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turning lame horse out for the winter -opinions

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  • turning lame horse out for the winter -opinions

    First, a bit of background- last December my gelding got a virus of some sort which led to a series of complications. Then, after 3 months he started to recover from that, then he had a lesion of his ddft and was off for a few months. I *slowly* brought him back, during which time he got his hocks injected, treadmilled everyday, and was hand walked, then lightly ridden. Last month was his final lameness evaluation. He was deemed 'serviceably sound' but very stiff. Basically he was fine to be WTC and hopping over cross rails, but only time would tell if he could do more, which I was fine with.

    Fast forward to two weeks ago, and he is, once again, lame (RH again, but it switches). Blocked him, flexed, x-rayed, ultra-sounded, blood tests. No idea what's wrong. He's perfectly happy and getting his usual 10-12 hours of turnout, but can't be ridden. We're putting him on a round of doxy just incase his lyme test was false negative.

    But if that fails, I'm seriously considering moving him to 24/7 turnout for the winter and just seeing what happens. He'd still get looked over and fed daily (as a complication from the virus, he needs his meds everyday), blanketed, farrier, etc. But, I won't be doing any handwalking, no more blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, flexions, injecting, trying medications, antibiotics, etc. If he's sound next spring, great! If not, I'll retry all the tests and see if anything shows up then.

    Has anyone else done this? Should I (again) go to every length to try and diagnose him and rehab him, or just see what happens?

  • #2
    Well, "tincture of time" is an old, respected way of trying to fix horse problems. Works often enough to be worth trying. Save your test money, let him hang out, see what you have in the spring.


    • #3

      After rehabbing my gelding from a SSFT bow this year, I am a huge fan of turnout. He is 9 months post injury and just as sound as ever and the bow was nasty to begin with. At first, he was stalled with wraps, hosing, Sore No More, bute, etc... and then 6 weeks later we started solo turnout 24/7. I kept him solo until late September and then put him back in with the other gelding. We took our first trail ride at the beginning of October .

      It worked for us. Not saying it works for all but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
      Gone gaited....


      • #4
        My vet calls this something like the coyote rehab. When you've done everything-- two or three times-- and they still come up unsound and you feel like you need to just give up for a while-- kick them out in the back field and let them survive outside with the coyotes. (My vet has a pampered idea of field board and good quality care!)

        I would just make sure that you didn't have a soft tissue injury like a suspensory that would be aggravated by full turnout. Or make sure an acute phase is over past. Sounds like you may not have a lot to lose with a serviceably sound horse anyway.


        • #5
          Yes on the 24/7 turnout
          but realize that he may need more than the winter; of course only time will tell & I'd try him again in the spring, but if he's still not OK for work, leaving him out for a full year (or even 2) may effect a fully recovery.
          Depending where you live & his coat, I'd not blanket, just let him be a horse


          • #6
            I did this! My horse has a small tear in his ddft - I followed rehab instructions to the t. And at the 1 year mark his flat work was looking good and then he came up nqr on the same foot. Ugh.. Vet blocked it to the same area- I was not going to do another MRI. Ultrasound was clean - but He has never had any changes on ultrasound. He has been on turnout for 10 months now - looks good and comfortable being a horse - I'll start riding him again next summer and see. It's a long road and fortunately I have the room in my backyard for him.


            • #7
              I did this with my stifle injury horse. He was on stall rest for 6 months, and in addition to trying to take the barn down, he also still was not sound at the end of it. My vet recommended Dr. Green, and he was kicked outside for about a year. I've started bringing him back some, and he seems sound. I'll admit though that I just don't have the time to put him in consistent work, but he does look even behind now, and he didn't after the stall rest.

              The turnout time also helped him get back to being a normal horse again. All the poking, prodding, daily sedation for handwalking, and stall confinement really messed with his brain and he turned into a bit of a lunatic for a while. It took a good six months of turnout for him to come back down from that.
              Here Be Dragons: My blog about venturing beyond the lower levels as a dressage amateur.


              • #8
                Did my horse a world of good after an injury. He is back in work and doing fine.
                To be liberal is nirvana but for those of us who deal in reality, the world is getting really scary.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by goodhors View Post
                  Well, "tincture of time" is an old, respected way of trying to fix horse problems. Works often enough to be worth trying. Save your test money, let him hang out, see what you have in the spring.
                  Basically what I was going to say.
                  Click here before you buy.


                  • #10
                    My horse's arthritis flared badly a little over a year ago after a roller coaster 4 years of trying to get the hock to fuse. I finally decided to throw in the towel and turn him out on a large pasture with a herd and see what that would get me. He is SO much sounder. In his case, he will likely never be sound enough for real work, but he can be hacked and for that I am thankful.


                    • #11
                      I did this w/ a mare who had a off-on lameness that was never well diagnosed. She had closer to 15 months, as her "keeper" during the t/o time was a breeder and I offered her the womb in exchange for bed/breakfast for the mare!!

                      Anyway, she had a very nice foal of the jumper variety, and came back sound even prior to end of pregnancy. The good news is because she was oh-so-prego (and 2 hours away) I couldn't cheat on the timeline. Her career as my potential ammy-owner hunter was basically done, but she was sound enough to get me started in dressage and to hack around the woods, and to be truthful, I wasn't really going to be an ammy-owner quality rider in my mid-late 40's....
                      Sadly she was put down some years later at only 15 due to severe ringbone and other related soundness issues.
                      We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


                      • #12
                        Sometimes turnout is the best cure. I say go for it.


                        • #13
                          I agree with turnout. We have a lot of elderly horses at my farm on full-time turnout, and some "retirees" from show barns have returned to serviceable soundness as riding horses with nothing but tincture of time. I was farm-sitting for a friend who has three retired h/js, all in their 20s. They are out during the day, in at night. Every one of them is quite stiff coming out of the stall in the AM. I think they would be better off outside 24/7 with a run-in shed.


                          • #14
                            Yep, I'd do it. My guy is way better outside on 24/7 turnout then stalled at night. After 4 years of being retired and living out in paddocks/pastures - still with routine care - he's back to 99% sound! Won't be able to get ridden hard or long, but he can be ridden lightly which is more than the vets and I thought would happen 4 years ago.

                            So, go for it. Just make sure to check on him when the temps drop. Depending on his turnout situation before this and if he's grown a winter coat or not, I may or may not blanket until he adjusts. Way back when I bought my horse, he'd been stalled at night and turned out in the day with a blanket...so adjusting to 24/7 turnout (even with a blanket) was an adjustment. He had no winter coat in mid-February because of being stalled at night. Temperatures were down in the -20 and -30s. His system kicked in and grew a winter coat...in April. Had it til June, then shed it out. After that he was on schedule, but it definitely messed him up for a few months!

                            Also check on his hydration. Some horses stalled at night and out during the day may not drink outside water if the water is too cold because they'll be expecting lukewarm water in a bucket at night. Neck pinch occasionally and make sure he's staying hydrating. Other than that, give him the winter off and hope that time will take care of everything. Good luck!


                            • #15
                              I did this last year with my gelding. He had an undiagnosed, slight RF lameness (undiagnosed because I couldn't afford $$$$$ to take him to NC State). He was pasture sound but not riding sound. I turned him out from November until the end of March. When I started lightly working him again, he was 100% sound. I really just think time is what he needed.

                              My personal belief is that he had a touch of arthritis in that fetlock from an old injury but I couldn't afford the x-rays to confirm it or the injections to fix it. Good old (and free!) time fixed it for me
                              Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
                              My equine soulmate
                              Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding


                              • #16
                                I believe it is called Dr. Green! Sure cure for JARS (just ain't right syndrome).


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thank you everyone! This boy is my 'heart horse'. I feel so corny using that term, but it's true. I always plan ahead, and even when I buy a horse I know they will be sold. My current show horse I just bough two months ago, but I already have planned out when he'll be sold (in a few years). But I can't imagine selling my poorly moving, cranky, poorly built, lame horse. He's my baby. I'm feeling SO guilty taking away his stall! I'm glad to hear others have had good experiences with it!

                                  What are your opinions about taking off his shoes? He's always had shoes on, with pads in front. But I would be saving $140 every 6 weeks if he could go barefoot. If you were in my situation, would you try him barefoot? If he's sore, I would definitely put shoes back on. Is it worth trying?


                                  • #18
                                    Ask your vet and farrier what they think about pulling the shoes. Is there anything about his shoeing that's intended to help whatever's wrong to heal? I know my older TB would be absolutely dead lame without his shoes - can't walk down the barn aisle barefoot during shoeing - so he'll go to his grave with his shoes on.


                                    • #19
                                      I would leave the shoes on for at least the first month. Then, if the farrier agrees, I would pull the hinds. Depending on how that goes, I would talk with the farrier about no pads, then maybe no shoes. A lot of horses need the shoes in front, even if they aren't ridden.


                                      • #20
                                        Just wanted to see if the OP had an update. Did Dr. Green fix your horse?