I just moved to a new area, and one of my horses appears to have sprained a fetlock in his pasture.
Symptoms: Slight swelling, slight heat in the joint, when picked up will not flex all the way, places only the toe on the ground. He has been standing in one place, not particularly into the idea of moving around. With his foot on the ground, I rubbed my hands from the knee all the way down applying firm pressure and it is not painful to the touch. He can put weight on it but is pretty lame.
It happened sometime yesterday, before that he was fine.
I would LOVE to call the vet, but I have spent the last 4 months unemployed and literally have no open lines of credit. I literally just got 2 jobs last month and I'm working 7 days a week / roughly 55 hours and commute an hour each way. I need to treat this on my own till Friday when I get paid and can get x-rays done.
So I will soak it this evening in cold water with epsom salt and some essential oils like peppermint to increase circulation and geranium to promote healing. I have no smaller place to put him and no way to get anti-inflammatories until tomorrow. I would like to know what else I can do in the mean time, thanks.
The two most important things are ice/cold hosing and limiting movement. Since you can't put him in a smaller place, you've done all you can. Good luck.
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I am giving you a really long response, dunno if it will be helpful, but it is my story right now with a horse with an injured leg. Unless this is something like a hoof abcess or a broken bone, the treatment for horse leg injuries are pretty similar, at least initially. I have mare with a torn suspensory that occured back in October. We are just now starting to ride her very lightly at a walk, and because her injury was hind end, she cannot do tight turns, small circles, hindquarter disengagement or anything. But eventually with some leg injuries, movement is critical to healing, I will get to that below. I am just going to tell you the story of how my mare is being treated for a specific leg injury just to give you some ideas and reasoning behind them. Without a Vet eval at least though, it will be hard to know exactly what would be best for your particular horse.
When a horse is first injured, you want to decrease the inflammation, so the cold hosing, if you can do it twice daily would be ideal. 10-15 minutes is my vet's recommendation. If the joint is swollen, after you hose it, you would want to use a supportive wrap to help decrease the swelling. When my mare was swollen, I used cut up matress covers and wrapped them around from coronary band to just below her hock (I cut them to fit that distance). I secured it with vetwrap. According to my vet, if you have a thick enough padding under the pressure wrap, it is nearly impossible to wrap them too tightly. The matress pads are economical (the vet wrap is not), because you can just wash and reuse them. Also to help inflammation, you would usually give bute twice daily for at least a week or two. We ran into trouble with my mare on bute. She would feel so good on it she was bouncing around like an idiot, and the vet was afriad she would make her injury worse, so we had to stop it after the first couple of days, but most people use it initailly for the inflammation. If you can get a vet to sell you some, or have a friend that has some, I would give it a shot. Do not be fooled if he quickly feels better, do not forget, it is the bute, he has probably not healed overnight.
Especially if the horse is lame, you need to restrict his ability to move initially. A large stall or square pen is needed. In the early stages of the injury, as I mentioned above they can delay healing or make the injury worse with too much activity.
I let my horse's swelling and level of comfort, along with my vet's guidance help gague how much excercise I gave her. When she was first injured, she was three legged lame, and I did not walk her at all. Once she felt better, that was within a few days, off the bute too I might add, we began hand walking. I could only visit my mare once daily, so I progressed from five to ten to fifteen minutes etc. Until we worked our way up to thirty minute walks. I think by the time we were at thirty minute walks we were about a month into healing.
My horse required restricted turnout, handwalking, and wrapping for at least 2 1/2 months. Then I gradually started leaving the leg unwrapped for short periods to see if the swelling could stay down. Once she did not have to be wrapped anymore, at about three months, we started to give her turnout in a flat area. My BO would take her out of her stall in the morning and put her in a square pen, because that is when she is the silliest, first thing in the morning, and then after she had gotten her dancing and prancing out of the way in the smaller area, we would put her in the large turnout for the rest of the day. She did pretty good at self excercising, just ambling around the turnout on her own.
This is where it kind of gets injury specific in the healing process. If a horse has an injured ligament or tendon, movement is critical for the new tissue being laid down to move properly. In other words, if the horse is standing still all the time, the tissue will develop in that pattern, while if the horse is moving as healing occurs, the new tissue will allow for movement. Tendon and ligament tissue takes a *long* time to lay down and adhere, and they are never as strong as they were before the injury. It can take as long as a year or even longer for them to really be riding sound. Hopefully your horse does not have this type of injury. But again, this is just my story and my point of reference.
At this point, we are on month 6 of healing. My mare is sound at the walk and back up (that was *really* painful for a long time). She has no swelling. She is not sound at the trot. I only trot her out very occasionally, and she has gone from completely dropping the affected hip side, to just a slight shortening of the stride. It is great to see her make progress, but it is hard to be patient and worry, and not know what her eventual level of healing will be.
So she is back on her regular turnout. If she gets rowdy in the morning, we just let her, and pray that it doesn't slow the healing process too much. She is now being ridden a couple of times a week by my trainer while she gives other people lessons. That way she walks a little, stands a little, walks a little etc. My trainer is one of my best friends also, so she is just doing it as a favor to me, though she said she enjoys having something to sit on and not getting sand kicked in her face while she is giving lessons :D I am limited right now in my activity with my horse because I am not sound :shock: I was diagnosed with small tumors in my foot and cannot walk well right now, am going to have surgery next month, so I am relying heavily on my friends and BO to help with my mare's recovery right now, though for those first three months I was there every day, rain or shine. Thank goodness my foot was not this bad when she was first injured, she really needed me.
The bottom line that I have always kept in mind is this statistic that I read from one of the major vet schools in the US. Of horses that sustain injury to their legs, *if* they are able to heal to be riding sound, 80% will do it with rest, controlled excercise, and time. The other 20% could be healed through surgery. Given those stats and my budget, I have to hope we are in the 80%. And it also goes to show you, if your horse is able to heal, you really need more patience and a good plan, than money.
Everyone, I am so sorry I made that post so long. I did not read the OP completely and thought that they were completely unable to have a vet out for a while. I would have just posted maybe the first part about initial inflammation otherwise. Duh! :oops: So sorry everyone. I am sure nobody wants to read my exhaustive experience with my injured horse. :-)
Thanks for the responses, you both have said pretty much what I thought was the right thing to do. I have sprained (and torn) ligaments in my ankle before and it seems like almost an identical healing process which makes sense. I am fairly certain at this point that it is a sprain, because even without soaking or medication it was significantly better by this evening when I got home. I really wanted to use an water/icing boot because the hose requires him to walk down the driveway, but I can't find one and trying to use a bucket completely freaked him out. I'm not planning on buting him, but instead using MSM, asprin, soaking salts, and linolin to get the swelling out. I have long polos so I'm considering putting those on or buying piillow wraps and then vet wrap on top to add more pressure and keep the swelling out of the foot. I don't have a smaller place to put him unfortunately, he's just going to have to gimp around his pen until he gets better. Luckily he is a very thin and lankey arab, so he doesn't weigh that much which should help. The swelling and heat in the joint is also very minimal, it is only noticeable if you get really close and temperature difference is about 3 degrees, so I'm thinking he should be OK.. but I'm watching him like a hawk.
I would go the padding/vet wrap route because polo wraps generally do not have enough compression to really help the edema reabsorb.
As a nurse our acronym for swelling reduction is RICE. Rest Ice Compression Elevation. In horses you can only do three obviously, would be nice if we could elevate injured legs wouldn't it? IME the soaking salts and anything applied externally does not help much unless the horse has an abcess in the hoof. Then the magnesium in epson salts, or the elements in some pre prepared poultices can cause some osmotic shift helping to draw out the abcess drainage.
I am a diabetic and I use epsom salt for the endemic swelling in my feet and legs almost every day with peppermint oil and it works amazingly well. I know that most people use epsom salt on horses for abcesses, but for any time of swelling it will pull it right out in one soak.
So my gelding is totally sound at the walk and ever so slightly off at the trot occasionally, still not going to ride him for a few weeks to let any broken fibers or irritated tissue heal completely. But there is no swelling or heat so he's definitely getting better. :)
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