Horse injuries are bound to happen. Providing the right care at the right time can make a huge difference in how quickly your horse heals and recovers. Using quality equine products to protect the injured site is also vital.
Fetlock injuries, wounds, and foot abscesses are all common horse injuries, but our focus here is on wound care, especially on the lower legs. Different types of wounds include:
- Abrasions: An injury to the upper layers of the skin, such as a minor scrape or burn.
- Lacerations: A cut or tear into the skin; lacerations can be either partial thickness (not all the through the layers of skin) or full thickness (through the skin and into the fat or connective tissue).
- Punctures: A wound with a small opening that penetrates deeply into the skin and underlying tissues.
- Avulsions: This is when the skin and/or deeper tissue is actually torn away; one way in which avulsions commonly occur is when a horse steps on his heel with a shod hind foot.
Restraining Your Horse
Depending on the type and severity of the injury, you may need to restrain or even sedate your horse to care for the wound.
Unless you’ve tended to an injury with the same horse in the past, don’t assume you’ll know how he will react to stress and pain. He may allow you to inspect and care for the wound without too much fuss, he may become very anxious, or he may resist violently.
Take precautions. Speak softly, approach the horse from the front, and get control of his head with a halter and lead rope before tending to the wound. It’s best to have a handler at the head of the horse while you’re caring for the wound. The handler can help calm and restrain the horse and alert you if the horse becomes agitated.
- Twitches are useful for shorter procedures; some experts believe twitches release endorphins and produce a calming, sedative-like effect.
- Hobbles prevent the horse from kicking during the procedure; they distribute weight on all four legs and are useful for longer procedures.
- Halter and lead restraints can help you gain control of a frightened or stubborn horse.
- Intravenous sedation is useful for painful procedures and for horses who resist physical restraint.
Your horse’s disposition, training, the extent of the injury, and what treatment is required will all determine which type of restraint you will need.
Be realistic about your ability. Restraining a horse can be extremely dangerous. If you’re not sure, call in help from an expert handler.
Caring for Wounds
Before you do anything else, you need to get bleeding under control. With the exception of puncture wounds, which tend to have a small entry point, most wounds will bleed considerably. If the wound “pumps,” this indicates a main artery may have been cut. Here’s how to treat a wound:
- Apply pressure with a piece of clean gauze for at least 5 minutes, and once the bleeding has stopped, gently clear the wound with a saline solution to remove contaminants. Use cold water for the saline solution, which restricts blood vessels and will help control inflammation.
- Don’t apply random ointments or clean the wound with strong agents like hydrogen peroxide, betadine, or chlorhexidine, which can damage tissues.
- Apply a bandage. If the wound is minor, monitor the wound for signs of infection and change the bandage regularly. If it’s more serious, call your vet.
- Administer anti-inflammatory medications, such as phenylbutazone, when suturing—if your vet advises it.
- Keep the wound bandaged during the repair stage. Don’t let it “air dry.” A wound needs oxygen to heal. By lowering the pH of underlying tissues, a bandage actually increases oxygenation.
- Closely monitor the wound, looking for signs of “proud flesh”—this is when the granulation tissue protrudes above the skin edges. This will slow healing or even make full healing impossible. Call your vet right away if you see signs of proud flesh.
Even after a wound appears completely healed, the underlying tissues are still undergoing a process of remodeling. This can take a year or more.
If your horse has sutures, only remove them when your vet gives you the go ahead. Make sure your horse has adequate stall rest in the days and weeks after injury.
Remove bandages gradually to prevent reflex swelling. This is when tissues that are used to being supported start to swell when suddenly unsupported. Start by removing the bandage for 2 to 3 hours a day and then rebandaging. For severe lower leg wounds, especially, continue supporting the area with performance boots or bandages during your horse’s workouts and travel.
There are many reasons wounds don’t heal, from infection to reduced blood supply. If your horse’s wound doesn’t seem to be healing or isn’t healing fast enough, call your vet.
Help Your Horse Recover and Stay Fit with Quality Equine Supplies
If your horse needs to be on stall rest or limited activity, Vitafloor vibration sessions are an ideal and safe way to promote blood circulation without exercise or impact, thus improving healing and shortening the recovery or healing time. It also prevents colic and helps keep muscles activated, preventing soreness and lowering the stress hormone, so helping to keep your horse relaxed. Horse exercisers are also a safer way of walking the horse, once hand walking is allowed.
Keeping horses healthy and performing well is our mission at Vitafloor USA. We’re a leading provider of top-of-the-line equine exercisers, horse vibration plates, saddle pads, and horse training equipment. Browse our online shop to see our complete line of quality products.