Symptoms: Affected area may be warm and tender to the touch, with swelling anywhere from the ankle to the knee. If you aren’t sure where the injury is, an ultrasound is recommended. The horse may attempt a resting posture while standing; stepping is heavy and painful.
Because of their poor blood supply, tendons and ligaments are especially vulnerable to heat damage. In fact, damage to the middle of the flexor tendons in their center/core is common and is believed to be caused by the buildup of heat in this area. Rapid cooling of the lower legs after exercise assists in rapidly eliminat-ing heat and turning off the chemical signals that can lead to inflammation.
If it feels hot to the touch, cool it. This covers all lameness problems where your hand can detect excessive heat. However, inflammation may be going on at deeper levels that you can’t feel.
Ice-water soaks are extremely effective. For fidgety horses, fill a kitchen-size trashcan (one that’s taller than the knee or hock). For hands-free cooling, put several stall cottons soaked with alcohol inside large plastic storage bags and keep them in the freezer. Keep a rolled, ready-to-go polo wrap also soaked with alcohol in the same bag. (Alcohol won’t freeze.) For a more skin-friendly alternative, keep several bottles of witch hazel in the refrigerator and drench the wraps immediately before using. The low level of ethyl alcohol in the witch hazel makes it evaporate and cool more efficiently.
Use of a turbolator boot will provide the desired temperature effects and massage the tissues.
Externally, the application of Arnica and Rhus liniments will be of benefit. Arnica Montana at onset, Ruta Graveolens to follow (6).
- Arnica 30C should be given as soon as possible after the injury is sustained. Dose: two doses 12 hours apart.
- Ruta Graveolens 30C for severe cases, with hemorrhage and consequent threat of periostitis (inflammation of the periosteum). Dose: three hourly for four doses.
- Rhus Toxicodren 1M for tendon inflammation generally. Pain eased by movement. Dose: night and morning for four days.
- Apis 6C for swelling (edemas), especially over fetlock area. Swellings are usually hot and puffy. Dose: two hourly for five doses.
- Silicea 200C for chronic cases. This remedy will help resorption of fibrous tissue. Dose: once daily for 10 days.
Soak the leg in an Arnica liniment prior to wrapping. A good arnica-based liniment (like the SORE NO-MORE® brand) can also be applied prior to exercise to warm up the tendons that are on the mend. Be especially careful when putting horses back into training after their healing time. It is this time that you want to be sure the tendons are cared for so they do not tear again.
POULTICES AND TOPICALS
Use a poultice when you notice any signs of heat. You want to cool the area, so you do not want to use a medicated poultice that will generate heat under bandages. Bowie clay is a great base poultice that will work well with an arnica liniment underneath it.
Essential oils enhance your horse’s warm-up and aid his recovery after exertion. They can prevent general aches and pains and inflammation of tendons. Mix cinnamon 5ml, coriander 10ml, nutmeg 10ml, rosemary 20ml, lavender 10ml, pine 10ml, pure terebinth 20ml, white birch 10ml, verbena 5ml, add to 200ml of oil of St. John's wort and apply to affected areas.
Compensation from a painful limb will manifest itself through the spine and create chiropractic problems. A licensed practitioner can evaluate the spine for any misalignments. The practitioner can also check for joint function in the knees, carpal bones, etc. to restore normal movement in those joints.
LASER AND LIGHT THERAPY
Treatments reduce inflammation, provide analgesia (through the stimulated production of endorphins and by increased nitric oxide production), reduce edema by increasing lymph vessel size, increase circulation, increase fibroblast activity (most common type of cell found in connective tissue, fibroblasts secrete collagen proteins that are used to maintain a structural framework for many tissues, thus encouraging production of good fiber alignment and tensile strength in the new tissue) and promote cellular healing.
Research shows that the greatest benefit is achieved from applying the light therapy or photonic therapy as soon as possible after the injury. This keeps the energy level up in the mitochondria of the cell and encourages all functions of the healing to work more efficiently which results in less formation of scar tissue.
Your injured horse should be scrutinized by a certified farrier. A balanced foot is necessary for tendon and ligament stability. Too much toe will get in the way of breakover. Restoring a natural balance to the horse will complement rehabilitative therapy.
Treatment area will include the meridians along the affected area as well those meridians indicated using the Five Element Theory based on a complete workup of the animal.
Iron Tendon (Thorne Research) strengthens the tendons.
Allen Schoen, DVM
Carlos Jimenez, DVM
Equine Light Therapy
Illustrated Atlas of Clinical Equine Anatomy and Common Disorders of the Horse, Volume One
MacKinnon Ice Horse
Respond Systems, Inc.
Tallgrass Animal Acupressure
Steve Teichman, Chief Partner, Chester County Farriers
The Treatment of Horses by Homeopathy, George Macleod MRCVS, DVSM, Vet FF Hom
Veterinary Aromatherapy, Nelly Grosjeyan
Holistic Horse magazine is your guide to natural horse health. www.holistichorse.com