After several weeks of gimping through his barefoot state, my Trakehner gelding Kroni, was looking much more comfortable. Then he wasn’t. He went from trotting around his pasture to barely walking. My first thought was a stone bruise, but on further examination, I noticed that he had some slight swelling in his right front ankle.
To bring down the swelling, I used the equine version of RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation). Rest was easy as he really didn’t want to walk. He stood in his stall and waited for me to bring him hay.
For ice, I broke out my handy packet of frozen peas. I keep them in the ‘fridge at the barn for just such emergencies. They wrap neatly around a horse’s leg and can be held in place with a loose bandage or vet wrap. Cold treatments can help reduce inflammation for up to 72 hours after an injury occurs.
Last was wrapping his legs. Compression can help reduce the swelling in the leg. When wrapping for injury (for protection of a wound) I only wrap one leg, but when a horse is lame, I generally wrap both legs (front or back) because when a horse favors one leg, he typically overloads the other in the pair, which can lead to stocking up. Standing wraps comprise two elements: a layer of padding and a pressure bandage. I prefer using “No Bow” style wraps to plain cotton.
Wrapping correctly takes some practice. If you wrap too tightly, you can create pressure points that can be harmful. It’s even possible to damage a tendon and /or tendon sheath with a bandage if there is a thin area of constriction under the bandage. If you wrap too loosely, the bandage will not provide support, and it can slip down on your horse’s leg and may even unravel. I’ve been wrapping horses for about 30 years (I learned under the eagle eye of a trainer when I was a working student) and I still sometimes will unwrap and start again if I think the tension is uneven.
Three days in standing wraps, with periodic icing, has my horse back to normal. No swelling and no lameness. I suspect if I’d been able to get him to elevate that leg, it would have come down even sooner!
Here are some basic guidelines for wrapping (source: Adobe Vet Center):
- Start with clean, dry legs and bandages.
- If there is a wound, make sure it has been properly cleaned, rinsed and dressed according to your veterinarian’s recommendations.
- Use a thickness of an inch or more of soft, clean padding to protect the leg beneath the bandage.
- Apply padding so it lies flat and wrinkle-free against the skin.
- Start the wrap at the inside of the cannon bone above the fetlock joint. Do not begin or end over a joint as movement will tend to loosen the bandage and cause it to come unwrapped.
- Wrap the leg from front to back, outside to inside (counterclockwise in left legs, clockwise in right legs).
- Wrap in a spiral pattern, working down the leg and up again, overlapping the preceding layer by 50 percent.
- Use smooth, uniform pressure on the support bandage to compress the padding. Make sure no lumps or ridges form beneath the bandage.
- Be careful not to wrap the legs too tightly, creating pressure points.
- Avoid applying bandages too loosely. If loose bandages slip, they will not provide proper support and may endanger the horse.
- When used for protection, leg padding and bandages should extend below the coronet band of the hoof to protect the area (especially important when trailering).
- Extend the bandages to within one half inch of the padding at the top and bottom.
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