing most of your mobility would be wonderful.

    • RoanRooster says:

      yes, please. I was seriously injured (in a non horse related accident) a few years ago and have been working with my mustang on the ground since. I want to ride him again but hearing of other activities and ways other riders deal with issues like this is always encouraging while we work towards that.

  4. Canille says:

    I broke my wrist falling off a trail horse ( he saw a squirrel lol ) so I was out of the saddle for 12 weeks. I actually just worked with my horse on free lunging. He still worked out and he learned a new trick.

  5. Felice Young says:

    I broke my wrist in January in a mounting mishap. Three surgeries , a skin graft and a bone graft and it is still not healed. My big problem is that I am not allowed near my horses, no going where manure and hay can be flying around. Which means practically anywhere outside my front door!
    I am hoping to be cleared for horse touching next week but how do you explain to your horses who where used to interaction several times a day why I want come out and play?

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