Kasane’s slow rehabilitation from her suspensory ligament injury made last year feel longer than almost any other year. Doing the rehab itself wasn’t hard. It just took dedicated time every week. No excuses (well, except for weather — can’t do much walking or riding in the rain without a covered arena).
The hardest part was trying to remain positive when the odds were not in my favor. My vet had warned me that 60-65% of horses with Kasane’s injury do not return to the level of work they were at prior to the injury. I did everything I could to help her. We did shockwave treatments on the ligament, osphos injection to help bone regrowth, regular massages, and her regular rehab walks, and later rides.
But I was worried and trying not to worry. I tried so hard to remain positive that things would be okay. That I would be happy to have her in my life even if all we were able to do were periodic trail rides and not do any more dressage. She’s an amazing, fun mare and I am delighted to have time with her.
I just wanted her to be okay. She was so bored in her confined, small quarters. She eventually graduated from a stall to a narrow 20 foot run in one of the paddocks with a stall. She quickly figured out how to walk through the fence to get to the limited grass on the other side of the paddock. She rubbed off a foot long section of her lovely mane from putting her head through the fence to reach grass.
She was a trooper. She’s amazing and lovely and weathered all of this with so much more grace than I did.
I felt like I was letting her down because I couldn’t make it right for her. We had to have the perseverance to make it through a year or more of rehab. Nothing would come back fast, but with determination, we could see what we could do.
We were able to start riding again in May of last year. And that was wonderful. Just to be able to ride for 10-15 minutes at the walk. Eventually, that progressed to adding in some trot, and a few months later, a little canter. I was doing the rehab as required but it took the joy out of riding. I was riding because I had to in order to help her but that worry of would it be enough sucked the joy out of it.
Investing all of this time in Kasane has resulted in some positive changes. She carries herself on her haunches more, instead of pulling herself along on her front end. Her SI joint area no longer hurts so she can use herself.
Back in October, when my vet suggested adding in more canter work, I realized I had hit the end of what I knew how to do. Kasane and I started back into dressage lessons to have more of a focused plan on helping her with my riding. I’m a reasonable rider and I’ve dealt with rehab cases before (tendon sprains and laminitis), but nothing like this.
And those lessons brought everything together. Kasane had been swapping out behind at the canter, so we had homework to help her lateral movement by learning how to do leg yields as they are done in a First Level dressage test. Instead of just moving off of my leg, Kasane and I had to keep her straight or slightly bent while asking her to move over. That movement meant she would reach underneath herself with her legs when moving over.
When we were first working on leg yields, I carried a dressage whip to be able to tap her by my leg. She was indignant that I had the whip and became elevated in her movement. She rocked back and started using herself in a way I had never felt before. She felt up — but not like she was going to bolt. It’s like feeling coiled energy gathered and managed. My instructor said she had never seen Kasane move like that — and that she looked like a completely different species.
And then it hit me. We were working at a higher level in our lessons than we had been prior to the injury. All of this work meant that my little mare who used to move like a nice hunter was now moving like a dressage horse.
We had made it into the 30-35% from the rehab work. Instead of being just a trail horse, I now have a performance horse who feels better everywhere so she can use herself.
It’s taken me a while, but I’ve realized that there is so much joy in just having her with me. I’ve started laughing again when I ride instead of grimacing.
We’ve even been cleared to go back to showing, with an understanding that we have to work up to things. Kasane will probably always be slightly lame on the lunge line (so no lunging). No small circles, so we would have to be very careful of the First Degree dressage tests with the 15-meter canter circles. We might never get to take that test in a show, but that’s okay.
The 15+ months of hard work has paid off. We’ve addressed a lot of issues that she had and she is much more comfortable in herself.
My girl and I are back. We’re a team again. I want to go to the barn and ride now –it’s not something that I *have* to do because the vet said. It’s something that I want to do because it is fun (again) and she is amazing.
I feel like she has a future now. Before, I felt like I was waiting on a pronouncement of doom. When doing a rehab like this, you have to take things one day at a time. You have to try and not focus on what might or might not happen, because you just don’t know. It took realizing that she was performing at a higher level now than before the injury for me to realize where we were in those recovery percentages.
Kasane knew that I had been upset. She wasn’t always happy to see me because I wasn’t happy in riding. I was doing what had to be done. Our relationship suffered.
Now that my attitude has changed and I’m seeing the joy again, she’s nickering at me when I come to the fence. She walks over to me again (instead of looking up, and insisting that I come get her in the field).
We’re going to learn as much as we can. It might be a smattering of things from different levels. That’s okay. We are going to have grand adventures again.