Gilly’s journey back to fitness & eventing after an injury – rehab diary

My loan horse was off work for two months after an injury and I’m blogging his rehab – fitness, suppleness, flexibility – sharing successes, exercises and more. 

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Gilly January 2017. Stage of rehab: 40 minutes walking hacks

This is Gilly. He’s a 10-year-old, 16.2hh Irish Sport Horse gelding who I’ve had on loan for just over a year. He’s a character and a great horse to ride: Sensible but with enough attitude to keep things interesting 😉 He also happens to love jumping. I returned to riding in my 30s after a hiatus of 20 or so years and he’s taught me loads. He helped me progress to the point where we competed in our first one day event at the end of last summer.

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Mairi and Gilly achieving their 2016 goal to take part in One Day Event

We were planning what we’d be doing over the Autumn when Gilly came in from the field lame one day last October. “Hopping lame” is probably a more accurate description. The vet later worked out that he had somehow punctured a tendon on his right hind leg with a huge thorn from one of the hedges that line the fields at our yard. While the wound itself wasn’t that serious, he got an infection that proved tricky to shift and ended up spending two months on box rest.

I didn’t expect that he would take him so long to recover from the injury and it’s been frustrating to watch him lose his fitness over the weeks and see our plans crumbling. But there’s a old saying that every misfortune is a blessing in disguise: In this case it’s that Gilly has soft muscles right now and is a bit of a blank slate so it’s a great opportunity to work on his suppleness and flexibility and improve his posture while bringing him back into fitness. Maybe I can teach this horse (and myself) some new tricks!

Over the next few months, as I build up his exercise regime from long walking hacks up to canter work and jumping, I’m planning to incorporate lots of pole work, stretches and work in hand. I’m hoping that these gymnastic exercises will help improve our focus, communication and skills and help us prepare for a successful summer of eventing.

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Some of Gilly’s exercises & stretches suggested by his physiotherapist, Rachel Keeble. Photos: Christine Dunnington

I’ll be investigating different issues and trying out different exercises over the coming weeks and I’ll share some of them on the Aspire blog. Major areas I’d like to work on with Gilly are:

  • Getting his hind legs more active so that he really steps under himself, can push from behind and come off the forehand, which he can be quite heavy on. He’s got a relatively long back conformation-wise so he’s a horse that finds this harder than some.
  • Activating his core and encouraging him to work over his back more to improve his posture and make him stronger. This is a long-term, ongoing project but I’m hoping to work on more in-hand exercises to encourage him to lower and relax his neck.
  • Lateral work like leg yields and shoulder in to help with mobility and suppleness particularly through his shoulders.

I will be working with my trainer Wiola on all of this and we’d be really delighted if you join us on this journey to bring Gilly back from his injury even better than he was before.

If you have any questions or ideas or would like to share exercises that you think Gilly and me should try, leave them in the comments section below. We’ll report back on the blog. 

Mairi Mackay & Gilly aka Farmer’s Boy

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Gilly looking smart after his clip on Saturday – ready to slowly step up the work 🙂 

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