Dealing with Stall Rest (the Human Kind)

Stall Rest

Knock on wood, my horses haven’t had to be on stall rest. In fact, I don’t know what I’d do if Freedom injured himself in a way that required containment. I haven’t kept him in a stall since the very first day I brought him home, almost 14 years ago. That night he weaved so much that he rubbed his neck bloody. I turned him out 24/7 starting the next night and he’s lived outside with a run in shed ever since.

I, on the other hand, have just finished five weeks of stall rest and am looking forward to three more weeks of restricted activity with some light hand walking mixed in. Lots of people think, how bad can it be? You can lie in bed and binge watch movies. Yeah, well, that gets old right around day 2. In fact, I started working in the hospital and shortly after I arrived in the rehab facility, I hosted a webinar from my bed with nearly 400 people on the call. The nurses had no idea what to do with me.

While boredom and the fatigue of lying in one position is irritating, the more serious issue with enforced immobility is the muscle wastage. After just two weeks I could see that my calves and quads were noticeably weaker. At week five, they are downright puny. It made me realize how much your body depends on normal activities, such as walking, to keep everything working well.

Then there’s the swelling. Because I managed to damage three limbs, I’ve been essentially non weight bearing (although that’s improving now). Couple that with a brace on one leg and my poor foot and ankle were most unhappy. Sitting in my wheelchair with my leg down turned my toes blue and numb in less than half an hour and with injuries on both sides of my body, there weren’t a lot of exercises I could do either.

However, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Starting next week my collarbone will have healed enough to allow me to use a walker or crutches. My left ankle, although still painful, will be fully weight bearing, and I’ll be 50% weight bearing on my right leg. Yes, I’ll be the one shuffling down the hall back and forth with my walker, determined to get my body working just a little bit again. And at that point, the real physical therapy will kick in and I’ll be working to regain the strength that I’ve lost. If I keep on schedule, I’ll be walking again in about three more weeks. Not sure when I’ll be riding but at least I’ll have the chance to spend time with the horses and give them some attention.

One thing is for sure. I will have a lot more tolerance and sympathy for horses coming up a long layup and will make sure that I give them the time to build up those muscles before asking them for work. I know I’m going to need a lot of long, slow work before I’m anywhere close to being fit again.



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