I was gone for five minutes. The last thought in my head, “I won’t be away long, what can honestly happen,” most likely sealed my fate.

When I left him, Copper was grazing peacefully in the yard tied to a fence post. He had sprained his suspensory a few days prior and I had left him to fill a bucket with warm water.

You see where this is going.

I returned to my off-track Thoroughbred with his front leg wrapped in the rope, suspended off the ground and his head stretched down from the tension. It looked as though he was bowing. His ears perked forward as I approached as if to say, “Hi! Don’t mind me.”

“What did you do?!” I asked, incredulous. “I was gone for five minutes.”

I spoke in low tones as I eased his pastern from the rope. Once free, I inspected him for cuts or scrapes. Squatting down at his hock, I looked up at him to commence a verbal vent session, when he opened his mouth and blood came pouring out. Never in my years of riding has a horse bled from the mouth. All manner of sirens, flags, and flying dollar bills flitted through my mind like startled birds.

I secured his head with my right hand and began searching his mouth. To my relief he had a small bite on his lower lip that had already ceased bleeding after the initial gush. I sighed at the thought of one crisis averted.

Looking over the rest of him, he was mostly intact – a small bite on his lip and a rope burn on his left pastern, which was the same leg he sprained.

“Well at least it’s still one leg to care for instead of two,” I mused, grasping for a silver lining. We hadn’t been training for a show, we weren’t in line for finals, so his injury wasn’t upsetting any plans. Just my pride.

Each night became the same pattern. Soak, clean, dry, medicate – soak, clean, dry, medicate.

And instead of Copper dreading the moment I’d come catch him, he became delighted to see me.

“Here’s my human!” His bright eyes and pricked ears seemed to exclaim. “She’s come to make me better!”

Days turned to weeks. His sprain healed and rope burn mended. He was sound to start walking with me on his back.

Prior to the injuries, all our rides had turned into wars. I was nervous about what I’d find when my boot hit the stirrup after weeks of recovery.

I brought Copper in, clicked the cross ties on and pulled the brushes out. He started his usual antics when I groom him – his neck stretched to full length when I curry his belly, a lip twitch when I brush his left side. This injury had brought us back to the basics: communication and care.

With this thought in mind, I decided to ride bareback. I pulled his bridle on and headed for the field.

He waited for me to hop on then marched out at a brisk walk, not looking for a fight, but an adventure with his human. His human who healed him.

Rehab restores more than tendons and tissue.

Got a horse on rehab? Bust the boredom with some thoughtful treats in a Giddy Up Goodies box!