To start with his rehab was to stay confined to his stall with small amounts of hand walking. At first, when he was still a bit overwhelmed by the hauling and the surgery, it was all fine. As he started to feel better though, it started to feel like I had a kangaroo on the other end of the lead. He bounced, a lot, and he wasn’t supposed to be bouncing. Acepromazine (a mild sedative/tranquilizer) was my friend. Better living through chemistry I say! After a while it was ok to put him on the hot walker – he was actually better behaved on it than with me on the end of the lead rope.
On his first post-surgery check-up, about three weeks after his surgery, the vet seemed surprised and pleased by his progress. His rehab work increased progressively. When we first got to start trotting, I was jogging with him. If I would have kept up with that, I would be in such great shape. Being me, and being lazy though, I looked for another option. I tried to pony him off of one mare, that didn’t go so good. He did his best to behave, but she was not impressed with being having him that close to her. Silly mare.
Nothing else I had at the time felt broke enough to lead him around from their back. So it wound up that I ponied him from the quad. At first it was a bit interesting. He leads off my right side, yet the throttle for the quad is on the right side, to be worked by my right thumb. I wound up holding the lead rope in my left hand, across my body and steering and controlling speed of the quad with my right hand. We definitely had some yee-haw moments – times where I had a clear view of his belly just off my right shoulder.
I’ll put in the obligatory “Kids, don’t try this at home…” disclaimer. I’m pretty sure something about professionals and helmets should be included at this point too.
Finally we got cleared by the vet to start loping. Just a little bit at a time at first. He seemed to get stronger and more solid the more we did.
As November rolled around I was kind of getting bored with the whole rehab routine. We’d been at it for three months by that time. Kanak, while generally well behaved for all his confinement, was still acting very much the busy-minded two-year-old and was always looking for something extra to do.
Ever drag race with a horse? It’s kind of fun. The quad here is a 750, so it is pretty gutsy. If I really get on the throttle from a stop it will peel out. After I had Kanak warmed up and he had a chance to lope some, I would idle down to almost a stop then rev it and go. I think he liked it. It broke up the monotony of walk, trot, walk, trot, lope, trot, lope, trot, walk, trot, lope etc. I would chicken out at about 25 mph. Maybe it was not the best rehab strategy, but it gave me some good info of whether he could dig in and put pressure on that joint and get going or not. When he did so easily, I figured we were doing all right. He still perks up if I rev the quad around him. Again, this is not something I recommend trying at home on your own, the whole thing falls under the category of “things I shouldn’t have come away from un-injured.”
His follow-up appointments continued to go well. I didn’t really come clean to the vet on just what all of our routine consisted of. Even though I’m pretty sure he was a Frat-boy in college, I suspect he might frown on the drag racing as part of the rehab process. Finally in December Kanak was cleared as sound to return to normal work. Since he hadn’t had normal work really, that just meant we could start riding him. I started working him in the round pen and saddling him up. The biggest change at that point was he got moved to a larger pen.
Any one who has had surgery on a joint will know, even once things are all good according to the doctors and therapists, the joint keeps re-working itself. All through the rehab phase I was closely monitoring his stifle for heat, swelling, tenderness or any suspicion that his workload might have needed to be scaled back. A few times I did make adjustments, mostly it was to realize I could challenge the joint more.
The very first day I rode him after getting him back from the trainer I felt a tiny bit of off-ness in his back end. After getting a few days of rest he feels sound. Solid. I can be overly sensitive to a horse not moving right, and Kanak feels pretty right. As I’ve stated before, the kid did an excellent job getting him started. He was worried a little about his injury and the surgery and went kind of easy on him at first. I had to ask him to push a little bit so we could see just what Kanak could or couldn’t take.
So that’s where we are for now. I have a nice well started three-year old who feels darn sound. I will not be surprised if we get heat and swelling occasionally in that stifle as his workload gets increased. As long as Kanak continues to be eager and willing to work, then I’m not going to fuss about it. The heat goes away with rest or Surpass (a topical NSAID). The vet pretty well put the kibosh on doing serious cutting training. However, he seemed to think that reining would not be too big of a stress. The working cow horse stuff falls in between. Time will tell if he’ll hold up to that type of work.
All in all I’m very glad we did the surgery.