Rehabbing horses is a process much like the one described in the story, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”. Whether your horse is recovering from an injury, or they’re recovering from an illness. Whether you’re recovering and bringing yourself back to prime condition, it doesn’t matter. The feelings are the same: you want so badly to be where you were, once upon a time.
The cross rails you’re doing now don’t compare to the way your stomach flips approaching 4′ fences. The slow, steady pace you’re trotting along at right now isn’t anything like the heart-palpitation-inducing gallop you’re used to as you speed through a cross country course. It can’t compare, and it surely doesn’t.
When you start the rehab process, at first all of it feels amazing. You got on your horse today! You walked on your horse today! And wow, you finally were able to trot. Every inch you move forward feels tremendous, but somewhere along the line you’ll feel your thirst for more start. Know this: it’s important to go slow.
If you have a lame horse and you can finally hand walk them you’ll start day dreaming about what riding will be like. If you have a sick horse who’s ready to return to regular life, you’ll find yourself daydreaming about what’s next. Once you finally get on, you’ll feel your heart soar because you know what’s coming next. Oh, how amazing the next step will feel. It’s incredibly hard to take a step back, and realize the process behind rehabilitation works better when moved through slowly and deliberately.
Never before have I trusted a process the way I trust this one. When you move through the phases of rehab slowly, you provide yourself and your horse with ample building blocks to create a solid foundation. On that foundation you grow, and you give yourself so many more opportunities to know your horse better.
Sam spent some time lounging in his field, thriving on the lavish life of green grass, human love, and spa sessions. He is loaded (up to the very brim) with personality, and he warms your heart with his silly expressions, willingness to work, and aptitude for communicating his wants and needs during a ride. Can you imagine how hard it is to take it slowly with him, when he is willing to work, excited about new schooling figures or cues, and he constantly wants to please?
I find myself longing for the moment when I can count down 3-2-1 and suddenly, I’ll be in the air over a 3′ fence. At first, I wanted it so badly. I’m not entirely sure I could put it into words. The way someone loves jumping is, in part, the same way the mouse loves a cookie. And we always want more. However, as we’ve moved through the rehab process, I’ve begun to see why it’s so important to take it slowly.
My favorite Swedish Warmblood Thoroughbred cross has filled out over the last few months. His dapples are coming in, and he looks healthy and happy. He’s come from rejecting contact to reaching for the bit, stretching down and he even opens his gaits up so his back swings. How lovely is that? His top-line is full, his strides are incredible, and his transitions are about as smooth as the motion on a rocking horse. None of these attributes would be in the same sentence though, had we not taken it slow.
Though I am not normally very patient, I’ve trusted this process. The way it has built a very solid, consistent, and willing horse is undeniable. I’m just lucky enough to see the benefits moving slowly, deliberately, and carefully yield with Sam.
Next up? We’ve officially cantered a pole while moving straight. And if you canter a pole, you’ll want to canter a jump. And if you canter a jump… well, I’m sure you can fill in the rest.