Preventive Leg Care

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At one point or another, any horse can experience leg swelling, stiffness or pain and need a little TLC.

Of course, if you aren?t 100% certain what you're dealing with when you see swelling in your horse's leg, you must get a veterinary diagnosis. The longer you put off proper treatment of an injury, the more difficult it will be to bring the horse back to full health.

Preventive measures after a hard work are always a good idea, especially after a hard work, such as jumping, upper-level dressage or even an unusually long trail ride. Your choices of therapy are either warm or cold.

COLD-THERAPY. For preventive treatment and/or for any injury that's inflamed (it feels warm), you want to choose a therapy that cools the area and draws the heat out. Your choices are cold-water hosing and ice packs.

Both are excellent choices for acute, sudden-onset injuries. Hosing, however, is time-consuming and wastes an awful lot of water. Facilities with wells will frown on a lot of hosing mid-summer, especially during a dry year.

Instead, we keep plenty of ice packs ready to go in our freezer (they really need to have been frozen for at least 12 to 24 hours before use).

There are many excellent ready-made ?ice bandages? for virtually any area of the horse. Most brands will give you a solid hour of cooling, but we find the MacKinnon Ice Horse (www.icehorse.net, 800-786-6633) wrap leads the pack of choices.

POULTICES. Do you like to do a poultice' So do we. they're a lot of work and messy (like a child playing in mud), but they're fun to do, effective and long-lasting. Their biggest advantage is that they continue working up to 24 hours?if they're wet, they're working. If you're looking for an all-around general product for stings, irritations, after-work poulticing or drawing out general swelling, we like Sore No-More (www.equilite.com, 866-791-3344). it's mildly medicated and works well.

WARM-THERAPY. If you're dealing with a chronic injury, meaning one like ongoing mild arthritis, getting some warmth to the area can be soothing and healing.

Neoprene wraps will get the job done, and they're especially helpful for old-horse knees and hocks, which tend to be highly arthritic areas for all aging horses. they're also relatively inexpensive.

However, never leave them in place for more than 12 hours without removing them and allowing the area to breathe, otherwise your horse is likely to get irritated skin.

A sweat wrap with a good liniment can help take down old swellings in legs. The best choices for a liniment are Sore No-More liniment (the solution labeled ?The Sauce? is thicker and easier to work with than the original liquid) and, from WF Young (www.absorbine.com, 800-628-9653), old standbys Original Absorbine and Bigeloil.

Quick, easy preventive measures include doing a basic leg brace after any exercise (briskly rubbing the liniment into the tendon/ligament area) and/or pour liniment into your after-work rinse water to help remove sweat and relieve some muscle soreness. (We go through a lot of liniment over the summer months.)

Remember that truly inflamed areas are always more sensitive, and they will blister or scurf (produce a dandruff-like skin blister) more easily when you use liniment. If you see signs of scurf, definitely back off of the liniment. All liniments can be diluted with witch hazel.

?Article by Contributing Farrier Editor Lee Foley.