View Full Version : Thoughts on purchasing an OTTB with leg scars from blistering

TPF Hunter
May. 18, 2010, 12:16 PM
I currently have a horse on trial that came off the race track a few years ago. He only raced twice and lost so his career was short. My biggest concern is that he has some scars on his ankles from where they blistered him with DMSO. I have heard of this being done on the track to tighten up tendons, and increase blood flow to that area, but thats where my education stops on this topic. Could his career have been so short due to an injury they would have blistered him for? Or is it used as a preventative and he may of never had an issue at all. Anyone else purchased an OTTB with scars like these and had tendon issues down the road or not had problems at all? Thanks!:D

May. 18, 2010, 12:27 PM
Sometimes these scars are from greenhorns accidentally blistering the horse. I would never use DMSO as a blistering agent, and would certainly not put it under bandages, but it might have been done. Perhaps you can post a picture of the scars, you are not speaking of the horse being pinfired are you?

May. 18, 2010, 01:02 PM
"Perhaps you can post a picture of the scars, you are not speaking of the horse being pinfired are you"

Right- as Calamber said... Can you post a photo? Sounds odd...I have one off the track that was pinfired and has horrible scars from that.

May. 18, 2010, 01:25 PM
yeah, I've been around since the days where just about every horse was routinely blistered, water blistered, freeze fired, pin fired and in the case of ether and water blisters, most horses had it done more than once. Both my former hunter and my just retired one oth had multiple blisters. That's just how it was back then. And the one thing I have NEVER seen is "scarring" from blistering. Plain dots from pin fires and fairly neat looking larger circles from freeze firing, yes, but scarring from other blistering? Nope. And "blistering" from DMSO? That's a new one. Lots of DMSO going on lots of legs and usually no skn reaction to just a bit of skin scurf in a very few individuals.

Maybe this horse just had a reaction to a substance put on his leg? That can happen without having the intention to blister. Or it's possible after the blister scurf started to come off maybe their was an underlying infection in the new skin. I've never seen it happen, but there is a first time for anything and I guess if you had a trainer/groom who didn't know how to properly sweat off the scurf, there could be a problem.

May. 18, 2010, 01:36 PM
Methinks if this one got blistered with DMSO? It was an accident or allergic reaction. I checked with a friend at the track and he agreed it simply is not used for that because it won't blister most horses, just about worthless for that purpose.

He also mentioned they don't blister around the ankles, not enough soft tissue there to benefit from any tightening. And you CAN'T the wrap the ankle area tight enough to cause excessive heat because it's a joint. Betcha something else happened there and the story was just passed along. Blistering and firing are done on the cannon, not the ankle as well.

Check for any underlying signs of injury or conformational weakness. But, if you have him on trial, he is doing what you want? It should be fine, lots of very sound horses have been blistered of fired and they bear the scars but no other after effect.

But beware of he is not in regular work and has not been in regular work. The DMSO story is a little fishy and the scars could be signs of real injury.

May. 18, 2010, 01:40 PM
I had a mare that was pinfired. Not one lame step the entire time I owned her (about 3 years). My other two OTTBs? One had very clean legs and was the least sound creature I've ever owned in multiple ways. My current OTTB has pretty clean legs (one old slightly bucked shin) and his tendons/ligaments feel tight as can be. He is currently recovering from a suspensory injury and has been for nearly a year.

Bottom line. I don't think things like blistering and pinfiring are much of an indicator of future soundness. Much as I don't think clean/tight legs are much of an indicator of future soundness.

If you are concerned about it, you could have the vet do an ultrasound. Very pricey for a prepurchase exam, but may be worth it if you are very concerned. After all, if there ends up being a problem, you may well end up paying for a lot of ultrasounds in the future!

May. 18, 2010, 01:48 PM
But, the issue here, if I read this right, is the scarring is around the ankle not the cannon and DMSO is not a blistering agent, does not even produce heat.

Fishy as the story is, if he is currently working sound, he probably is fine. But I'd take an extra long look at those scars and see what really happened there. if they are just surface scars? NBD.

May. 18, 2010, 10:00 PM
DMSO can certainly produce heat but it will not blister. There are plenty of steroid paints that will blister just fine, ankles can be blistered, the theory being that it will increase circulation and draw the swelling out and tighten the ankles. I have seen horses blistered from their knees down with awful swelling all up and down. But no, pin firing is not going to cause the unsoundnesses, the unsoundness would have already existed, all it does is to cause an increase of bloodflow. I think blistering has it's place, I do not think that pinfiring is of any use and just as much could be gained by time off or turnout, but that is not what you want to know. I have seen horses who have been sweated and wrapped so repeatedly that their hair permantly swirls and might look like scars I guess.

You will have to either show pictures or describe the scars, are they hairless ridges, signs of old skin injuries or what?

May. 19, 2010, 12:45 AM
DMSO can sure as hell blister and burn a horse with or without plastic.

For the record you can blister a horse with water. If the legs are wet and some green horns both in show barns and in track barns will wrap the too wet or wrap them wet with furizone and plastic (although you do not even need the furizone) and you will blister a horse.

You can safely use DMSO on some horses but other not so much. Hell I have seen horses blister with PVC plastic boots and those alcohol gels (although again I suspect wet legs with the gel slapped over it)

Vet check the horse but a blister scar would not stop me unless the vets found correlating issues with that or those ankles.

Adverse Effects/Warnings - When used as labeled, DMSO appears to be an extremely safe drug. Local effects (“burning”, erythema, vesiculation, dry skin, local allergic reactions) and garlic or oyster-like breath odor are the most likely adverse effects. They are transient and quickly resolve when therapy is discontinued. Lenticular changes, which may result in myopia, have been noted primarily in dogs and rabbits when DMSO is used chronically and at high doses. These effects are slowly reversible after the drug is discontinued.


But, the issue here, if I read this right, is the scarring is around the ankle not the cannon and DMSO is not a blistering agent, does not even produce heat.

Fishy as the story is, if he is currently working sound, he probably is fine. But I'd take an extra long look at those scars and see what really happened there. if they are just surface scars? NBD.

May. 19, 2010, 12:53 AM
I have never seen a horse blistered with DMSO and I have seen grooms who were told to sweat with DMSO. Also, have never seen horses blistered from water. I would have to think there had to be something else on the horse's legs or bandages for that to have happened. Of course any horse can be allergic to any range of substances and that could certainly cause blisters/wounds/scars.

May. 19, 2010, 01:07 AM

If you have never seen a groom or person wrap a too wet leg with plastic or with Furizone than you have been lucky but you sure as hell can blister a leg that is too wet when you wrap it and in fact even some of those gels on the market that say cooling.

Also there are a lot of horses who start to get flaky skin from DMSO burning them, even without wrapping. NOT really a mystery or science just ask a vet. DMSO can certainly burn a horse. There are also many horses who are fine with it but for me the possible reaction for topical use of DMSO is not worth most of the risk. There are so many conventual therapies now the DMSO "topical" is not all the rage these days anyhow

Mostly what gets a lot of people in trouble is mixing the DMSO with lineaments and other stuff because they are told it can get deeper. You can also get all the skin to slough off a leg that way too. Worked at the track for years and owned my own barn for about 15 years and seen blistered legs in every setting. NOW a days it is less common because there is not so much "voo doo" (where people mix up concoctions) medicine and most of us are thankful for Surpass and other drugs and leave the DMSO for the miracle it can provide internally for horses and people, my point is DMSO is not some safe inert drug.

My junior hunter had hair color loss (hair grew in white) from a vet having us apply straight DMSO to one shoulder for a injury. After a week of use the skin was flaky and started to shed. Nothing was used, vet said it was not super common but not crazy uncommon as many horses and people react to it differently. think it is a wonderful drug for so many things but have not had the need to use it mixed with anything or on a leg in almost 15 years

May. 19, 2010, 01:32 AM
I would think that the water mixed with Furacin wrapped in plastic could blister any horse. I have worked with racehorses for better than 25 years and fortunately have not seen anyone blister a horse with plain DMSO yet, but, as I said, I did not have folks wrapping bandages around it and certainly did not have them mixing it with anything to "drive" it into the leg. There is any number of ways to screw a horse up, not washing the legs of Furacin and applying other crap was what I saw most often.:no: I really hate Furacin anyway and do not ever use it for anything other than a light sweat.

I am curious what these scars are though. Guess we will just have to wait until the easterners wake up.:winkgrin:

May. 19, 2010, 09:15 AM
ANY horse can have a reaction to about ANY substance applied topically which can include inflammation, scurfing,etc. just ask any owner of a chestnut TB ;)

However, it would be incorrect to confuse such a reaction with the intentional act of "blistering". Trust Calamber and I when we say DMSO is not and has never been used to intentionally blister a horse, nor has water. Or furacin. ;) But I do agree, it will generate quite a bit of heat, especially for those of us who mix up our own DMSO/dex or DMSO/furacin/dex sweat mixtures!

TPF Hunter
May. 19, 2010, 09:15 AM
After speaking with the owner yesterday I got a tad bit more information. First off he was prepurchased by her 3 years ago and she is sending me those vet records. She is very super anal ( a positive of course!) and would not have bought him had anything serious shown up. She also had him xrayed about a year ago after a farrier cut off his toe and made him extremely sore. She is sending me those xrays as well as all the records she has on him the whole time she has had him. ( thankfully her mom is also super anal and kept records/receipts for EVERYTHING!) As open and forward as she is with giving me all the vet records etc I am a little more relaxed about him being off the track. She has also given me the orignal owner's name and contact information that purchased him off the track. Not to mention I have a 30 days trial so Im sure if anything was bothering him it would show up while whipping him back into shape.

She also told me that they blistered his ankle but she wasnt sure what agent they used, and they also used DMSO on the cannon area but mixed it with something else that burned his skin and left it slightly scarred. He was not pin fired.

As far as the actual scarring, it feels like it is just on the surface, his fetlock and cannon area are not really thickened with any scar tissue. The scars are loss of hair to the blistered/burned area, no white hair growing back and irregular hair growing around the hairless areas. Skin does look similar to human skin after being burned and healing ( just uneven and rough). Thankfully he is bay with dark skin so it wont be too noticeable when I trim up the hair right there. I can more than likely get some pictures on here tonight.

So what I am gathering from most of the posts on here is that blistering is more so used as a preventative and used to increase blood flow/ "tighten" said area. Big sigh of relief.

May. 19, 2010, 09:30 AM
ankles were most likely an ether blister and chances are whatever they applied to his shins just caused a topical reaction, and not a good one. It sounds like you have plenty of good data to make a decision, so like you said, I wouldn't worry about surface issues. ;)

May. 19, 2010, 10:59 AM
I accidentally blistered my horse when he had an unexpected reaction to unwrapped furacin (see my relatively recent thread about mysterious lameness- not caused by the blister, of course), and unfortunately, his hair grew back white. Are you talking about actual scarring (hairless area with thickened skin?) or white hair? This would make a huge difference for me, as bald scarring indicates more of an injury than a blister mark- I've never seen a blister leave a bald scar, but have seen several lacerations do so.

If you plan on buying the horse, I would have a vet do an ultrasound just to make sure the tendons look good. Otherwise, as long as it's not doing the conformation division, scarring doesn't really bother me.