Tie-back surgery recovery: 30 days of turnout

Johnny’s incision healed very quickly after the two week mark. By the time he was ready for the turnout portion of his recovery, it was down to a very tiny opening–about the size of the tip of my pinkie. Somewhere around the fifth week, it was fully closed.

Once his ventriculectomy incision was fully closed (and you could barely see the scar from the laryngoplasty), I began riding him very, very lightly. By lightly, I mean we walked maybe 10-15 minutes on level ground, reins on the buckle. I slowly stepped it up from there–adding short trail rides around the property and increasing the ride time to 15-20 minutes. All the while, I never asked him for anything that would increase his respiratory rate. The sole purpose of our rides was to keep his back muscles from totally deteriorating during his break.

As we got closer to the end of 60 days, I began pushing for light contact–still at the walk. We worked things like turns on the forehand, turns on the haunches, leg-yielding, etc. We did movements that would help loosen him up and prepare for the real work about to begin. I watched him carefully for signs of fatigue or respiratory stress, but since our work was still relatively easy short-lived, he never showed a problem. Additionally, like many OTTBs, he was happy to have a job again. His ears perked up when I arrived in the pasture with his halter, and he never showed any signs of being uncomfortable or unhappy. I’m not sure I’d recommend riding this early in the recovery for everyone, but for us, it certainly made the transition back into work much easier.

We were super lucky with his recovery. Not only did everything go smoothly with the procedure, we had no run-in with infection, and both incisions healed nicely. As a matter of fact, with the hair grown in, you’d have to look for his laryngoplasty incision to find it. I’ve yet to hear him whinny (he’s not much of a whinnier anyway), but even before the surgery, his was pretty pathetic, so a wispy whinny won’t make much difference. As an added bonus, Johnny, normally a devout cribber when stalled, never once attempted to crib. I’m sure with the incision sites, it probably hurt like heck when he tried it (as I’m sure he did when no one was around). I’ve not stalled him since, so we’ll see if it was a permanent cure-all for his cribbing.

I’ve posted below the last pictures I took from his healing process. My next series will chronicle our journey back into real work.


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