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Discussion Starter #1
Please bear with me and read my essay. I'm really worried, this is a little over my head. =|

So two or three weeks ago, [around the 9th?] I pulled Ricci out for a ride and I noticed her leg was swollen. It's her front left and along her tendon. You know when you run your hands down the back of a horse's leg to pick up feet, and there's that little groove in between the tendon and the bone? It's squishy on the inside of her leg, right in that groove. When it first came up, it was something I saw before I felt. It was swollen around her fetlock too, noticeable enough for someone who sees a horse twice a day every day, probably not noticeable to anyone but me. There wasn't any heat or tenderness.

Overly-concerned horse owner that I am, I took her out on the lawn and walked around and didn't see anything off. I trotted her around me, made sure she was really forward and nothing. She cantered just fine too, both directions. So I tacked her up and went on my ride, figuring it had stocked up from hanging around in the shelter all night.

The ride went fine, the swelling had gone down a little. The next few days it stayed the same. I kept doing a little bit of lunging to get her moving and see how she was, and it always seemed to improve after a little bit of work. It also improved when I would rub and massage it.

It's been a while, and it's still there. Her fetlock isn't swollen, it's just squishy in that little groove. She still seems pretty sound, although I've noticed she is a tad bit off, and I'm either seeing it because I know her so well or I'm imagining it because I'm really worried. Either way, it's only a little tiny bit off.

I've ridden her once or twice since then, and had two vets out. The first did teeth, and after Ricci was finished, I remembered about her leg, but when he looked it wasn't swollen at all. He felt it and said her tendons felt fine. He said it was odd for it to be gone, but he didn't think it was something too bad seeing as it did go away. I mean 100% gone. We were working in the front yard before he got there so he knew which house it was.

The second vet came out two days later [on the 18th] for Ricci's chiro. I talked to her about it. She saw Ricci move at a brisk trot to see how she moved, and she didn't think she was lame. She also felt it. This vet said that if it goes away or goes down, it's usually a circulatory problem, like when stalled horses get puffy pasterns, which was my original diagnosis.

Now, on the 26th, it's still squishy in the same spot, and it's been the same for a few days. Granted, I haven't had time to work her, but still. I did do some free-lunging this afternoon and she was galloping like mad and bucking and hopping and rearing with Gracie, so she's feeling good. Maybe it will feel better when I feed dinner tonight, but in the meantime, I really am worried. There are tons of terrifying things that can go wrong with the tendon, and since it's so close to the tendon, I'm about hyperventilating-panicking. Please please PLEASE tell me what you think!?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Pictures wouldn't show anything, it's only slightly squishy now, and she's got lots of fur on her legs... or did you want them to see what area it is I'm talking about?
 

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Pictures wouldn't show anything, it's only slightly squishy now, and she's got lots of fur on her legs... or did you want them to see what area it is I'm talking about?
I want to see her body, her forelimb conformation, her feet, and the area that you are talking about.

There's a few possible things it can be, but since I can't be there to see it firsthand and palpate it, you gotta help us out and give us something more to go on.

If that's just not possible, then this is my best advice. Stop working her, turn her out and leave her off for the period of time she had the swelling. So, if it's been swelling off and on for two weeks and now it's gone, then she needs two additional weeks off without any swelling. If it takes four weeks for the swelling to go away, then you give her an additional four weeks off after that for a total of eight weeks.

Doing that will ENSURE that the soft tissue injury is healed regardless of what it was. Because even though you can't see outward inflammation, there will be internal cellular inflammation.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm not sure what kind of pictures are best, but I took these yesterday. The affected leg is the right one. Do you see that little brown spot on the inside of her right leg? It's right along there, running down in front of the tendon.



You can kind of see the swelling in this one. Kind of, lol.



This is the most recent full-body shot I have of her, taken on Tuesday or Wednesday.



And the best conformation shot from last summer.

 

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If this has continued and continues, then schedule a specific lameness exam with your vet. Often-times if you don't set the appointment about a specific problem the vet will assume it's not your top priority and don't go too in-depth unless you really stress that you want to find an answer. Or because it's something really mild and has only been there a few days they don't get too excited until the problem doesn't resolve or gets worse.

An ultrasound exam will likely be recommended since it's not resolved so that the vet can determine if there is damage to the tendon that requires special rest and rehab.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Ok... but what do you think it could be? There's lots of scary words they throw in with tendon injuries, but as I said, this is over my head, and I really don't KNOW any of it. I know there's lots of things it could be, and that without being there you really can't know, but if I know the possibilities, I can look it up and talk to the vet and really figure out what's going on.

Anyone else?? Please?!

Edit: Thanks Ryle. I brought it up at their floating appointment because he was out there. At that point, it had only been a few days. And I brought it up again at my chiro appointment because she was out there. I'm too poor to call a vet out any time she comes up limping, but it's usually an abcess or being sore from a long, hard ride so it's things I can handle. This is different though. I am supposed to have a follow-up appointment with her chiropractor in another week or two, and I'm going to base the exam on her leg and then do chiro if I can afford it. The chiro she can do without, it's not top priority.

At this point, would you suggest cold-hosing, aspirin, bute, anything?
 

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At this point, I would say to cold hose and rest her. If you stall her, note if the swelling increases or decreases. Note if the swelling increases or decreases when she is out moving around.

Is the chiro a licensed vet? If not, you need to get one out and it would be a good idea to have one that has a special interest in lameness.

Here is a handy reference website: William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
 

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Yeah, I hear you on the "tendon" danger word thing. It sure is an area that sparks fear in both the owner and the wallet. The only thing I can add is that, regardless of what it is, I wouldn't want any prolonged swelling in that area, since it can only serve to stress or even stretch out a nearby tendon or ligament. Until it's gone completely, or it's otherwised diagonsed, either cold hose or ice wrap it twice a day. Also, since she's not showing any lameness, I would continue to at least walk her as much as possible. Definitely don't stick her in a stall or tiny pen. Movement and circulation are your friends.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Yes, the chiropractor is a licensed vet at one of the best animal hospitals in my area. I'll base the appointment on her leg, and then if that doesn't cost a fortune, I'll get her adjusted too.

And an update: I went out this morning and lunged her a touch, I'm really trying to see what helps and what makes it better. I took a few short videos too, but I don't have time to upload them now. The swelling had gone down a touch after some lunging, and then I cold-hosed her leg for 10 minutes, stopped and gave her a little bit of grain with some Equispirin. It took her 10 minutes to eat that, and then I cold-hosed for another 10. This evening, the swelling had gone way down, almost non-existant. I didn't think to cold-hose again tonight, but I did give her some more Equispirin. I don't like to give medication unless really necessary, so I'll probably stop and just cold-hose and see if that helps. She is outside 24/7 but she is with my little one and I can't keep them separated if my little one inspires Ricci to play.
 

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I agree with cold-hosing if it's warm and soft tissue. Handwalking only. No lunge work. Circles can be hard on tendons. Free turn-out is best. Though you may want to restrict her a little bit if she gets frisky with other horses and risks further injury. So a smaller paddock away from horses that get her excited. In my experience, stall rest only increases swelling and heat, also increases general stocking up. Plus the horse gets cabin fever -- bored, fidgety.

Allow LOTS of time for full recovery. When you think you've let it go long enough, you haven't. Wait another week or two depending...

When you ride, start slow. Just walking for 2 weeks; then add 5 minutes of trotting for a week; then 15 minutes, and so on. You get the idea. 'Course I may be exaggerating the time needed, but I have no way to compare her injury to what my horse had.

I took in a horse with severly bowed tendons and she is now fine. We all had doubts that she would make it, but with the above recipe, we did OK.

Good luck.
 

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Actually free turn out is NOT best for soft tissue injuries. Tendons do not heal well without serious restriction of motion because each step pulls on the already damaged areas and prevents them from being able to heal well.

"Your initial goal is to reduce inflammation. Support bandages, twice daily cold water hosing or ice will help to reduce heat and swelling. Anti-inflammatories should be given under the direction of your veterinarian. Your horse should be confined to a stall until ultrasound confirms the presence of an injury. "--UC Davis website on tendon and ligament injuries in horses
 

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Actually free turn out is NOT best for soft tissue injuries. Tendons do not heal well without serious restriction of motion because each step pulls on the already damaged areas and prevents them from being able to heal well.

"Your initial goal is to reduce inflammation. Support bandages, twice daily cold water hosing or ice will help to reduce heat and swelling. Anti-inflammatories should be given under the direction of your veterinarian. Your horse should be confined to a stall until ultrasound confirms the presence of an injury. "--UC Davis website on tendon and ligament injuries in horses
Thank you!
 

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Actually free turn out is NOT best for soft tissue injuries. Tendons do not heal well without serious restriction of motion because each step pulls on the already damaged areas and prevents them from being able to heal well.

"Your initial goal is to reduce inflammation. Support bandages, twice daily cold water hosing or ice will help to reduce heat and swelling. Anti-inflammatories should be given under the direction of your veterinarian. Your horse should be confined to a stall until ultrasound confirms the presence of an injury. "--UC Davis website on tendon and ligament injuries in horses
I've rehabbed many horses with soft tissue injuries and turn out works beautifully. No drugs so the horse won't over do it. No buddies to chase them around. Paddock size should be such that the horse can move around, but not run. The ability to move keeps them from going stir crazy and ultimately injuring themselves further. The abliity to move allows for circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid to continue, which will promote healing.

Cold water hosing is useless unless you plan on being there for hours on end, 10mins on, 10mins off, for hours and hours. If you need to control the initial acute stage of inflammation, then you inject an anti-inflammatory.

You can't wrap a bandage tight enough to give any significant support.

Only when you've had tendon splicing done, are dealing with a suspensory injury, or something along those lines is stall confinement a good choice. And even then, a double stall or small paddock works better once the initial acute stage is over.

Horses are designed to heal in movement, and it's only the most severe cases where stall confinement for extended periods of time is the best choice.

I do agree ultrasound is a good choice to determine extent of injury if you don't have the experience.

Considering the OP is out riding this horse every day, and the swelling is not getting worse, nor is the horse getting lamer...I don't see that the UC Davis 'wrap them in bubblewrap and put them in a padded stall' actually applies.

Now, had the horse torn a suspensory ligament, or sliced a tendon in half...then we'll talk about it.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Ok, now I'm just mostly confused. o_O

Firstly, to Mercedes. No, I am not riding every day. I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear enough. I have ridden her four times since this came up three weeks ago, and all the other "work" was a minute or two of lunging just to see how she is moving and if she's tender at all.

In the beginning, the swelling went down when she was put into a bit of work. When I mentioned this to the second vet [the chiropractor], she said it was probably circulatory, but that if it didn't go away it's something that needs to be looked at. The first vet checked her on a day she wasn't swollen at all, but her felt her legs and said her tendons felt fine.

To top off the oddness of the situation, she is not, nor was she ever, lame. There is not, nor was there ever, heat. It was just swollen.

I have come to the realization that working is no longer helpful. Whether it's harmful or not is anyone's guess. I put her on aspirin and cold-hosed and the swelling has gone down immensely. Today is her first day without aspirin but I will still cold-hose. Tomorrow, I will know if the aspirin is making a difference, or if cold-hosing alone is enough.

As far as her living situation, I can stall her if I have to, but I don't want to unless I REALLY have to. I'm not big on keeping horses in stalls, and she typically comes inside at night over the bad parts of winter, but she spends most of her time outside, and she's happier that way. Not to mention, her pasterns all swell when she is stalled [because she isn't moving]. The only way to separate my two girls is to stall one or the other, but as I said, I'd rather not.

I'll definitely be looking into getting the ultrasound done, but in the meantime, what on earth am I supposed to do with her?!? I'm not sure who's advice to be following here. So far, I'm on Mercedes side because I can follow the logic. If I don't know the how's and why's of a treatment, I'm not about to just give it a whirl. Furthermore, she's been out 24/7 with my little one the whole three weeks, and nothing has gotten worse.
 

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Yes, I understand your confusion, which mostly just stems from not knowing exactly what's wrong. Once you arm yourself with the information, then deciding what to do becomes immensely easier. I don't think an ultrasound is warranted for this, but talk to your vet, and if it'll ease your mind, then go for it.

I've seen just about every kind of injury a horse can get. Unless it's spurting blood, a bone is sticking out, the horse refuses to bear any weight, the horse is shockie et al...I'm just not getting excited.

I've tried every kind of approach to injury rehab, I've worked with equine specialists and other healthcare professionals, and have studied extensively (even own a couple of books written by UC Davis), and therefore do not come to my conclusions blindly.

There are few injuries to horses that require or benefit from the horse being locked up in a stall.
 
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