Most riders have suddenly found themselves with an injured horse or have been injured themselves. For the horse, it could range from a minor twist that might heal in a week to a complicated tendon injury or a fracture requiring several months of healing. Similarly, riders can get injured and might need to stay away from the saddle for a while. Whether it's a short or long recovery, it can cause countless frustrations for both the horse and the owner when riding has to be paused and the future is uncertain.
The feeling of powerlessness is probably the strongest. You feel like you're doing everything you can, from proper training, feeding, supplements, vet assistance, and so on. Yet, you can't guarantee anything,
says showjumper Sandra Enemark
Showjumper Sandra Enemark.
Sandra Enemark is all too familiar with this. She has bravely battled injuries – first with her horse being sidelined and then herself. She knows how to get through it, ensuring motivation remains intact when it's time to get back in the saddle and rehabilitation awaits. We asked her several questions about everything from the day the injury occurs to the day rehabilitation starts and how to prevent an injured horse. Hopefully, her experiences can provide encouraging support if you find yourself in the midst of an injury recovery or if an injury occurs.
When the injury occurs:
How should one react when they or their horse is sidelined? The best approach is to keep a cool head and assess the situation. Is it a long-term or short-term process? Then, take it from there.
What did you do to look forward and help both yourself and your horse move on? Depending on the duration of the injury and when there's hope of returning, it can be tough. But that's the risk with living animals, especially if used for sports. All horses get injured, even if we do everything to prevent it. Some horses are weaker or stronger than others, and we can't control that.
How do you escape a negative mindset? A negative mindset is inevitable. If the horse or rider is out of the game, it might mean missing a season, crucial competitions, and perhaps some important qualifications – leading to a downward spiral. The immense disappointment and feeling of helplessness take over, but it's temporary. When my horse was injured, I quickly started planning for the rehabilitation period, always in consultation with my vet.
During the injury:
What feelings did you experience during the injury process and how did you handle them? Powerlessness is the dominant emotion. Despite doing everything right, from proper training, feeding, supplements, and vet assistance, there are no guarantees. It can sometimes feel utterly unfair. But one must remember that they're not the only ones dealing with an injured horse or personal injury.
What if a diagnosis can't be determined? How far should one go to get their horse back in shape? Personally, I go the extra mile. If my vet can't find a solution, I seek a second or even third opinion, sometimes even from abroad. It's a matter of how far one is willing to go for their injured horse, especially financially. But if it works out, it feels like a significant victory.
How did you maintain your fitness when you couldn't ride as much as usual? If you're injured and advised to rest for weeks or even longer, there's not much to do. However, try to eat healthily, take walks, and do whatever you can in the stable. But always prioritize your health.
How did you keep your horse in good spirits while it was injured? I can tell when my horses are taken out of training. They quickly become restless and lose muscle tone. If their diagnosis allows for it, they can be let out in the pasture. When they're ready to return, I find joy in grooming them and making them "shine" again.
How do you avoid rushing the rehabilitation process? Always listen to your vet's instructions and not just your gut feeling. It's crucial to have a detailed plan and stick to it.
Do you have any focus points or tips for others during the rehabilitation phase? Ensure your horse remains consistent daily. If something feels off, check it before continuing. Always find the cause; otherwise, you might end up with an injured horse again.
How important is the horse's mental rehabilitation? Most horses love getting back to work after an injury, so their zest for life returns naturally. However, if the injury resulted from a severe accident or fall, trust between the horse and rider might need to be rebuilt.
What do you do to prevent future injuries for your horses and yourself? Always follow your vet's advice and be attentive. The rest is up to fate. You can do a lot, like using supplements, icing after training, regular vet visits, proper shoeing, and trying to control the horse during training and in the pasture. But in the end, it's up to the horse's health condition.
Are there any supplements or measures you use to take good care of your horses? I ensure my horses receive the right daily dosage of food and vitamins. I trust my vet, farrier, and trainer, knowing they do things correctly and are there to help and guide me when needed.
Is there anything to be aware of during different seasons to avoid injuries? I'd advise against using a bumpy pasture during heavy frost. If it's raining heavily, the horse might prefer staying in its stall that day. Mostly, it's about using common sense.