As we move forward with our program in 2015, we have been reflecting on the incredible importance of the physical rehabilitation process. If issues emerge in training, we always look first to the physical side of things, for if a horse is uncomfortable or comprised in any way it will have a direct result on his or her performance.
With any new horse or project, there is always a chance that they will turn out to have undetected physical issues–it’s simply the risk we take with horses. With no history available on the unwanted horses brought home from auction, we often find ourselves saying, “if only this horse could talk and tell us his story!” Although we can never know their pasts, we can give them a solid foundation and the skills to help insure successful futures.
The first and mostly likely the best thing that we can do for these horses, is to get them in the best physical condition possible. Once a horse is in good weight, pain-free, sound, and fit, then they will be able to take on the training tasks asked of them. Horses are highly trainable animals and by nature are looking for a dependable leader–if we offer them a fair ‘deal’ in their partnership with people, then their training can progress easily and happily. It all starts with a healthy horse, and we aim to give each horse the time and extra help needed to thrive.
Many things can be cured with the ‘tincture of time,’ and we have learned that giving horses a good let down period after the ordeal of the auction can make a big difference. Any thought of ‘speeding the process along’ will probably backfire– it pays to be patient. For example, Harlow was finished with his quarantine in June, but it wasn’t until September that he begin work under saddle–he needed those extra months to recuperate physically and settle mentally into his new life. It is so important to cover all the bases when rehabilitating a new horse: not only do we get them evaluated by the vet, farrier, and dentist, but also usually by an equine massage therapist and occasionally a saddle-fitter and chiropractor. It is worth the initial time and expense to have a thorough understanding of the horse’s physical strengths and weaknesses– before we begin asking new things of them in training.
Although we are always eager to get right to work with new horses in the program, we know that only by proceeding slowly and methodically will we have the best chance of longterm success; for when horses are feeling sound, healthy, and comfortable in their bodies, the training comes naturally.