Otis’s Rehab – Weeks 9 – 11.5

Time for an Otis update readers!

Once Matt had gone back to Wales I could turn my entire attention to bringing Otis back into work. But I had forgotten about the Easter holidays. So for weeks nine and ten I continued hacking him, building in the trots but the ground was rock solid so although I’d had a couple of canters out, I couldn’t do much. If I’m honest, the holidays wore me out too so I was less inclined to up Otis’s workload.

On Easter Monday my friend and I boxed over to a BHS hacking route. It was Otis’s first journey in ten months, so obviously he worked up a sweat travelling. We rode for ninety minutes, with two longish trots and he felt great. It was so nice to get out and about, and see different countryside.

So I was feeling positive. I started making plans for increasing Otis’s workload. Then we had some rain, and last week I started taking him to The Avenue. It’s a long wide verge, so I could go up and down a few times in trot and canter. Otis felt pretty good; the trot was even and a good stride, and once he’d stopped racing the traffic, the canter felt nice and active. Over the two days, Otis worked fairly hard. Yet he seemed to be coping so I was happy with the step up in work.

The next day (Friday) he had the farrier, and seemed uncomfortable when he was being shod behind. Uncomfortable enough for the farrier to comment on it; I was very concerned but since then I’ve kept a close eye on him when I’ve picked out his feet and I think he was either a bit cold and stiff (the farrier arrived at 7am) or he was achey from two days of harder exercise. 

On Saturday I was shocked to find that Otis seemed to have exploded in weight, and his crest was quite hard. He’s never had laminitis, or even been close to it, but I think his reduced work load has just given him a good covering. I’ve heard of a lot of laminitis cases last week because of the frosty mornings and sugary, spring grass. I took him to the Avenue again, and gave him a bit of a work out, enjoying how keen he felt. Then I halved his hard feed and restricted his paddock. I don’t feel he needs starving to stop the risk of laminitis, but I need to curtail the weight gain. On Sunday his crest was softer, and we did a similar hack, with more hill work and less trot and canter. Otis seemed quite happy on our rides, and is definitely getting fitter. 

Monday was D-Day. We were going into the school for the first time. I had my cameraman there so I have visual evidence to compare to at a later date. The first trot was horrendous. My heart plummeted. But I had a couple more trots and a canter, to see if he loosened up. And he did. The right rein felt fine, but there was a definitive nod on left turns.

Afterwards, I watched the videos back and Otis looks better than he felt. I also realised that it was his third day of work, so there may be muscle fatigue to hinder him, or he found the dry, deep arena hard to work in after the bridle ways. I felt marginally better about it.

Tuesday was his day of rest, and then this morning (Wednesday) I took him into the arena in the lunge. My original plan was to hack today, but I had less time than tomorrow morning so I thought it would be easier to see him moving without my weight.

I’m gutted. He looked awful on the left rein, marginally better on the right. And he didn’t seem to loosen up and work through it. I could’ve cried. 

The canter looked fine and he looked more comfortable than when trotting. To finish, I had a play with some raised poles as per his physio instructions to help flex his pelvis and hips. 

Since this morning I’ve rewatched and analysed the videos of Otis being ridden and on the lunge. His length of stride isn’t huge, but it seems pretty consistent. He seems to be nodding his head when he has an incorrect bend – could this be some sort of bridle lameness? It also looks like he’s tight in the shoulder.

Tomorrow I’m going to take him for a hack and see what I think of the trot in the woods – has it deteriorated since last week? Then if he feels okay I could trot him around the school a couple of times to compare to Monday.

I’ve ordered his feed supplement again. We ran out last week so I thought I’d leave it a week and see if there was a difference in him. Then I’d know if it was benefiting Otis. So I’ll see how that goes.

I wonder if he’s carrying too much weight, which could be exacerbating the limp. Which puts me in a difficult position – increase workload without damaging him further. I’ll back off the work and go back to walking and hill work, until the supplement will have kicked in, and then assess him again. If he’s still not right then I’ll run a Bute trial to see if it’s pain related or mechanical. Based on this, I may get a second vet opinion.

His saddle has started to slip right, so the saddler is coming in a couple of weeks time. The effect of my weight being shifted right could prevent him getting left bend, so causing him to nod at the corners.

It’s also important to remember that Otis is lacking the schooling muscles, so will be finding it harder to ride turns, which will affect the quality of his gaits.

So it’s not great news, I’m in another predicament and have more research to do. Why, Otis, can’t you just tell me where it hurts?! 

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