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Heat and slight swelling, but no lameness?

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  • Heat and slight swelling, but no lameness?

    My mare has had a spot on the outside of her hind leg, just above the fetlock, that is a bit puffy and warm. Friday she appeared stocked up on that side, but after a 15 minute walking, her leg was cool and tight so I did flatwork and she was sound. Saturday I didn't make it to the barn, Sunday it was warm and swollen again, so I cold hosed, buted her and she went into a smaller paddock with another mare, where she has been until today while on turnout (in her stall the rest of the time). I've cold hosed and buted her each night and hand walked. The walking does not seem to bring the swelling down, and the the area is still warm after 15 minutes of cold hosing (I need to get some ice wraps, our cold water still isn't very cold this time of the year unless I let it run for a very long time). The heat is only in a half-dollar sized area on the outside the cannon bone, above the fetlock, and that's where the swelling is. It isn't a classic "stocking up" on the whole leg. I can put a lot of pressure on the area without complaint from her, but she can be hard to tell as she can be very reserved (bless her).

    I've had her walk and trot on the longe line for a couple minutes to see how she was, no lameness that I can tell, although it is hard to tell in the hind legs, IMO. She is also on daily MSM in her evening grain.

    My trainer wants to look at it today and then call the vet, but I'm concerned so I'm just going to go ahead and call to see if I can get someone out this afternoon after my job interview. Any ideas what it could be?

    I'm glad she's not lame, but with such a small, precise area I am worried about a kick or bone chip or something like that? Suspensory? Could it be a slight sprain or strain from the muck (it's rained every day for over a week here)? The area is also right underneith a 10 year old splint that has somewhat reabsorbed, but not completely (it was massive in its heyday) so it's always an area of suspect due to the "jewelry" there, though this particular area is a few inches lower than the old splint.

    Any advice/experiences would be greatly appreciated, still 3 hours until the vet clinic opens and I'm worried.

  • #2
    If it was a bone chip she would be point tender, so I am pretty sure you can rule that out, and most suspensory issues cause lameness, so if shes sound it is probably not that. Generally, if they arent lame I ride them and see if that changes the way the leg looks. It could even be something as mundane as a bug bite or bee sting... that happened to my last horse, and it LOOKED like he had injured his suspensory due to location but was sound.
    If it is worrying you, have the vet out for sure, but if she is sound, i would not be too concerned.


    • Original Poster

      Thank you Scribbles, you offered a lot of peace of mind for me... talking me down from the ledge My mare and I are celebrating our 10 year anniversary and I love her to pieces and worry about her. I have a voicemail into my primary vet at the clinic to see what his advice is. Thanks again for your response... I just might make it through the morning now


      • #4
        I have the same thing going on with my gelding in his off hind. Puffy, slight heat off and on but sound. I cold hosed and it did nothing so now I have been sweating it. I am giving mine a week off and will see how that works. He's 13 and already had an oselet on that leg.

        Hoping it is nothing to worry about for both.
        "look deep into his pedigree. Look for the name of a one-of-a-kind horse who lends to his kin a fierce tenacity, a will of iron, a look of eagles. Look & know that Slew is still very much with us."


        • #5
          Actually, horses are not necessarily unsound with a suspensory injury...at least not initially. I suspect my horse's suspensory injury was brewing for a few months before he became unsound on it because he had some mild puffiness in that area that I thought was just "him" (he was fairly new to me at the time). I also knew a Grand Prix jumper with a pretty severe suspensory injury that he was never unsound on for even one day.

          Get it checked by a vet. Sorry to scare you...but it is way better to get it checked out and be sure that to continue on without knowing. And...mucky conditions are a prime cause of suspensory injuries.

          Hopefully it is not a suspensory injury, but it is good to be cautious! The sooner you discover and start treating, the better off you are. Sounds like you've been proceeding with caution, so I don't think you would have caused any additional injury in the time between the initial swelling and right now. Good for you for taking such good care of your mare.

          Again...I'm sorry to be the bearer of unsettling news, but I wanted to correct Scribbles' assertion that they are always unsound with a suspensory injury.


          • #6
            Best to have it checked, may be nothing but you never know. Just last weekend I had the following happen. A 4 yr old gelding that had always loaded great, decided early sat AM he wasn't going to load. We were heading to a show and takiing him along to school and maybe do a flat class. I was by myself and he planted his feet and was starting to rear. This is NOT TOLERATED so I worked the heck out of him on a tight circle behind trailer, then offered him to load, and did this several times until he decided being in the trailer was a LOT lless work. THis method works 99% of the time! At any rate, he loaded up and was sweating, so I sponged him while he was standing (quietly) in the trailer. No apparent harm from the workout however. We then drove the 1 1/2 hours to the show. When he came off his right front tendon had swelling, oh no! So we immediately gave him two grams of bute (after ascertaining he wasn't really lame), cold hosed it and then wrapped in ice. After returning home he was cold hosed and put in standing wrap in stall, and then again the next AM with a standing wrap he went out in his paddock (he never ever runs, and hardly walks so I knew it wasn't going to hurt anything). By this time leg looked much much better, was not a HUGE amount of swelling just a localized area. By that night nearly normal so left the wrap off in stall. Vet looked at it the next day and basically said he was fine. He had apparently hit himself with opposite foot and caused localized bruising and swelling but no tendon damage. He is on two weeks turnout (which was planned for prior to this incident) and then will go back to regular work. So could be something as insignificant as that. FYI don't waste money on "ice wraps" just get a bag of frozen peas, use it, refreeze and reuse, much cheaper and just as effective!!


            • Original Poster

              That's some of what I had been reading when I searched Google too, Fine. Still waiting to hear back from my vet, ugh I hate the waiting! She is low on the totem pole and my worries is she got chased through the mud and strained/twisted something. Usually if the horses chase her off they just leave her alone, but there is a new horse in her turnout who will just keep pushing and pushing her, going to talk to my BO about getting her in a different turnout or even private turnout, even if this is nothing I don't ever want it to be something (especially something preventable!)


              • #8
                Originally posted by redears View Post
                My mare has had a spot on the outside of her hind leg, just above the fetlock, that is a bit puffy and warm.
                Exactly how my horse presented with a torn flexor tendon sheath.

                Heat, swelling, no lameness.

                Rx was 3 months pasture rest.

                BUT, he was also very sticky-stifled at the time, and the other, faster alternative would have been, at the time, 2 weeks stall rest. Not an option for that horse, so the longer quiet pasture rest was chosen, and it worked admirably.
                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                • #9
                  Originally posted by redears View Post
                  My mare has had a spot on the outside of her hind leg, just above the fetlock, that is a bit puffy and warm ... and she was sound.
                  This (and pretty much everything else you've said) exactly describes my mare about three and half months ago. Vet diagnosed it as a sprain (ultrasound and x-rays were clean), and felt the residue swelling/heat (which stuck around for almost three months) was due to a stretched tendon sheath. We ended up injecting the joint with steroids at the end of May. That, combined with moving her to larger pasture with a good sized hill (she is/was on 24/7 turn-out), getting her chiropracted several times to resolve compounding issues, and starting to work her more (trotting in-hand on straight lines) has finally resolved the issue. Both hinds now look identical, and she is as sound as ever.

                  Don't freak out yet, but I would definitely have the vet come out and look, and probably do an US as well.

                  ETA: Have you done any wrapping? If not, I would keep her in a standing bandage to try and get the swelling down until the vet sees her.


                  • #10
                    Welcome to my world...

                    18yo goof ball mare. She thinks she's 3. Overall a good egg but sometimes she get so darn geared up about getting her job done. Like the trailer- very serious business. Except the last time. She felt the need to hurry and so I'm slowing her down as she backs up. Back legs on the ground, she starts to turn and loses her foot on her front. She gets all ticked off (yes mare gives herself the snake face) and does the head toss as she regains her footing on the front end but she did scramble a bit behind in the process. Within minutes her back tendon starts swelling. We're talking just a few seconds of her being a dork.

                    Profanity erupts from thy mouth.

                    We iced than wrapped. There was no heat, no lameness, just swelling. It's been a month with slight improvement. I did not call the vet but I would have if she was lame on it or if there was considerable heat. Been down this road before so there would be nothing the vet could tell me for treatment that I haven't already done before.


                    • #11
                      I'd definitely call the vet out. Small tears can present in that way and if you catch it early you can save yourself a lot of trouble.

                      Horses are eyes and guts on legs...if any one of those three things is having problems, don't waste time, call the vet.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you all SO much. I had a call in to my vet's voicemail this morning and he called me back this afternoon and said to do a standing wrap over night and check it in the morning, if we still have heat and swelling I'll get him out tomorrow.

                        I really appreciate all your advice and if its still there tomorrow will definitely get the vet out. The swelling is on her chestnut leg and the color is lighter and discolored over that area so I wonder if she took a good blow or if the swelling is just making the color look off. Even after hosing it was lighter than the rest of her leg. It cooled quite a bit after hosing tonight rather than still the intense hot it was yesterday afterwards. I let her dry for about a half hour before I put wraps on, will be interesting to see what it looks like in the AM.

                        Tonight we just hung out in her stall for a good half hour, she is going a little bonkers not being ridden, even with large pasture turnout during the day, she likes her routine of her 5x a week rides or in hand works. My barn owner has her out with the older horses during the day now so that she won't be getting chased, which is very nice (she is just about lowest guy on the totum pole).

                        I'll definitely keep you all updated, and as always, I appreciate the help. Nothing I worry about more in this world than this mare.


                        • #13
                          Most definitely play it safe, keep her confined, and have the vet out.

                          My horse presented with very minor (I mean minor) teensy bit of swelling and no heat. I didn't think much of it but had the vet out --- my horse had bowed a tendon.

                          I've also had a suspensory injury that was pretty severe but the horse had no lameness.

                          Best to play it safe. Make sure you stall rest her while you wait on the vet, and ice and wrap.


                          • Original Poster

                            Hauling in to the vet clinic in the AM to do xray, US, whatever needs to be done. I took her out tonight and while she is still not presenting lameness, at the trot she would make a snorting sound but almost a sucking in sound every time that leg pushed off, so I think it is really bothering her. I discontinued bute but she's back in standing wraps (I actually went to buy no-bows because the quilts left some marks on her skin and I don't want THAT to start bothering her, the tack shop actually had no-bows that were short enough for little miss corgi-built horse).

                            She isn't on total stall rest as she's a weaver, but she is going out for part of the day in the morning with the fat pony in the small diet pen, then she comes in for lunch, back out with fat pony in the afternoon until it's time to come in. Barn manager has been keeping a good eye on her as she started to pace when bad weather rolled in so he brought her in right away. If she does need full stall rest luckily her next door neighbor is an arabian halter horse who is kept in 24/7 so she won't by herself. I ordered her some Uncle Jimmy's hangin' balls just incase.


                            • Original Poster

                              Great update!

                              I took her to the vet clinic on Friday afternoon, I was supposed to have an appointment with my regular vet at 1:30 but I ended up falling in a mud puddle (you can laugh, I am still picking sand out of my ears!) and didn't get to the clinic until about 2:45. My vet had left to go out on calls and I begged the receptionist to see if any vet could see us.

                              So we had our appointment with the famous lameness guru Dr. Tracy Turner, what luck! We did a bunch of flexions and palpating which were all fine, no lameness at all. Xrayed several views of the area and splint bones, etc everything are in tact and look great. He figured she maybe ruptured the blood vessel that runs between the cannon bone and splint bone and just collected subq in that area.

                              His rx was to put her back to work and cold hose if there is anymore heat. I took her on a short hack up the road yesterday and she is happy to be back to her regularly scheduled program.

                              Thanks everyone for your advice, it's nice having a place to turn with questions like this. I am now out $400, but having peace of mind is worth millions in my opinion.


                              • #16
                                I agree with everyone who is saying that a severe injury doesn't necessarily cause lameness. One of my Morgans tore his straight sesamoidean ligament and had I not known the horse so well, I would have not known he was lame. He just had mild tendon sheath effusion proximal to the fetlock. A boarded vet in large animal medicine (granted not surgery, but I figured she'd know) didn't catch any lameness. The persistent mild puffiness made me bring him in for diagnostics, and I'm glad I did.


                                • #17
                                  this could be my story

                                  I just noticed this thread after doing a search. . .

                                  My draft x mare came in from turnout very swollen and hot on RH from hock to fetlock, but not lame. After cold hosing, bute and mild exercise, was seen by a vet. Azium for 4 days, swelling went away, but came back as soon as azium was done (but not nearly as much, only about a golf ball size swelling just above fetlock on the outside). So last thursday we did an ultrasound, which showed no tears in any ligaments or tendons on that leg. Good news, but what is going on?

                                  So my vet says that she probably strained something (initially showed pain response on palpation, but not after the first couple of squeezes), and to give her a couple of weeks off, with bute and standing bandage when in her stall.

                                  I'm wondering about an insect bite or bee sting (she did try to "scratch" the area in question with her teeth - no small feat for a 1300# horse!). But that swelling should be gone by now, it's been about 12 days.

                                  If I have a question, it's this - she is NOT lame, but is much more short strided than usual. Is this a form of lameness? She is not a BIG mover, but usually gets 7's on tests for her trot, so not terrible either. I'm guessing it's like she is protecting herself or something.

                                  In the meantime, she will get some time off, it's been very hot around here lately anyway!
                                  "Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death."


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Aww gallop, it could be she is short striding if the area is uncomfortable for her. My mare was a little funky for a couple days before she saw the vet (could really only see by looking at the top of her croup), but at the actual vet clinic, nothing amiss.

                                    We are a few weeks out now and heat is finally gone and swelling is gone, I am riding her lightly about 5 days a week, mainly going out hacking and flat work, I haven't jumped her at all since it happened.

                                    Today is the day #16 for us, and I am JUST starting to see the major improvement. Hang in there!

                                    On a side note I hit the mother load of quilts and bandages this evening cleaning my trailer, so we are set for a while I love finding stuff I didn't know I had.

                                    Good luck with your girl, it does sound like something is irritating back there, with the scratching and all. Even if it is something similar to what Gracie has, the area bothered her too, like it felt weird to her.


                                    • #19

                                      It sounds like your girl is on the road to recovery, while mine is still coming in from turnout swollen and hot. She is not on stall rest, but is turned out with a quiet pony, and there are no other horses to get everyone fizzed up around here! I have been icing and bandaging for a couple of weeks now, and have seen no improvement.

                                      My vet said to give her a couple of weeks off, then go back to work and see what happens. I think she was assuming the swelling would be gone by then. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with working her when she has a swelling in her RH, but I guess some work would help to diagnose whatever is going on. Here's a pic of the area, taken on 7/3/10

                                      You can see that the swelling is not huge, but it is there.
                                      "Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death."


                                      • #20
                                        Gallopinggram - that looks suspiciously like a bowed tendon to me. I'm no vet, of course, but if that were my horse I think I would want another ultrasound performed by a different vet.