August 2015 - Ice Horse
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 04 August 2015 21:26
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Cold therapy can accelerate healing.

Unfortunately, leg injuries happen to the best of horses, often at the most in-opportune times. Back yard horses can can turn a leg in the field,  show horses can stumble during competition, pleasure horses can trip on the trail. In many instances the use of cold therapy is the first step to help ensure the horse is quickly on the road to recovery.

Equine sports medicine encompasses a wide variety of modalities and is rapidly becoming an important part of the equine world, not only for elite sport horses, but also for the average horse in training. As with most  therapeutic treatments, there is no silver bullet. Recovery requires the care giver to be diligent about following protocols prescribed by veterinarians and a commitment to seeing  the healing process through to the end.

In a recent case, an 8 year old, Dutch Warmblood show jumper presented with acute right forelimb lameness after completing a jump-off. The owner immediately called the horse show veterinarian for diagnosis. The lameness exam and an ultrasonographic evaluation revealed a lesion in the right front superficial digital flexor tendon. The owner wanted the horse to return to competition and was told to expect a 6-9 month recovery period.

The first steps toward recovery and rehabilitation included  systemic and local anti-inflammatory therapy. Ice wraps were used to reduce the heat and swelling at the site. The cold was applied for 40 minutes, 3-4  times per day, applied for the first ten days. Phenylbutazone therapy for five days after injury was also  indicated and the veterinarian prescribed DMSO to be applied topically for 10 days. The goal with these different modalities was to reduce inflammation, maintain blood flow, and decrease the formation of scar tissue within the tendon.

Stall rest with walking was recommended for two months. After two months, the tendon was ultrasounded again. The core lesion had diminished and controlled exercise was prescribed. Icing post exercise was recommended to reduce any heat or swelling which might occur during the light work. The horse was wrapped in standing bandages for additional support while resting in the stall. This protocol allowed the tendon to become stronger without fear of the horse over using the tendon which could happen during turn-out. At the end of this period the tendon was again ultrasounded and the owner was allowed to begin slowly bringing the horse back to full work over the next 3-4 months.

Luckily, this horse had an owner who took the rehabilitation process seriously and as a result the  horse is once again competing in the jumper ring.


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