Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bad to Worse ::PLEASE READ::

Yesterday was my day off and I went up to the barn in the afternoon, planning to ride Emmy, turn in and feed the horses, eat dinner myself and then ride Johnny after. This is my basic daily routine with them. I went out to the pasture, got Emmy and brought her in and put her in cross ties. She had rolled on one side, so I started on her muddy left side with the curry comb, just like always. I worked from her face, down to shoulder and front legs, across her back and down her left hind leg. I groom in a funny pattern...starting on one side I groom from top to bottom (head to hind leg) and then I will circle around to her other hind leg, groom that and then start back up at the other side of her head and work my way back down. I don't know why I do it...but that's how I've always done it.

Yesterday, I went down her left hind leg, scrubbed the mud off her heels with my mitt and then reached back up to the right hind

and froze.

Her entire leg, from her hock down was HUGE. I immediately dropped the mitt and started running my hands over it...there were no cuts, no scrapes, no sign of outward trauma to the leg itself (such as a kick or a cut) except for a small scrape on her OTHER hock which was fresh that day. The entire leg was completely swollen and filled in, but the most swelling is below her hock. There was heat there also. My heart sank as I straightened up and grabbed her lead rope "Emmy...what did you do?"

I walked her out of the barn and onto the pavement outside. She seemed to be walking fine. She was perky and happy. I asked a friend to trot her up the driveway for me. He took her to the end, turned her around and started jogging her. I held my breath.

Emmy trotted up the drive and past me, happy as a clam. No head bobbing, no limp, no off step. Nothing.

What? With so much swelling how could she not be lame?

I asked him to trot her again. Still nothing.

I won't lie, I was freaking out a bit. After dealing with her suspensory injury almost 4 years ago, the sight of what looked to be a similar injury with no outward cause was enough to make me almost call the vet right away (and I NEVER call the vet...) for an ultrasound.

I immediately put her on ice and continued to look for the cause.

My dad came up later to help me flex test her. Maybe a funny step as she stepped off, but other than that she was totally fine. She did not however, like me picking her foot up at first. We flex tested her twice with almost not result. After that, he held her while I cold hosed it. I poulticed it and wrapped it for the night. "It will be better tomorrow" I thought, "she must have just bumped it."

This morning I went up to the barn early before work and took the wraps off to find her leg completely unchanged. I put it on ice again while I got the horses breakfast ready, left a note for the barn owner to leave her in today, and wrapped it back up again.

Since I only work a half day on Sundays, I went back to the barn around 1:30 when I got home. Took the wraps off again to find still no change. Hand walked her for about 20 minutes on the trails. She was bright eyed and eager to go, occasionally prancing beside me and trying to trot off. After our walk I checked it again. Still no change. I cold hosed it again for 20 minutes and let her loose in the yard to eat grass while her leg dried. No change.

What could possibly be going on with her? She has no temperature, no digital pulse...other than the fact that it's a swollen balloon she seems totally fine, although she does pick it up when you first touch it, but then she sets it back down and doesn't mind. The swelling is firm and fills in her entire leg. My biggest fear is that she has injured a tendon or ligament (not all soft tissue injuries cause lameness) although a few friends have suggested different things. My one friend's horse had the same kind of mysterious swelling (also in the hind leg) and ended up blowing out an abscess 4 days later, but if it was an abscess, wouldn't there be a pounding digital pulse? Another friend suggested a bone bruise...I'm not really sure what to think! As of right now, we are going to play the "wait and see" game for a couple days, with the number 1 priority being to get the swelling out of her leg. I started her on 2 grams of bute, cold hosing and walking 3 times a day, and poulticing without wraps at night. My old trainer thought it would be better to leave them off so that they don't hold heat against her leg. I suppose if she's sound she doesn't need the wrap? I'm still concerned for a tendon/ligament injury, but my old trainer suggested that I don't jump to conclusions and take it one step at a time. I suppose she's right, because a vet wouldn't tell me to do anything other than what I'm doing and with the leg being so swollen, you wouldn't be able to get a good ultrasound anyway until the swelling went down.

Still, I'm very concerned.

Here is a photo that I took today on my phone...sorry there is still some poultice on that I hadn't curried/washed off yet. See how swollen the inside of the leg is below the hock? It's also filled in all the way around...totally stocked up. Does anyone have any ideas? It looks worse in 3D...

Please comment if you have an idea/suggestion... I'm kind of at a loss!



  1. Willie sometimes gets swelling like that when he gets an abscess, but when that happens he's also lame. Generally he doesn't have a digital pulse, and sometimes there's not even any heat from the foot.

    Make sure you look ALL the way up her leg, even around her udder/tail area, and double-check for ticks/bites, too.

    In my experience, swelling like that without lameness usually means an infection or reaction of some kind. It's also possible she just scraped herself, not enough to cause lameness or break skin, but to cause bruising and filling like that.

    I would have the vet out tomorrow if possible; better to pay the call fee and have them tell you what you already know, than to miss an opportunity for early treatment.

  2. Oh, poor Emmy! I am sure she will be fine, but I agree with NTAT. I would at least call the vet on the phone. Maybe he/she will agree that what you are doing is fine, but I am so cautious with my older mare. Might be worth the vet call now rather than later.

    Hugs to your mare!!

  3. Thanks guys. I've checked her all over and shaved her entire leg just to be sure...the doesn't appear to have any scrapes, cuts or bites. I've also been watching her temperature closely and her digital pulse because infection was one of the first things I thought too. So far everything seems normal. I figured I would give her until Tuesday and then call the vet if there is no change. So far she hasn't made any progress today, but it also doesn't seem to bother her at all unless I poke at it (for example, when I was clipping it) and then she doesn't want you to touch it. I appreciate the input...please keep the thoughts coming if you have any more ideas/suggestions and thank you for the well wishes!

  4. No suggestions as everything I would think has been mentioned. But lots of Jingles that she gets better soon!

    My mare isn't a STB but when I first started riding her the canter was certainly not her strongest gait. At the end of the regular show season, for which I showed her three or four times over fences, I used about four months to go back to basics with trot work. Just totally forgot about cantering and worked hard to strengthen and balance her up with the trot. It made the canter so much better when we added it back into the routine, she was able to engage her hind end more effectively and maintain the balance throughout rather than getting flat and rushy. I think it was a recent Jimmy Wofford article in PH where he said trot for balance, canter for stamina.

  5. I read that article...good thoughts! I've been going back through my PH's and finding good articles. I took my gelding over to the neighbors arena yesterday and worked him on real footing...he was about a gagillion times better. Of course it rained again today so no more riding for a bit....ugh sprrrinngggg.

    Thanks for the comment!

  6. Have you made any changes to her feed? Thoroughbred legs blow up a lot when feed is too rich, hay is too fresh, etc...