Tucker and I are slowly but surely working on getting him back to show ring fitness, with the hopes that we will be showing again by mid-June, if all goes well. He got a bath on Saturday because the weather was so nice, and I pulled his mane and clipped his legs and his jawline/muzzle, so he is looking a little more like a show horse instead of a backyard pet. Now we just need to work on helping him regain a topline, get some strength and stamina back, and put on some weight. Here's how he looks right now: nice and clean, but otherwise definitely not at his best!
We've upped his grain slightly to assist with his weight gain and muscle building. He is now getting 4 quarts per day of Omeline 500 (split over two meals -- he was previously getting 3 quarts), plus plenty of forage: 5 quarts of beet pulp (with his grain), 4 quarts of alfalfa, soaked (at night check), and I'd guess about 8-10 flakes of hay throughout the course of the day. He's also out on grass, weather permitting, for about 5 hours per day. As for supplements, you can read all about what's in his SmartPak here. He's also getting SmartCalm right now, just until he's back to full work.
As for exercise, based on what I've read and conversations with fellow horsewomen, the general rule of thumb is that if your horse has had extended time off, then it should take the same amount of time he's been resting to re-condition him. So, since Tucker has had two months off, I'm estimating it will take two months to get him fit. I haven't found any particular exercise program that I thought sounded really good (though if you have suggestions, please post them in the comments). I've just been trying to let Tucker tell me how much he can handle -- maybe that's best anyway.
The first week, we just walked undersaddle for 30-40 minutes. This past week, I started trotting again. At first, I could only do 2 sets of about 2 minutes of trotting before he'd be winded and breaking a sweat. By this weekend, I was able to do 3 sets of about 4-5 minutes of trotting. In between, we walk over lots of cavaletti and little cross rails, do some bending exercises, and work on straightness with lateral work. At the trot, I just want him to loosen up and stretch his back out, which he has been a little relunctant to do. He is also flipping his nose up and walking with his head in the air after several minutes of work at the walk, which is either a sign that he thinks the working walk is stupid (possible) or that his back is sore, or even just allergies/post-nasal stuff.
To see how his back is feeling and help him loosen up, Dr. L is coming out to adjust him and do some acupuncture this morning, and then he'll get turned out for the afternoon. We texted back and forth when the stall rest was ending, and she said she'd rather work on him after I had done some trotting work so that he had a chance to stretch a little on his own before she worked on him. Makes perfect sense. I have to say, I feel so lucky to have such wonderful professionals helping me with Tucker's recovery. Everyone -- from my barn managers, to my vet, to my chiropractor, to my trainer -- has been completely accessible, communicative, and helpful. Tucker and I have a great support team!
It's hard to tell if it's freshness or tightness that is making him feel a little tense, my guess is a combination. If he still feels like he doesn't want to stretch on Wednesday night, even after his acupuncture, I may try giving him a tiny bit of Ace on Thursday, in case the stiffness is just because he's fresh. Even though he's been an angel and hasn't done anything more than a head shake, I want to give him the opportunity to work in a relaxed way without making himself sore. I have a feeling that containing his energy and excitement because he's trying to behave could be making his job harder than it needs to be at the moment.
Again, if anyone has suggestions for good ways to recondition your horse, we are all ears (literally, Tucker is pretty much all ears):