What to do with packer-horse with suspensory that won't heal???
Well, the title basically asks the question. This horse was a packer at least through the 2'6, is a saint around the barn, and easy keeper. Ive had a rough time this past year bringing him back from a right hind high suspensory strain. He just isn't sound and I have followed my vets rehab schedule religiously. Im really torn with what to do with him at this point. He is a sweet guy but I really can't afford to keep pouring money into him. I also cant stand to see him bored without a job. What do you do with horses like this? He is only 8!
If his suspensory ultrasounded beautifully towards the end of rehab, is it possible there is a part of the suspensory we can't see that may still be causing him issues? Vet mentioned that an MRI might be required.
He had apparently mild lesions. Stall and tiny tiny turn out for 6 months with handwalking/tacked walking, then re ultrasounded and looked good. Worked in some trot time slowly, then he was cleared to canter. Did flat work on a timed schedule for a few more months then was cleared to do poles and small crossrails. It was at this time we noticed he would be sore the day after doing the crossrails ( I'm talking two or three). Wasn't sure if it was general soreness so continued light work, realized he was uncomfortable undersaddle all together and he is back to standing around all day-sedated and timed walking. However even after all of this his ultrasound looks good, which is why I wonder if the section of the ligament we can't see if bothering him. I have come to grips that he may never be sound and just dont know what to do with him
*****Disclaimer****** I am not a vet, nor do I play one on TV. The following is what I have experienced and have been told by a vet.
I live in Southern Pines. So called because lots of pine trees grow here. And pine trees like sandy soil which is what we have here. It never freeze and is soft underfootl.
I have had 2 horses which have come here, after the stall rest and mile hand walking, but who are still lame. They get sound here because every step they take on slightly yielding soil is physical therapy. Instead of jarring the soft tissue, it strengthens it without stretching it too much.
These horses live out as much as possible (inside for very cold and very hot). It is what I call "benign neglect". The horse starts to exercise himself when he can do so without pain. The horse knows far better than a mere human what he can do safely.
After 3 - 4 months I start to walk them under saddle, and continue to add other gaits in very slowly. If they stay 100% sound for 30 days, they are ready to go home.
I had a second vet out to watch him go. Everything still points to the right hind high suspensory and is the exact same it was the first go-round. I scheduling an appointment to have him ultrasounded again and also have them block for high lesions. Although I can't afford it, I would love have him sound again one day, even if he can't jump again he would be a great lower level dressage guy
If he winds up not being completely sound ever again is there a job for horses like this? Do people bute them up and use them for lessons? Do they do a long term block for the area? ( is there such a thing?) I dont run a lesson program- so I would have no need. Maybe a therapy horse?
Ive had 2 bad, bad blown suspencorys. 1 also exploded his check ligament (sp). Unfortunately the vet called for the regular treatment. Stall rest-hand walking- strait lines etc. These guys couldn't handle stall-rest. Had to make the hard decision and in both cases at different times of the year I would poultice, stack wrap above the knee to immobilize a bit, and turned them out! Once we were out of the heat and swelling phase discontinued the bandaging and kept them outside. Instead of a months long healing process it all came together very quickly. After 3 months turnout started walking them on the road. The hard ground seemed to help strengthen up all the legs together and 1 was back jumping 5 months from injury, the other was a trail horse so technically he was back to full work at 3 months.
I know every vet would tell you this is NOT what you should do but in my case I didn't have another choice. I also had the expertise of the 85 year old race trainer down the road who was the one who told me to start the hard surface walking. An old racing trick! I had also accepted the fact that if none of this worked that both these boys would end up being very expensive paddock puff's.
Not the same injury, but my mare seriously bowed her DDFT and SDFT on the same hind left leg. We did the whole stall-bound, walk twice a day, etc and it lasted 11 days before my saint-of-a-mare lost her mind. The day I got there and she was standing on 2 hind legs? Yea, that was the day I turned her out. As it turns out, what should've been 6 months to a year of hand walking turned into me being cleared to walk under saddle after 6 weeks. Obviously suspensories are a whole different injury, but it may be that you just need to chuck him out into the field for the next 6 months to a year before re-evaluating.
I would never, ever, EVER bute him up and keep using him - what happens if you have a child on him and his suspensory just gives out causing a major fall and injury? If you can't afford to keep him, the kindest option would be to just put him down. Or see if someone else would have the patience and tolerance to let him be and see if he can recover. Just MHO.
“Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of Solitaire. It is a grand passion.” ~Emerson
Hi! You wont ever see my name on COTH, I guess I'm a lurker. But when I see someone asking for some info that I might have I try to reply... I train a horse that had a very serious hind suspensory injury. Actually injured twice. Laid up a long time, PRP, stall rest, shockwave, you name it. He was miserable in the stall so we decided he was a horse, began turning him out. Started Magnawave therapy and LIQUID hylauronic acid (I have had great success with this, the powder just doesnt work the same, and there is some vet research that agrees. We use Hyla Rx vet strength, not expensive). Slowly started back w/tack walk, no very soft footing. It's been a long haul, supported by a kid and mother who adore the horse, a good guy like yours. Don't give up, it may take a while but chances are that your guy just needs more time.
When we first started trotting he looked like a train wreck, but we let him find his own pace, on a looong rein and somehow he made himself comfortable in the trot as long as he could put his head down and stretch. Sounds crazy, I know, but It has worked for him. After approx a month of that, as soon as he looked better in the trot, we cantered. Long story short, he's back to 3' courses and has shown. we watch him like a hawk, but all seems good.
Don't give up! Before there were x-rays and ultrasounds the good old=timers just gave horses time to heal and it seemed to work in many cases.
Best of luck, you are on the right track just because you're looking to help him!
Cranky Old Pro
I appreciate the replies, especially the encouraging ones. I will never do anything to my horses to hurt them, hence why I have gone broke trying to fix one! I do not run a lesson horse program, so I would have no need for him as a lesson mount, nor would I dream of making his condition worse. I have followed my vets protocol very closely which has wound me up in the same situation as we were before. I am hoping to get this sorted out and find out if the suspensory is the issue despite a clean ultrasound - which is puzzeling.
He is a great guy, with one of the best brains I have ever dealt with. I really do hope that he can be 100% again.
...and Rick... why are you always such an ass? It's no wonder I avoid these forums more often than post. I would only allow him to be a lower level dressage mount if he held up for it. He doesnt have an incredible amount of suspension. In good footing, if a horse is sound walk/trot/canter they should be capable of proper flatwork to include bending and self carriage. So YES, Rick, a horse that is sound on the flat but would not be expected to jump and stay sound should be able to be used for lower level dressage work.
In my horse's case (high front suspensory injury) when the ultrasound showed healing but the horse was not sound it turned out that there was something else going on, in the feet (collateral ligament). Not quite the same as your horse since he hadn't been sound and then put back to work, but rather had never gotten completely sound.
But it might be worth looking elsewhere. Or just giving the horse more time and/or bringing him back more slowly the second time.
Sorry to hear you haven't had better luck. I had one that we treated and when it didn't respond within a reasonable time we turned him out for another year. It's been 2 years and he's pretty much the same so I identify with your struggle.
I would just turn him out for a year and get busy doing something else to distract yourself, find a lease maybe. Just don't be tempted to mess with him or make any decisions before you give him a large chunck of time to heal.
If it still doesn't heal becoming a therapy horse is an option, or maybe a pasture buddy. If they are pasture sound they are usually good for light trail riding on level footing.
All you can do is try to get him sound and then go from there. I believe your chances of selling him are very slim if you are honest in presenting him and any PPE will tell the story. If you don't want him because of his problems why pass him off to become someone else's problem. Say you do get him sound again. Is this injury something that can reoccur if he runs hard, bucks, plays and jumps in a turnout situation?
If you're willing to consider surgery, when you have your horse re-evaluated, ask your vet his or her opinion on if your horse might be a candidate for a suspensory fasciotomy and neurectomy. And yes, there can be lesions that are visible on MRI but that cannot be detected on ultrasound. Hope your horse gets better!