This month's veterinary tip is about recovery from joint injury
We talked to veterinarian Fredric Spång who, together with Madeleine Karlsson, runs the family business Farm veterinarians outside Slöinge in Halland. The farm veterinarians have a fine small animal clinic and a well-equipped ambulatory veterinary service for horses. Fredric advises us on what to think when we put the horse back on the road after a joint injury. A well thought out and balanced restart pays off and minimises the risk of the inflammation flaring up again. If possible, reinforce the recovery with a cure Conquest for optimal conditions for long-term Healthy Leads.
A good rule of thumb - Let the reconstruction take 3 x the time of illness
It's important to take your time with rehabilitation to avoid unpleasant setbacks. A good and simple rule of thumb is to calculate the rehabilitation time as 3 times the duration of the illness, says Fredric. If your horse has been lame and off for 1 week, you should allow at least 3 weeks to rebuild to normal. If the horse has been lame and off the horse for 1 month, you should plan for rehabilitation and escalation over 3 months.
Walk at a reasonable pace without bending tracks
How long the escalation should be depends on how long the horse has been lame, but the start is still the same. Start with step, at a moderate pace without riding on curved tracks, for about 2 weeks. Repeat 3 to 4 times a week and ride for a maximum of 25 minutes each time. Then increase to trot and eventually canter spread over the rehab period. Most tissues in the body heal fastest and best with "moderate" exercise. Adapt the walking exercise to what suits your horse best. For example, it could be mounted, reined, walking machine or in front of a cart.
Cold or heat?
Cooling is important in the acute stage, i.e. when the injury has just occurred. This is to prevent bleeding and inflammation. Heat, on the other hand, is useful when the injury has "set" and needs to heal. It is a good idea to wrap the injured leg, especially in the acute stage. Note that it is important that the wrapping is done correctly to reduce the risk of secondary disease.
The horse does not understand its own best
Keep in mind that your horse has a much stronger urge to move than to protect its injured body part! It may be a bad idea to let it out into a large paddock where it can run around and make tear starts or cross brake. This can be extremely devastating to the injured joint! Although it may feel sad, it is in the horse's own best interest to confine it to a smaller convalescent paddock. Often you will also need to cut down on energy-producing concentrates during the period of illness.
Good luck with your rehab work!