When your horse gets kicked.

Freedom was kicked over night. When I arrived his leg was swollen and he had a gash in his forearm.
Freedom was kicked over night. When I arrived his leg was swollen and he had a gash in his forearm.

With horses, it’s always something.

I don’t normally feed Saturday mornings but I’m sure glad I did last weekend. It took me only a few minutes to see that Freedom was hurt and it looked bad. He had been kicked on his left forearm. The area was hugely swollen and there was a big jagged gash. The good news was that he was weight bearing. Lame, but weight bearing.
Once I determined he could walk. I put all the horses in and fed them breakfast. I needed a few minutes to calm down before I called the vet.

Hosing the woundOnce I paged the practice and spoke to the vet on call I gave him some bute and started cold hosing. The area was so tender that poor Freedom went through the roof when the water hit the area. It took the vet about an hour to get to the barn. I could tell the wound was only a few hours old; it was oozing plasma and blood.

After hosing I could see how swollen the area was around the wound.

After hosing I could see how swollen the area was around the wound.

We started with x-rays. It’s an area where a kick can cause fractures and although he didn’t seem to be in enough pain for one, it had to be ruled out. Thank goodness for digital x-ray machines. I only had to hold my breath for a few minutes to discover that the bone was fine. In the “old days” I would have had to wait until at least Monday.

Cleaning a wound

The vet cleaned the wound to make sure there was no dirt or debris inside and to determine how deep it was.

Next, she needed to clean the wound. That required significant sedation — including a local block. It turned out that the wound wasn’t deep but it did extend up under the skin forming a pocket. The vet needed to make sure that there was no dirt left inside.

Then came antibiotics. First he got an IV shot of Gentamicin. The bacteria that can be introduced by a kick can be quite nasty and it’s a good idea to give an antibiotic that is effective against E. coli, Klebsiella, Proteus, Pseudomonas, Salmonella, Enterobacter, Serratia, and Shigella, Mycoplasma, and Staphylococcus. I also got an antibiotic lotion to squirt into the wound and an oral antibiotic that he’ll need to take for 14 days.

The vet didn’t stitch the wound primarily because with something like this you don’t want the wound to close over and become infected. This is something that has to heal from the inside out.

Freedom was heavily sedated.

Freedom had to be heavily sedated to treat the wound.

Freedom recovered pretty quickly and by the end of the day was walking sound on it. On Sunday afternoon I took him for a walk under saddle (the vet said movement would help with the swelling and that it was fine to ride him as long as he was sound) and I was very relieved to see that the size of the hemotoma had gone down significantly.

Every day it’s looking better and Freedom is eager to get out and move. The wound is draining well because the opening to the cut is below the subcutaneous pocket.

As the area becomes less tender I’ll need to massage it to help break up the swelling. I may also apply DMSO which has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. I’m still just thankful that the injury wasn’t worse. And Freedom still won’t ‘fess up as to which of the girls kicked him.

5 thoughts on “When your horse gets kicked.

  1. It’s always something, isn’t it? Well I’m really glad that he didn’t suffer any long term damage and you are already able to get on him again. Great, informative post on wound care! Thanks.

  2. Oh geeze Liz:
    Every horse person’s nightmare: arrive at the barn and see this. Good keeping your head about you. That’s a bad kick. I’m sending Speedy healing for Freedom, and relief (and chocolate, naturally) for you! Really generous of you to turn it into an article that will help others.
    Best wishes!

  3. Great informative post & pics on caring for such an injury. Glad he appears to be on the mend. Is always a shocker to discover such injuries. I’m still cold hosing and wrapping after a kick to my mare’s rear leg two weeks ago. Is looking much better but has been a long haul, particularly because the kick aggravated cellulitis which had been on the mend. Never a dull moment :).

  4. With horses, you just never know what you’re going to wake up to any given morning. Thank goodness you caught things soon enough and Freedom is doing well. Horses do keep life interesting.

    I dealt with a horse that took a kick while being transported cross country with a shipper. Unfortunately, the kick was over 24 hours old when we could get to it. That horse lost a 6 inch circle of flesh on his shoulder. With care and time, the flesh grew back in, turned black and completely haired up. There was no scarring or evidence of the wound once fully healed.

    I am always amazed at the healing power of horses, both in themselves and in the healing they promote in their humans.

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