So, as hoped/planned, I had my safety meeting with the barn manager on Saturday, and actually got to touch my horse for the first time since March 25. He got maybe one of the most thorough groomings of his life and really needed it – he’s been without a sheet for a week or two now and really enjoying his mud bath!
Safety protocols are…almost exactly what I had worked out for myself right when the whole thing was starting. The only real change or addition is to wear masks any time you’re not riding. As you can see, I actually was considering adding “should I wear a mask?” to that list when I first wrote it so none of the new rules are a surprise and they all make sense!
Vermont cases are actually even lower than they were in that first week when I was working out those guidelines – we’re only getting one or two new cases in the whole state per day, and only 3 hospitalized right now. One of those moments where being tiny (I remind you there are only 500,000 people in the whole state, and half of those in one county that is not my own) and verrrrrry rural has helped us out.
So, on Monday, I got back in the saddle! He was, exactly as expected, fairly stiff and wobbly. He’s a 25 year old horse who just had two months off with little to no work (longeing once a week) and is actually on limited turnout right now because of mud season (not enough dry lots to get all the horses out without destroying the fields). I also opted to take him off his Pentosan for the duration. (I’ve re-ordered it now.)
There was nothing truly drastic wrong, though, thankfully, and we did about 45 minutes of mostly walk work: part testing the buttons and part introducing some strengthening pieces back in. 25 was in the ring, with some light figures and about 8 minutes of trotting. Mostly on a loose rein, with gradual introduction of a shorter rein and some bending to try and get him to not flop around in corners and also to see where he was with that. Pretty much right back! All the resistance I felt was clearly physical/muscular rather than mental. Whew.
Then we headed out for just about 20 minutes of walking in the dry areas of the field, including some walking straight up and down hills. He was puffing good after our ring work, then recovered, then puffing again after the hill work. Pretty much what I expected. He loses condition with only a week off, no way was he keeping his level of fitness through this. The good news is he looks good – the rearrangement of muscles is still there, they’re just a little faded, and he hasn’t added too much weight.
The other good news is that if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that the last five years of our riding career have been one rehab after another. I am a pro at bringing this horse back slowly, and right now I don’t even have an injury to work around, just weakness.
The even more good news is that we’re getting 2 hour barn time slots, which is enough to actually linger a little bit, do some extra grooming, and not rush any riding time. Whew. So I have spots tonight, Friday, and Sunday, and then we’ll schedule for next week. The week after that Vermont is actually probably going to open salons & gyms, and while I know my barn will continue to be careful, I’m looking forward to adding some working/chores days and getting back into a lesson program.
I repeat: WHEW.