lower limb tendon/ligament injury prognosis? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 12-17-2012, 11:33 PM Thread Starter
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Question lower limb tendon/ligament injury prognosis?

My 20 year old horse has been lame for the last 4 weeks. Vet is thinking it might be a tendon/ligament injury in the fetlock/hoof area. He is saying 6 months to heal with the first couple being rest and then maybe my 9 year old can ride him for short periods at a walk. We board this horse and he was supposed to be my daughter's horse for her first year of 4-h this spring. Now I am trying to figure out what I should do regarding our boarding situation since paying for stall board at a barn with an indoor arena doesn't make much economic sense for a horse that can't be ridden. I also wonder will a 20 year old horse heal well enough to become sound w/t/c from a soft tissue injury? I am worried that my vet might be optimistic because he was the vet who did the PPE on the horse right before he went lame.
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post #2 of 10 Old 12-17-2012, 11:49 PM
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It really depends. You could get a ultra sound of the affected limb to see the extent of the damage. Is the tendon currently hot? Swollen?

I'm not sure about a 20-year-old, but my mare bowed a right front tendon when she was four-years-old. She was lame at a walk for two weeks, and at a trot for a time after that. I cold hosed her legs twice a day during the time the tendon was hot and swollen. She was turned out in a smaller paddock with pole wraps for support. My vet gave me MMSO to apply.

After eight weeks, she was sound at a trot at liberty. My vet told me to start riding her again. We rode every other day at a walk for around an hour a session. We added trotting after two weeks, but only in straight lines. We built back up slowly, adding curves and longer trots.

And the rest of history. She's now a very sound endurance horse. Trots and canters for 50 miles. Jumps, gallops, everything.

I was told I was lucky, but based on the results I got, it's possible for your horse to return to w/t/c sound.

Last edited by Brighteyes; 12-17-2012 at 11:52 PM.
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post #3 of 10 Old 12-18-2012, 12:19 AM
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This is mildly different (ie, not a tendon - still soft tissue) but my 28 year old mare partially tore a suspensory in September.

She's still "recovering" (as in, I'm giving her until May off to make sure she heals, then going back into w/t/c work is hopefully in the cards depending on what she and her body say) but after 3 months of "retirement" she's now 100% sound at all gaits.
I never did stall rest with her as my vet and I decided that at her age, stall rest would just cause other issues. We just turned her out into my 6 acre pasture, I stalled her at night (due to the fact that she's basically blind - no other reason), and that was what happened.
I made sure to keep up on her hooves (it turned out that some of her hoof angles were causing stress that was encouraging the injury to not heal) and she's recovered better than anyone thought.

The vet thought for sure that she would forever have a little gimp or at least a puffy pastern - nope! She's actually moving better than she ever has and her leg is back to it's normal shape and size.

I do make sure to keep her out of mud as much as possible because of the slip/ankle twist possibility but we live in Oregon - mud is inevitable and she's doing fine.

Anyway, it can happen! And my girl has 8 years on your guy!

I think you have a chance. I'm sorry your first horse owning experience has been so....unfortunate!

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 12-18-2012 at 12:21 AM.
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post #4 of 10 Old 12-18-2012, 07:30 AM
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There's a LOT of variables with tendon injuries. I am dealing with own, on one horse, and the outcome/treatsments are completely different from what anyone else has posted thus far.

And a HUGE DITTO on "Wallaby's" comment regarding hoof angle affecting stress (or lack of) on the legs.

To make an analogy, it would be like you having torn or stretched tendons and somebody expecting you to walk all day in a pair of 5" hooker heels

Hoof angle is very critical so I hope your vet has some leg & hoof knowledge and is willing to work with the farrier. There's not much margin for hoof trimming error in these situations. I would opt for barefoot and 4 - 5 week trims; barefoot would also save you money as opposed to shoes.

That all being said, you don't "sound" enthusiastic about paying board on this horse anymore. From the one side I can understand that. Is it possible the Seller will take the horse back? Were it mine, I sure would but if the Seller's in bad financial straits ORRRR knew this horse had a permanent injury to begin with, they may not.

The horse just can't be turned out 24/7 to fend for itself in a pasture full of other horses to save board money. Just imagine when a horse that is higher in the pecking order figures out yours is on the weak side due to an injury will do. Pretty soon you have a horse that is further injured and perhaps will never be useable for anything.

Believe me, my injured horse is permanently separated from my other three because Horse #3 is one Big SOB of a Bully and will Seize The Moment if he can. He is 18 yrs old and 16.1H; he tried to tear into Horse #2 who is only 13.3H and coming 27 years, the other day. Well guess who got the snot smacked out of him? It was not the 26 yr old but you get my point.

You are new to horses so that is why I am trying to explain how all this works when an injured horse is turned out with a bunch of healthy horses 24/7; especially when it's 20.

If you have the option of other boarding facilities, I would look into something without an arena and that has a run-in shed or a separate run-in stall to where the horse can exercise 24/7 and go outside when it wants to.

In the end, I can pretty much see how this is going. Very sadly my closing comment would be to try and sell the horse to someone who is an experienced horseman, has their own land, and is willing to take his sweet self as a pasture pet and maybe an occasional hack down the tractor lane

I hope this doesn't come across as ugly - that's the trouble with keyboards -- no voice inflection. I am just trying to point out reality
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post #5 of 10 Old 12-18-2012, 11:17 AM
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Walkinthewalk made an excellent point about other horses being a possible issue with just turning him out for a while. I totally forget about that because my horse has absolutely no contact with other horses (they beat her up something awful)! haha
I found her two laid back goats and they are probably the best combo ever. Lacey gets her herd situation, the goats really like her, etc. And since she's the dominant one, there are really no fights over who's top-dog at my house. Everybody knows that Lacey is the one they need to be careful of.
The other really really nice thing is that the goats don't usually run around unless Lacey does first so there's rarely a "oh no! The herd is leaving and my leg hurts too much to run but I need to!!" situation.

Anyway, I'm inclined to agree with WTW. :/

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.
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post #6 of 10 Old 12-18-2012, 01:31 PM
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Reading all three of your posts about this mystery lameness makes me wonder about your vet, seriously. First it was navicular, then a drain canal was found, now it's a possible soft tissue injury. Add to that that this vet is the one who found nothing wrong at the PPE. To me that screams change vet. A second opinion is always good anyway. I, in your shoes, would also have a knowledgeable farrier or barefoot trimmer have a close look, favoring the trimmer. A balanced trim can make things better, for sure doesn't hurt, and is way cheaper than anything else. I dare to bet actually, that there is an abscess which hasn't finished it's course. I've seen horses with diagnosed bowed tendons recover miraculously when checked by a farrier, abscess found and drained, shod in that case, and returned to racing a couple of weeks later. Knowing the history of your horse from the first thread, I'd say this is highly likely.
Now, I do understand your frustration, and that you want your daughter to be able to ride, and I really don't want to sound harsh, but you're dealing with a living thing here, who can get sick, and can't be just thrown away when it doesn't function. If your daughter understands that she is well on her way to become a good horse person
So, give it a try with a second opinion, and keep us updated
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post #7 of 10 Old 12-18-2012, 01:33 PM Thread Starter
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The pasture situation I am considering would have him in a paddock by himself so other horses shouldn't be a problem. Right now I am just trying to decide whether we should try to rehab him or whether we need to find a retirement situation for him. Either way it has to be a safe situation.
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post #8 of 10 Old 12-20-2012, 07:17 AM Thread Starter
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Well the vet came out again yesterday and to make a long story short it looks like arthritisis in his right hock is what is causing the trouble. We did x-rays to confirm it. It makes more sense too. He was turned out 24/7 with a bossy gelding and since we bought him he has been stalled at night and in a paddock by himself so I am sure he is not moving as much making him much stiffer. We will be starting him on joint supplements and getting him as much turnout as possible along with regular exercise in hopes of helping him feel less "old".
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post #9 of 10 Old 12-20-2012, 08:34 AM
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You have an even bigger Vet problem than you have a horse problem.

Get a good 'leg Vet' that is recommended by Barrel racers or cutting horse trainers or reining horse trainers. They have found the ones that know their butt from a hot rock -- yours plainly doesn't.

The first thing YOU can do is go out to the barn early in the AM before anyone starts to feed. Halter your horse, tie him up in his stall (do not take him out) and go over every inch of all four legs and feet. Early in the morning before a horse starts moving around, all of his feet and legs should be cold to the touch. If there is a recent injury or an inflammation of any kind, you will be able to find it. You can find something like this better than $5000.00 worth of Vet diagnostics. IF you find a hot spot, then you can work on diagnosing that spot. Until you figure out where to even look, you are just throwing money at it and not solving it. [Save your money for fixing it.]

Then, you should start this horse on shots of Adequan or Legend, no matter what you find. These are very effective ways to extend an older horse's useful career. They are much more effective than oral Glucosamine supplements, but I know several owners of older horses that got them going on Legend or Adequan and then went to a supplement like Cosequin. I take it myself and probably could not get out of bed in the morning without it.

If it is arthritis, especially in a hock, turn-out and rest will do little. What will do more is a Hyaluronic Acid (HA) injection of his hock and then putting him on Legend. You also may not find any heat with arthritis, but flexion will indicate soreness in it.

No matter what you find, you need a different Vet, a leg Vet.

By the way, did this Vet do flexion tests on both of this horse's hind legs? These will sometimes give false positives (for pain) if a Vet really cranks them up on an older horse, but no horse with hock arthritis should pass those flexion tests. Has he done them now?

We have used many older horses well into their 20s with the kind of support listed. We have also recommended this routine to many owners of older performance horses and it extended their useful lives by several years.
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post #10 of 10 Old 12-20-2012, 09:20 AM
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I agree wholeheartedly with Cherie on this. Flex tests can give false " ideas" (try it on yourself!), and if he has arthritis, he should "warm out" of it, move better after a while when exercising.
Supplements work to a certain extend, my mare is on it and is better, but she is out 24/7, too.
With a senior horse it's a little bit of everything, proper hoof care, diet, living situation, supplements and medication, what keeps them performing comfortably.
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