Lessons Learned: Collateral Damage

Ainsley finds the bright spot in months of stall rest.

JJ approves of the recent grading work that was done in preparation for a new lesson horse barn. Photo by Ainsley Jacobs.

JJ approves of the recent grading work that was done in preparation for a new lesson horse barn. Photo by Ainsley Jacobs.

Ainsley Jacobs is our adult amateur blogger who focuses on learning the lesson at the heart of every day with horses, from the good to the bad to the ugly. Catch up on all of her columns by clicking the #LESSONS LEARNED hashtag above!

JJ has been on stall rest since he came up lame at our last event. We had the vet out to check him several times. She X-rayed, she ultrasounded, and she gave an unconfirmed diagnosis: lateral collateral ligament damage in his front right.

Several weeks of stall rest later and JJ showed only mild improvement. We decided to have a lameness specialist come out to take a look, and he was able to confirm that it was, in fact, collateral damage. He recommended an IRAP therapy protocol, along with corrective shoeing, and two more months (minimum) of stall rest. He’s optimistic that JJ will recover fully, and I am eagerly counting down the days in the meantime.

The vet’s drawing of where the injury is and treatment options. Photo by Ainsley Jacobs.

The vet’s drawing of where the injury is and treatment options. Photo by Ainsley Jacobs.

Early on in the lameness situation, we were cleared for short, 15-minute tack-walks and I was so happy to get JJ out of “horsey prison.” It wasn’t much, but I was determined to enjoy it simply for the fact that I was grateful to be back on my (wonderful) horse.

Our very first ride, there was some construction grading going on (to prepare for a new lesson horse barn that’s being built) next to the small arena we were riding in. I figured it would either be a disaster where JJ would spook, dump me, and re-injure himself again in the process, or it would be a learning moment in which we worked on relaxation and confidence. I hoped for the latter. Fortunately, as so often does not happen with riding, things went just like I had hoped.

Initially, JJ was a little put off by the construction equipment, but I assured him with my legs, seat, and voice that there was nothing to worry about. He took my advice and continued walking around like a good boy, and didn’t even try to jig at all.

At one point, though, the big, loud front-loader came barreling straight towards us with its massive, metal-tooth lined bucket raised high in the air. It was definitely a “10” on the “things that should be terrifying to horses” scale, and I could feel JJ start to tense and we had a quick conversation that went something like this…

JJ: Uh, mom? Do you see that thing?!? WHAT DO I DO??
Me: Yep, I see it. You do nothing, except relax and keep walking.
Me: Yes, I’m sure. #NoBigDeal
JJ: … okay. I am good. I am brave. I will do this for you, mom.
Me: ♥

I was SO incredibly proud of how little JJ cared after that. I even walked him on a loose rein for most of our quarter-hour ride, right by the “scary” front-end loader that was very, very active. Although we didn’t accomplish anything from a traditional ride/workout standpoint, we definitely accomplished something in the trust department.

We’ve been working a lot on just relaxing and enjoying our time together during our walks over the past few weeks now. I’m trying to focus on getting him more responsive to my seat and legs for steering/stopping, and we’re actually making a fair bit of progress there. Also, JJ absolutely LOVES to roll (and to be as filthy as possible), so I’ve been giving him baths on the weekends with the sole purpose of letting him roll in the dirt afterwards, simply because it makes him so happy.

Not being able to work him and do fun things like jumping and practicing our dressage tests is torture, but I’m so fortunate just to be able to spend time with a horse, let alone my own horse. I feel so relieved now that we know what’s wrong and we have a treatment plan in place to help him heal and get healthy. I’m also finding solace in the fact that he’s still young (he turned 13 on April 23!) and we have plenty of time to together to conquer the world.

Here’s to a speedy recovery!


Even if you can’t do much, you can still work on strengthening the bond and partnership between you and your horse. You never know when these “nothing” moments will save your butt in the future!

Go riding!

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

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