Horse Rehab

Last month, I was sick for a few days. Nothing special, a local bug. However, it took me upwards of a week to shake off the effects. I wasn’t sick, just a little tired, a little off my game. Which made me wonder about our horses. Do we give them enough time to recover?

Let’s say a horse has a mild bout of colic, as Rodney did [Story]. If I had been riding, he would have had a day or so off and then gradually ramped up back to work depending on his mood. The next time I rode, I would have been cognizant of his recent illness. Would I have remember the following week? Would I have taken poor performance as resistance and insisted he do his work?

When I’m feeling mildly punk, I have trouble telling if I’m sick or slothful. What I WANT to do it sit on my butt and watch reruns. However, I know that if I HAD to, I could get moving. If I can’t tell within my own body, how can I tell what is motivating a horse?

Or is it a non-question? Do horses lack the mind/body split that humans insist on? With Previous Horse I could tell the difference between a cranky mind in a healthy body or willing horse with muscle stiffness. OTOH, Mathilda has no division between mind & body. When she is nervous or hurting, her body is stiff. Back when I was riding her, she would be spooky after a hard lesson. I imagined her reasoning went Oh I am stiff, therefore I must be nervous. Or perhaps she is simply a more unified being than I am.

“(My neck is) a little stiff. What a remarkably fragile structure to support such a valuable payload. Not unlike balancing a Faberge egg on a Pixie Stick.” Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory. [Transcript]

I believe that the mind/body connection is the next big medical paradigm shift. (You read it here first.) However, I am enough of a product of the West that I admit to acting as if my body were a transport system for the brain.

I appear to have wandered. Under the weather or resistance. How can we tell?
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Gratuitous Kitten Pic
Waiting in the hall. Not quite brave enough to play with the kittens who are in my office with me.

Categories: Horse Behavior, Horse Care, Horses

2 replies »

  1. As a newly minted runner, my greatest epiphany has been about recovery time. After my first half-marathon – for which I had followed a proper training plan to the letter and was as ready as a new runner can be – I had three serious blisters (one of which resulted in the loss of a toe nail) and was stiff as all get out for two or three days). I was struck during this how incredibly hard stadium must be for the *** or **** horse. No matter how hard you train, when you exert that kind of effort, you are going to be sore the next day. But those horses don’t get to have a rest day or two to recover. They get iced and massaged and micro managed, but they don’t get time for their muscle to really recover.

    Also, as a runner, I have discovered that there are times when no matter how much I *should* run, I really can’t muster the mental or physical energy to do it. That generally means i need a week off, and suddenly, it’s all there again and I can pick it up where I left off. How exactly do our horses tell us if they are in need of a break (and, yes, I believe that they can have mentally off days as much as I can – maybe not for the same reasons, but I am sure there are some days they are sharp and on the ball and others when they really need a snooze in the grass more than another 20 meter circle).

  2. in many cultures, in many countries, there has never been the mind/body disconnect there is is the west. it”s something that need more study.
    but you have to know your horse. if she limps around acting pathetic when she sees the dressage instructor, but happily jumps a four foot jump – not bad for a teenage 13 hand pony, well, you’ve got to know your horse. sometimes some naptime in the spring sunshine is all any of us need.

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