20 Mar 2020

Elite Equine and Post-workout Leg Care: Part 2 – Looking for Trouble


There are a few ways in which you could take care of your horse’s legs after an extensive workout.  Our friends at EQUUS Magazine shares this insight:

“In last week’s post we focussed on learning your horse’s legs. Now that you know what normal is for your horse, you’re ready to tackle the most important part of post-workout leg care: The after-ride inspection.

Looking for trouble

After you’ve unsaddled your horse and walked him long enough for his respiratory rate to return to normal, inspect his legs. Follow the same routine as you did to learn the landmarks – running your hand over the structures and stopping to pinch, poke and feel when necessary. You’re looking for anything that you would consider abnormal for your horse – a change in texture, such as a thick spot on a tendon or soft swelling on a joint, or an unexpected temperature, such as a warm spot on a coronary band that wasn’t there before.

Check his digital pulses as well. Inflammation in the limb can cause the pulse to become stronger and “bounding.” It will actually be easier to feel than in a normal situation.

Keep in mind that, physiologically speaking, some of these changes are to be expected: A horse working in splint boots during the summer months is likely to have warmer legs. If his heart rate is still elevated from a workout, his digital pulses are going to be more prominent. Wait until he’s calm and cool to begin your assessment.

If you find something amiss in your post-ride inspection, watch your horse move at a walk and maybe a jog; if he limps or moves stiffly, you have cause to call the veterinarian now. I always want to hear from a client right away if her horse is lame after a ride. It’s always easier for a veterinarian to see an injury in the acute phase and craft a treatment plan from the get-go. The reality is, I often don’t get called for two or three weeks, when I’m less able to influence healing.

On the other hand, if you find an abnormality on your horse’s limbs and he seems sound, don’t shrug it off. Even small changes can be signs that a bigger problem is developing. Studies have shown that many injuries that seem “sudden” and acute are actually the end result of ongoing micro-traumas. Small stresses on a tendon or joint over many months aren’t given a chance to heal and accumulate until they reach an often tragically literal breaking point. Many times, the only clues that these small injuries are occurring are an area of fluid accumulation or heat that lingers after a ride.

If you find a suspicious area, wait an hour and check it again. If the anomaly is still there or has worsened, call your veterinarian. I will often tell a client in this situation to keep an eye on it for a day, but I like knowing what’s been going on if I am called later.

In the meantime, I might instruct a client to try a few things to help speed up the natural recovery process and check on the horse again in a few hours or the next morning.” [1]

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Photo by Laila Klinsmann from Pexels