It’s been awhile since I have written anything. Put it down to the start of the lazy days of summer. There is always a transition period of feeling the heat and lowering the energy levels; working in the shade, walking by the rivers, slowing down the thoughts. Do thoughts create heat? While I slow down in the summer, I actually ride more. Many of those rides are walking in the river and workouts in the woods. My horses rest in the winter.
The amount of rest we give our animals often depends on how we use them, or don’t use them. As a rider/owner with lint-filled pockets, my horses always get a winter rest. With frozen ground and no indoor, I have to wait until a snowfall to cushion the concrete characteristics of my frozen earth. Rather than wait for the snow, I just hang up the spurs for three winter months. The boys get checked every day, but their stall time amounts to a draught of water and munching some hay. They spend those vacation months walking around, stretching out, sleeping, playing and just being a horse with no agenda.
I envy my friends who go to Florida for the winter months or have access to an indoor. Their horses are in work and ready to go when the first show opens for the season. Many even show through the winter. But there are some benefits to my exile.
I remember listening to an older vet give a presentation on lameness. This particular vet owns one of the premier clinics in the state and has a long list of famous equine clients. His presentation was on the latest technologies, surgeries and therapies available for soundness issues and was followed by the usual Q and A period. The first question asked revolved around the success rate of all these modalities. I found the vet’s reply intriguing. To paraphrase, he said the surgeries and treatments are usually successful but the horse needs a proper amount of recovery time. The animal can move soundly, but everything is still healing and held together with weak links. Very few people really allow the full recovery time needed by the horse and, if they do, they often rush the rehabilitation of the animal’s structure.
Here he paused, then continued. “Horses used to get the winters off, their bodies would recover and they suffered less soundness issues because of that rest. Now horses are worked year around and it shows in their bodies.”
Well, in a way, the horse is going to get its rest one way or another. How many of those horses that are in work year around develop an issue that requires time off for healing. My guess is quite a few.
So we might want to consider: we can choose our timing and give our animals that month’s vacation, or we can wait for the horse to break down and be forced to put it on a month’s stall rest. The latter never comes at the right time and is always expensive. Either way, it seems the horse is going to get its rest.