In The Saddle: The long road to recovery

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There’s an old saying that money can’t buy you happiness, but I slightly disagree here - because it can buy you horses and to me, that’s the exact same thing.

When my horse suffered ligament damage from running about like an idiot in the field, I never expected it to rumble on for a further six months, missing the entire competition season and riding in the glorious summer sun.

But that’s what happened. And trust me, neither me nor my horse, April, was happy about it.

April is one of those horses who isn’t happy to sit around and eat grass all day, like me, she loves to be busy and out and about.

Be that competing at little local shows or out riding through our village.

If she’s not kept busy she makes up her own mischief, and just like a child she has her good days and her naughty days.

So, when we were told April needed a confined paddock and a restricted exercise programme after her treatment I knew I’d be in for a fun time with her!

We started off being allowed to walk her in-hand on a straight flat surface (the road!) for ten minutes a day. So off we set, me walking her like a big dog down the street and back again, with both of us getting strange looks and shouts of ‘Are you too scared to ride her?’ through to ‘Is your horse blind?’

However, after eight weeks we were up to half an hour and by then everyone in the village knew she was recovering from injury, with many of the older neighbours popping out to chat and see how she was doing.

There were even stop points where she knew she’d get a sliced carrot or two.

April has taken much longer to recover than we all thought, but we have recently been given great news by our vet in that she is ‘sound’ which basically means lame-free and recovered.

What I didn’t expect to happen to my horse was that in the six months of local village walking in-hand and restricted riding, was for her to have lost all her confidence.

The moment we left the village and headed out on a country lane, April literally started to shake and I could feel her heart nearly beating out of her chest.

Given the natural flight response of the horse, this is never a safe feeling for the rider - the last thing anyone wants (especially me at my age!) is to be bolted across a field out of control.

Trust me, being a mere passenger on half a tonne of horse kicking up mud in your face whilst the countryside is whirring past in a blur is not good.

Poor April had spent the last six months cooped up in the village and that had become her comfort zone.

For the last couple of weeks, both myself and my trainer have been trying to build her confidence by taking her out on different routes every day, so that she’s not set in her routine.

Occasionally there has been no option but to dismount and walk her past the scary object (usually a four legged animal like another horse in a field!), but gradually we are getting there.

I thought when April was given the all clear that all my worries were over, it seems I wasn’t prepared for a whole new riding programme to begin.

So if you see me out on the roads talking to my horse you will at least know I’m not crazy, I’m just trying to tell her to be brave whilst she is snorting and dancing past a field of sheep.

And on some days I’m also telling myself to be brave too, but that’s a whole other story!

* You can follow April’s recovery from injury and Anita’s day-to-day horsey escapades via Facebook at ‘In The Saddle - Anita Marsh’ or via Twitter @inthesaddleblog.