From box rest hell to rehab hell.....

Mary Poppins

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#1
Just when you think that things can't get any worse, things happen to show you that they can.

Ben has now been on box rest for well over 5 months. I have actually lost count. He has been allowed 'controlled' exercise for the last 4 weeks, starting with 10 minutes in-hand walking per day, gradually increasing up to 30 minutes per day. This week he was allowed a rider.

I have completely lost my nerve handling him. Even on sedalin he is unpredictable. Most of the time he is donkey and then he will explode and then go back to being a donkey. Not many people had seen his explosions and I am sure they all thought I was exaggerating.

I couldn't bring myself to ride him, so asked one of the yard staff to help me. The girl I asked is a lovely rider. Really quiet and gentle, but has a good seat and a confident attitude. Yesterday she got on him and he was fine. They just walked round the edge of the school for 20 minutes. Today we decided to walk in one of the 'safe' fields I often ride in. Ben has walked round this field at least 3 times per week for the last 7 years. He knows it well. Today, he showed off his acrobatics and completely exploded with his rider. There is no way that a professional rodeo rider could sit through what he did. She went flying and Ben proceeded to gallop off round the concrete yard, bucking and farting as he went. Luckily he was fairly easily caught when he ran out of steam. It was the most horrible experience.

The physio was due out at lunchtime anyway, and she said that he doesn't seem to have done himself any harm. She said that his back is the softest it has ever been and he is doing well. She looked at the videos I had taken (as there was no way I was going to take him out of his stable) and said that he is moving well.

So just as I get a glimmer of hope that he may be recovering, I am feeling that my confidence has been completely and utterly shattered and I am worried I won't ever want to ride him again. I do understand that he is on box rest and going out of his mind, but today he looked like a demon horse who was possessed. I never in a million years thought that he had it in him to go that crazy. I feel responsible for his rider, and while I know that it is her job and she chooses to do it, what if she gets hurt? It doesn't seem right asking someone else to risk their limbs because I don't want to.

I am just at my wits end completely. And then to top it off I got my vets bill. Did you know 3 tubes of sedalin cost me over £100!!!
 

Trewsers

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#2
Oh MP:(:(
I so can relate to this:(
There are not really any words of wisdom to make you feel better or offer up suggestions because I know that after all those years together you and Ben pretty much have each other pegged. So not like it's a case of try this and that etc etc. And I also know that even after five months they can surprise us. As you say, just when things are going well. My only thought is that they are horses and only have their own methods to communicate. I was going to post a bit about Storm, and the things I have learnt. She has been on box rest since the last day of August with gradual increments in freedom and in hand exercise. I won't thread hi jack but today I learnt something new again:oops:
Sorry, this has turned waffly. Loads of support vibes coming - and I can only hope that things improve. I sympathise with the sedalin bill too!!!! Oh, and yes, confidence vibes coming over too.
 

Kite_Rider

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I don't really know what to say to you MP, so am just sending you lots of hugs and sympathy. Be kind to yourself and don't be too down on Ben, he is probably just going stir crazy, especially as he's starting to feel better and better, once he's back being turned out I expect you'll see a change in him, back to how he's always been.
 

carthorse

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#4
And breathe. Sometimes this happens with long periods of box rest (I know, more than once I've had horses on longer periods than that) & you do get your normal horse back in the end. This is just a phase.

If this rider is prepared to ride him again then stick to the school. Yes it's boring and maybe not ideal if you should be doing straight lines, but sometimes open space sets off the reaction you've seen, it's as if they just can't handle it at this point. A school is a confined area so less likely to create an explosion and if there is one at least he's contained in an area where he isn't a danger to anyone else. Don't share the school, you really don't want another horse in there.

Speak to your vet again and explain the situation, it's not ideal but it might be that turnout in a small area while sedated would be safer than what he does if he gets loose & realistically would he have done any more than he did out in the field? I've been there & the vet & I decided that it was the lesser risk under the circumstances - sometimes you just have to bite the bullet & accept that things can't always be done perfectly. The trick was to turn out while the sedation was at full effect then let them come out of it quietly in the small paddock where there would ideally be some grass to keep them occupied, then do the same for a couple more days. Done that way there's usually fewer sillies & they get into the routine quickly.

I know you aren't keen but I'd be using ProKalm, if needs be topped up with a small amount of Sedalin for riding. I had one that was lethal to ride on Sedalin (in fairness many people would have questioned his safety in normal circumstances!) because it took away the tiny warnings he did give & also what little self-preservation instinct he had. I didn't have ProKalm then, but having used it since it will always be my go to for this sort of thing because it calms without dulling or changing the horse I know.

I don't know your circumstances or what's available locally but have you considered putting him on specialist rehab livery to get this stage of his recovery out of the way?
 

Kite_Rider

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#5
Oh MP:(:(
I so can relate to this:(
There are not really any words of wisdom to make you feel better or offer up suggestions because I know that after all those years together you and Ben pretty much have each other pegged. So not like it's a case of try this and that etc etc. And I also know that even after five months they can surprise us. As you say, just when things are going well. My only thought is that they are horses and only have their own methods to communicate. I was going to post a bit about Storm, and the things I have learnt. She has been on box rest since the last day of August with gradual increments in freedom and in hand exercise. I won't thread hi jack but today I learnt something new again:oops:
Sorry, this has turned waffly. Loads of support vibes coming - and I can only hope that things improve. I sympathise with the sedalin bill too!!!! Oh, and yes, confidence vibes coming over too.
Hugs and sympathy to you too Trewsers x
 

Mary Poppins

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#6
Thanks for the nice posts. My vet is calling me back later to discuss it all.

If I had known in September that he would be facing 6 months plus of box rest, and that he would turn into a lunatic, I may well of thought of sending him to a rehab place. But he is normally so quiet and gentle. He is by far the safest and most sensible horse on the yard. No-one could have predicted that he would end up so stressed that he would act like this.

In his stable he is completely fine now. He kicks at feed time, but is completely relaxed in there now. What makes me really sad is that he ran straight to his friends, and they ran to him. And then I had to take him back to his stable. It broke my heart.
 

Skib

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#8
Mary P, I know I have said this to you before. I have over the years been to a lot of demos and watched trainers teach horses how to lead and comply, all in walk and on the ground. It isnt a magic wand. It is attitude and body language. And it isnt using pressure like the Dually - it is having the attention of the horse and knowing what to do if they rear or spin and how to let them go if necessary. You could watch Michael Peace on you tube or ask him for a consultation. If you felt inclined, I might share the cost with you if you let me come and watch.
In the mean time, my feeling for weeks has been that your walks with Ben should be regarded as work. By him and by you. Rashid's rule is that when a head collar is on the horse is working. That means no food or treats. Tho Peace does use treats.
What I mean by work is that the horse walks forward and stops and walks again as directed by you.
Trainers usually incorporate back up a pace or two to correct the horse if it oversteps the halt, and it isnt clear to me whether or not Ben is allowed to walk backwards a step or two but I thought about this a lot before Christmas and felt one could substitute turning away and repeating the approach and then didnt know if he was allowed to turn.
If the horse is allowed to turn one can use poles laid flat on the ground, walking round them (to avoid the horse having to step over them) . One practises leading through mazes. I learned on a yard where almost all the ridden training was done in walk and halt. And it isnt hard to transfer that to ground work.
it isnt at all a good situation where you are afraid of Ben - and the best way to rebuild your confidence and establish boundaries with him is to work from the ground and in walk. Using a long lead rope.
Always remember that you (brilliant ;lady) are the superior to your horse. So much of a horse's brain is occupied with moving four different legs. Humans are far cleverer and that is what you have to remind Ben of - You are clever and he is not. As you know I learned to ride in old age and my brain was the only advantage I had.
You know better than I do what Ben is allowed and not allowed to do when you lead him (I mean regarding turns, backing up and so on).
But I do suggest you borrow some videos on early ground work. Regardless of what school. And watch good trainers on You tube. I keep saying watch the trainers work because in my case, it turned out that I could physically imitate the trainers. And the horses didnt seem to know the difference between me and the men i was imitating. I told you they dont have much brain. Of course if a horse makes to run off, the rule is to let go and stay safe. But it is of paramount importance otherwise, never to let the horse get the better of you. However many times you need to do something, however long you need to wait or repeat. Even if it is a simple thing like lifting the foot to pick it out. Or walking forward on a loose lead rope for a specified number of steps.
In fact walking and stopping and walking again with Ben attentive and the rope loose should be your first goal.
And if you feel scared to start with Ben, please borrow a more tractable horse for ten minutes to try it out and convince yourself.
 
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carthorse

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#9
Skib I know you're trying to be helpful but your post makes me confident that you have no experience of dealing with a horse that has been on a lengthy period of box rest & is just starting to do controlled exercise. The exercises & work you describe are simply not possible, indeed to try would be putting Ben, Mary Poppins, and anyone in the area at risk. I'm not even going to ask Mary Poppins not to try this because I'm quite certain she isn't daft enough to! I'm sure you mean well but this advice is dangerous & I very much doubt the trainers you mention would take the action you advise in this situation, particularly when the exercise Ben can do is limited by the vet.
 

domane

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I'm so sorry this has happened, MP. I know all about losing confidence, so you have my sympathy. All I would suggest is maybe delaying anyone at all riding Ben until he is allowed to be turned out for a few hours each day and his brain unfrazzles.

Can you long line him instead of leading him when you walk him out? Just thinking two lines on his mouth might give you more control.... just a thought....
 
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Ale

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#11
I'm not at all suggesting this what you do with Ben but when Ale got to this really difficult stage where he was going to injure himself or others, I started allowing him turnout time in the school. It was a compromise that I came to with my vet and it helped a great deal. Not only with his attitude but with my mental well being too. Just seeing him out in the sunshine was a huge deal for me. I hope the vet can offer some further guidance. And just to say I really hope it gets a hell of alot better soon, I can only imagine how you feel.
 

Mary Poppins

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#12
Thank you all. I am lucky that he is kept on a professional livery yard with very experienced staff and instructors. They have rehabbed many horses and see his behaviour as normal. For the time being I have handed all his exercise over to them. Tomorrow (today) they will walk him out with a lunge line and then on Friday he will be ridden again under the guidance of an instructor. The rider who I have for him is a professional and works on the yard. They think he will calm down quite quickly and isn’t anywhere near as bad as some they have had. I am very grateful that they have taken him on. He needs to keep going with the ‘controlled’ exercise and I am happy for them to give him any drugs they want to help with this. I just have to admit that I can’t be a part of it. I don’t even want to take him out of his stable.

I am trying to keep it all in perspective but the image of him doing his rodeo display goes round my head in a loop. I am so pleased that I wasn’t on him, but that makes me feel awful that someone else was. It makes me think just how stressed and unhappy he must be to act this way. Did I do the wrong thing by having the surgery? Would it have been kinder to say goodbye i September? But then again, they told me 8 weeks max box rest, not the 22 odd weeks (I have lost count) that he has done. It is all so stressful.
 
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carthorse

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#13
Mary Poppins I'm glad you've come up with such a good solution.

I haven't time to reply much right now but re him being so stressed & unhappy - it isn't necessarily that. I knew one that went the other way, almost became agoraphobic & would panic if he left his stable & dash straight back to it. Box rest plays with their heads, but he WILL be ok xxx
 

Ale

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If you hadn't given him the chance, gone through with the surgery and this box rest would you of always wondered what if? Would you of beaten yourself up thinking you ended things too quickly? That's not to say that ending it at any point is wrong, that's the decision that any owner has to make and it's up to them and the vets involved, there should be no judgement really as there isn't really a correct answer in most situations. But I think your gut has always been to give him the best chance and go with your vets opinion and that's what you are doing. You said he's happy in his stable so I think for the majority of the time he's quite content now. All you can do is your best and that is what you are doing, please don't forget that.
 

Trewsers

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#15
I was telling Mr T about this and he's been following your progress as have I with interest. He said (as lots of others have) that it's a phase and a part of the rehab / box rest and that he WILL be okay in the end and he will be your Ben that you know and love eventually. He also said (bit like what @Ale says) you gave him the chance and would have wondered about the what if's etc had you not. You've come a LONG way together - this is a worrying / scary blip together but it does sound to me like you have the right people around you to help and you can work it through. Lots of encouraging vibes to both.x
 
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Huggy

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#16
I haven't had to deal with anything so difficult, so have no words of wisdom to impart, but I feel for you and am sure the two of you can get through this tough spell. Sending good vibes.
 
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Mary Poppins

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#17
Thank you all so much for your kind and encouraging words. They really do help, and they make me cry at the same time because I can feel how strong your support is and it’s pushing me on.

Today one of the staff took him for an in-hand hack but he was wearing full tack including his saddle. (I did have his saddle checked and adjusted before he started ridden work so I am confident that is not the reason he exploded). The handler had a lunge line in place of the reins. He was tense and really marching on to start with (which is unlike him), but then he finally relaxed and didn’t attempt to buck or spin. Tomorrow they will do the same route with the rider on board, but someone will be leading with a lunge line as well. That way if he rodeos, they shouldn’t lose him and hopefully the rider will stay on. I think the plan is to carry on like that until Monday, and if he behaves we can drop the lungeline and he can be ridden independently.

So onwards and upwards! He is in good hands, I have calmed down slightly (but only slightly!) and will take each day as it comes.

Thanks again for all the support.xx
 

diplomaticandtactful

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#18
I had to start working Fleur after she was yard rested for over 9 months and I remember what she was like at the terrible twos, spending more time on two legs than four. And it is about confidence. I learnt with my trainer how to get her attention, get her to listen, make her yield to me, and yes the first time I took her out to lunge her she was bucking and kicking and generally utterly nuts. but she did listen, and I did work with her in straight lines as it was safer to not have her in a circle as I was further away from flying feet. by the third time, she was walking like a donkey and just being sweet, as she remembered it all, and I didn't really have to ask her for manners. It's only natural for him to be explosive and wanting to go whee. I mean you might not want to sit on him, but other folks see him as just another twerp who is letting off steam. I used to be wary of Fleur but I'm not know as I have learnt how to handle her safely. And you'll get him back once he just gets over his total excitement at being free again.
 

Tir

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#19
I am glad today was a better day. I really feel for you, I have been where you are now and it was awful.

However, this is not in anyway meant to sound flippant, but forget how he is acting now. Its not his normal behaviour because he is not being kept like a 'normal' horse. There is not a reason in the world to think that when he goes back to turn out and a herd and mouching about being a horse that the lovely Ben you KNOW is not going to be back.

Short version of my story with Mr Dope on a Rope nornally.

Broken sesamoid, 60% chance of returning to any work. Surgery. Only box rest for 3 months...no walking, no exercise, nothing. Jumped out of stable once 3 weeks post surgery and galloped about for 45 mins, barged out of stable once 5 weeks post surgery, galloped about for at least half an hour.

No harm done (that was lucky) and so then the 'controllled exercise'. Was really looking forward to this, letting him hand graze, be outside, mooch about. What I had was a mental lunatic on the end of a rope (bridle and lunge line with me in hat/gloves/bp after the 1st day). Couldnt let his feet touch grass. Couldnt go in a straight line too far. The only thing that was slightly safer was walking laps of the barn and car park. I only ever managed 20 mins of inhand walking at a time as anymore and he was uncontrolable. The 'good' bits he would bounce around at least twice. This was on 20-30 acp tablets a day. We suffered 1.5 months of this and I was VERY seriously considering getting a pro to get on him when i had to start riding. I was dreading it.

Then the ground dried out and we were able to make a pen outside with grass so he could go out. Drugged him with injectable sedative to get him there. (the vet asked me to trot him up in the carpark before he could go out and he was...impressive. Think spanish riding school inhand airs above the ground so was more than happy to leave the drugs!). 2nd day half dose. Inside a week he was being led out by my neice who was 4 with no drugs at all.

We almost laugh about it now. The walking is often referred to as the horse sized kite we would take out flying! After 3 weeks of turn out I got on him and he was good as gold.

Ben is obviously feeling well in himself (plus point!), but mentally finding the change a bit much, but your yard now have an amended plan and he seems to still be keeping it mostly together and I sincerely hope you are happily hacking him about soon.
 

Jane&Ziggy

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#20
The thing I would hang on to is "He is not nearly as bad as some they have seen."

In other words, although this behaviour is unusual for Ben, it is absolutely usual for horses who have been on box rest for ages; and in fact Ben is behaving better than most, as you would expect from his sterling character.

I really feel that all will be well.