I affectionately call Iggy “Boomerang Boy.”

I gave him away twice during my divorce, and both times, he came back. I tell myself he was meant to be my boy.

He’s a quirky fella, mostly cheerful and a little crooked. He’s the type who internalizes his stress until his tummy starts to act up, and if not quickly addressed, he can act out in his discomfort, or get himself into metabolic trouble.

When he came back to me here in South Carolina, thankfully he and Dunkin hit it off despite Dunk bossing him around, and I have countless photos of the two of them napping in the sunshine in the pasture, content.

He went back to work with the help of Elise, a young lady who I affectionately think of as my sweet crash test dummy, unafraid and quick and able to ride through some of the spontaneous nonsense that Iggy can exhibit when he’s been out of work for a bit.

A couple of years ago, he returned to competition, and we successfully did a couple of LDs, Iggy happy and going along nicely.

At the age of 18, after a successful ride in August of 2022, it seemed prudent to consider some potential senior horse maintenance. While he was sound, his way of carrying himself made me think perhaps he had a bit of arthritis in his hocks. So off we went to see Dr. Keelin, theorizing that we’d contemplate hock injections if she agreed they were warranted.

Lameness exam was initially pretty unremarkable. Trot out and back, sound. Trot on circles in both directions, sound. Started with left front flexion test. Lame. Quite lame. Such that the notion of hock injections quickly evaporated.

Ultrasound showed a torn check ligament, and in an unfortunate spot. Not a good diagnosis but his prognosis was improved by his apparent desire not to limp. Other than that flexion test, he’s not limped on his left front before or since.

Conservatively, I opted to turn him out for six months. After that period, he continued to look sound, but his ultrasound re-check showed him “healing but not healed.” Out in the pasture he went again, happy as a lark, enjoying an occasional cookie or a bath or grooming. He is generally adorable and easy to keep, and unfazed when Dunkin leaves, so it occurred to me that I could do a lot worse for a companion horse should he never return to working soundness.

Friends would ask how he was recovering, and I was left shrugging my shoulders. “Still sound but fatter?”

I started to think of him as retired, and even did a little very casual horse-shopping, but decided I’d wait until that next ultrasound to confirm Iggy’s future as Pasture Potato.

I didn’t dare hope. That seemed foolish. So when Dr. Keelin declared the ultrasound to proclaim him ready to return to work and helped me set up his rehab program, I was beyond tickled. It was more like receiving an unexpected gift from a friend, something you didn’t realize you wanted until you held it in your hands.

Despite having horses for nearly half a century (oh dear, that reads like I might be old!) I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve only had one or two ligament rehab cases in my history, and the most recent was a couple of decades ago.

I would do as I was told, risk-averse and raised Catholic such as I was. Dr. Keelin and I confirmed the plan before I gleefully hauled him home.

Iggy got a bath and a haircut, and I apologetically butchered his mane.

Yep, sweetheart, the plan is to make you SWEAT! You won’t miss this hair at all.


The equine equivalent of a bowl cut from Mom. “Honey, stop crying, it will GROW BACK!”

Elise was in to help with the rehab, and we started in with 15 minutes of walking three times per week, adding five minutes each week, then a bit of trotting on firm ground, then cantering, then challenging him with hills and deeper footing. Dunk chaperoned, and we were both startled and then laughed on one of the first outings when Iggy thought it would be a creative idea to reach out and bite Dunk in the rump. Revenge, no doubt, for being pushed around in the pasture.

We both worked on asking him to use his right hind, the one he prefers not to use, and that saw steady improvement. My first canter left on him felt lovely — ahhhhhh, Iggy does have a lovely canter. Unfortunately the right canter felt like his legs were moving like eggbeaters beneath me, and there was nothing to support my right seat bone. Work in progress, and typical for Iggy coming back into work; I reminded myself he’d been out of work for a year. Asked to straighten, he would, nudgenudge with the right leg, or a little taptap with the whip, bringing his shoulders back in front of that right hind, but strengthening would take time and work and rest between sessions.

Yes, right hind, you’ll need to work, thankyouverymuch.

We added shoes per Dr. Keelin’s advice a few weeks in. EasyCare Versa Grips skillfully applied by Keith. Plenty of heel support. “Go ahead, Keith, feel free to take more toe.” (It’s like a mantra for me, kind of a short-toe vigilante, such as I am.)

My friend, Dr. Bri, recommended a low frequency ultrasound, so I ordered one and used that to help with the continued ligament healing. Nicole sent me some ice boots, so Iggy got iced post workout. Both boys got a spring series of Adequan injections to help their joints.

Thanks, Auntie Nicole for the ice boots!

One day, when we were up to about 45 minutes in our riding sessions, Elise fatefully expressed how solid Iggy was, how sensible, how well-behaved. This despite my warnings that he could, in fact, get pretty animated and prone to leaping when he was turned toward the barn, or when he felt he couldn’t keep up with his equine riding companion.  Ah, youth.

Minutes later, Iggy acted up, the equine equivalent of “here, hold my beer!” and proved my point, despite his age and his Mr. Reliable reputation. He gave Elise a nice little adventure of a ride, which she rode through handily, of course. It perhaps resulted in a change in her benevolent description of Boomerang Boy, but I doubt it; she has a pretty solid crush on him. It also resulted in Iggy catching himself with a clinch, I suspect, on the inside of that left front, a bloody gouge that was sore and tender for a couple of days. Goop (I do love to goop), ultrasound, ice, a couple of days off and I sighed in relief when the leg almost immediately came back tight and hard and cold. A mere flesh wound, as the old saying goes.

Beyond that, this rehab has been delightfully boring. He’s been to the Woods. He did a stroll with Kathy and Linda at Three Runs last week. Dunk has been a good compadre on the rehab, though I imagine him grumbling under his breath about how short and how slow these rides have been.

Dunk gets to the Woods solo to do faster/longer without his pasture mate slowing him down. #DunkMentalHealth

Beth Hammelbacher (The Kneaded Edge) is back doing bodywork on both boys, and while overall he’s feeling like a couch-to-5K athlete getting back in shape, we discovered that Iggy’s left sheath skin is pretty pliable and loose, but the right side is tight as a drum. Could this be the cause of the right hind not coming through symmetrically? Cause or result, who was to say, but we were on the right course, as post-ride, they feel almost the same. Years ago, we had a horse with epic gelding scar adhesions, so I’m familiar with the phenomena. (I envision those little adhesions ripping loose as Iggy works that right hind. Elise is grossed out by the image. No wonder he leaps around from time to time.)

We decided, collectively of course, because that’s how I roll, that the original contemplation of hock injections was back on the table. So off the boys went back to Dr. Keelin. At a minimum, we’d chat about it and the boys would get Legend injections.

Dr. Keelin did another lameness exam, and I’ll admit that if Iggy was six years old with a big price tag, and it was a pre-purchase exam, I’d likely take a pass.

But he’s 19 and mine forever and has never looked so chipper going down the trail, shoving his head into the halter to be caught, marching into the trailer — “I wanna go too!” If he’s happy and up to the task of a couple of rides this season at a sane pace, well, by golly, we’ll give it a go.

Stifles felt clean and smooth, and the hocks would be up to me, a little creaky, no smoking guns, but potentially improved if we took the plunge.

As someone who likes to help the economy, I opted for yes, with a plan that I would be armed with a little IM acepromazine to sedate Iggy (and Dunkin too) if he was too active in the small paddock when I brought him home.

No worries. A little alfalfa and stuffed hay bags kept the boys quietly munching, contented captives, barely moving around. They were released to the pasture the next evening.

During the injection prep, and all the scrubbing, Dr. Keelin and I chatted about what was next now that Iggy was up to 75 minutes of walk/trot/canter with some hills and deep sand a part of the workouts. I was surprised when she laughed and admitted that she wasn’t quite sure, given that most of her hunter/jumper and dressage clientele rarely rode longer than that. She said that her response for those other horses, given the current workload, would be to resume normal work.

I did what I do. I reached out to a few endurance vet friends, and Dawn, a similarly risk-averse friend with more soft tissue rehab experience than me.

There was consensus! <insert a cheer from the crowd> Time to treat Iggy like a conditioning project rather than a rehab case, but be mindful of the deep of sand.

This is one I know, that I have preached, for way too long. Add distance or speed or difficulty, but no more than one per conditioning ride. It was good to have my intuition validated by my peeps!

Okay, sure, he’s rehabbed, but no one accused him of being svelte yet.

We are eyeing a low degree of difficulty LD about five weeks out. If all goes well. The secret to happiness is lowered expectations.

I’ve been here before.

A whole ride season stretched out in front of us, two horses, one first-string and abundantly sound — Dunk is more than ready to go. A question of whether Iggy will be up to the gig, and whether the hock injections make a discernible difference or if his way of going is really just his nature. (My money is on same ol’ Iggy next week but willing to take bets. Anyone in?)

I’m planning on some dressage lessons with him so Hannah can help me help him strengthen that right hind and carry himself (and me) as efficiently as he can.

It’s just the usual adventure with endurance ponies, loving the one you’re with at the moment, doing everything you can to keep them happy, healthy and enthused about the gig. Surrounded by the village, my people, who are here to help, and who often just help me trust myself more.

Can you be a lone wolf on this sort of journey? Sure, I suppose you could, but where’s the fun in that?

Iggy is cleared to be ridden tomorrow, so if you’re interested, I’ll keep you posted!