Is Time Off Enough of a Treatment?: The Uncooperative Horse with Strained Suspensory

My horse was diagnosed with a strained LH suspensory upon ultrasound and vet recommended 1 month of limited turn out and wrapping/sweating the leg every night along with ride walking (horse is better behaved).

After one week of being in a small panel paddock and in his stall at night, my horse (who has been on 24/7 turnout) had turned into a nightmare. Pacing, leaping and jumping around, etc. BO and myself felt horse was putting more strain on his leg…so we turned him back out into his flat (and still relatively small) 24/7 turnout. He’s been out quietly in his solo turnout the past couple of days but I can’t help but to feel bad about not listening to the vet.

When this horse had bad hind suspensory lesions back in '09-'10 it was a constant battle with him on the months of stall rest. We tried long term sedatives (reserpine, ace, etc.) without much luck at all. Now that he is a fit horse, things are only worse this time.

Horse was quiet as soon as he got back to his regular turnout and has been since. Am I horrible to not be listening to his vet? And to be bringing him in to sweat his leg? We just feel that when he was leaping around so much that he was negating any positive affects the sweating may have had.

So are there times when you just prescribe turnout and some time off of work to a horse with a strained tendon? I feel like I should be doing something but he just seems like he’ll be worsening things if I do do anything…

Would you try to see if he’d stay calm with coming in at night to sweat his leg and then go back out in his regular turnout during the day? Or would any of you sweat his leg and let him stay out (I know, I know…)? TIA. :sadsmile:

Sometimes you have to improvise.

I would talk to the vet, explain how your horse reacts to limited turnout as opposed to full 24/7 turnout. My guess is the vet will recommend a different procedure based on the individual rather than one-size-fits-all.

Good Luck

Second talking to the vet and let him help you come up with Plan B. There are options but you should get your vet’s input instead of deciding on your own how to handle the situation.

Thanks Fooler, I will try to contact my vet. I hated to bother him as he is so busy–to give you an idea, he has a surgical hospital but is only ever there when he flies in to do surgeries. Otherwise, he is literally flying all over the world to do work. I will try to get with him on Monday. What would you be doing in the meantime though?

Surely he has someone lined up to handle issues when he is gone? If not, call the office, get some recommendations. Most likely the office staff will jot down your question, ask the Vet one of the times he checks in with them, and office staff will call you back with answer. I recommend you use some yes/no questions that will be easy to obtain an answer for, such as:
Horse goes ballistic indoors to the point he is likely to worsen his injury. He is now back outside in a small paddock and is calm. Your question verbiage could be 'How important is the sweating the leg? May I/we just give a good invigorating rub of the leg with liniment and not wrap it?

Sorry, I did not mean it that way–he’s very good about answering questions–I just hate to bother him! :sadsmile: And thank you for summing up what I can have the office staff ask him about–that really helps me. And what would you be doing in the meantime? Thanks.

Obviously the severity of the injury comes into play a bit-- but there is a very successful steeplechase trainer here that turns them out for a year or so rather than doing stall rest and seems to have good luck with that. Also (not be as obnoxious as it probably sounds) a ligament is not the same as a tendon.

How big is the turnout you have him in? Is someone at the barn all day? Maybe wrap the leg during the day if someone is there to make sure the wrap stays put?

I do agree that horse being a lunatic in a stall is not a good option. But, you really need the vet to tell you what your best option is at this point.

The turnout is not huge but it’s big enough that he could run around–I’m not sure of the exact size. He’s on private turnout and so that coupled with being out all the time, he stays quiet out there. And he’s behaved well enough in his stall but it’s when he comes out that he is a nightmare. So when he’s in the small round-pen sized paddock we had him in for his “limited turnout”, hand walking/ride walking, etc. It’s almost as if he panics when confined to a small area outside (as he’s still near other horses, has plenty of hay, etc) when in the round-pen sized paddock.

And I will be speaking with his vet on Monday. Tomorrow evening I will bring him in and sweat his leg overnight and see if he will be quiet to just go out in his normal turnout during the day.

I third calling the vet and discussing a plan B, or suggesting a plan B and getting his approval on it. I am a big believer in Dr. Green and his rx tincture of time for soft tissue unless explicitly contraindicated by the severity of the injury, the available footing, or the horse’s outdoor behavior. It helps the horse retain a modicum of fitness if he’s moving and it’s so much better for his brain! Yes, it may take longer, but to me the trade off is more than acceptable considering that I’m probably going to get a saner horse back than if I stall rested.

In the meantime, if he were mine, assuming that your footing is good and the suspensory issue is mild, I would try to balance what the horse is saying he needs (turnout) with what the vet wants (staying in.) I think it is probably better for a horse to walk on a fairly mildly strained ligament than to leap and bound and slam down on it in a 12x12 stall. That would mean putting him out as long as I could provided that he stayed quiet, and bringing him in to sweat the leg. Alternatively, do you have a small pony he could have for company in the round pen? He may like to have a friend for emotional support while he is in a new place.

A co-boarder’s 26 yo horse did more than strain his suspensory. He had a major tear. He was stall bound from April until late July. After u/s at 2 months, the vet allowed 1 hour of grazing per day. Well, it became impossible to bring the horse back inside and if the owner did, he would “run” in his stall, jump… He was also alone in the barn as all horses are on 24/7 turnout in the summer. She was afraid he was going to re-injure what had healed already. She called the vet requesting long term tranq and the vet never returned the call.

This is where I disagreed with the HO. I would have pestered the vet. I know she has other clients, but this horse is a baby to the owner. She has owned him since he was a weanling… so, by then, she was angry at the vet… with the BO, they did partition off a small flat turnout, next to other horses, but darn horse would just walk over the fencing tape!! So they made the turnout bigger and used gates, etc.

She wraps him every day still, but he is free to walk around. He is not crazy, does not run, does not try to trot. He looks good. Hopefully, he can stay in that t/o all winter and stay in if it gets muddy/icy.

Email your vet if you are worried about bothering him.
Years ago we had a horse with bilateral suspensory core lesions. When we attempted to stall rest him, he kicked out the stall walls and was dangerous to handle. Our lameness vet, a well known tendon guru, said to put him in the grassy paddock where he would be happy. The horse healed uneventfully, and 15 years later, has still not had another suspensory problem.

Sounds like you will be speaking to your vet, and I’m all for that. They send you home with a plan, but the horse doesn’t always agree to it! If your vet isn’t familiar with your setup, be prepared to describe it in terms of size and footing. Not huge but big enough to run around in sounds too big to me, but let your vet and your knowledge of your horse guide you.

When my horse injured a high suspensory, vet prescribed stall rest following treatment. I was at a boarding barn where he would be left in while all the others went out, and he was known to rear up and be a crazy thing when he wasn’t first to go out (when he was still being turned out prior to the injury). So we built a 12x24 (double stall size, and vet approved) paddock in the end of another horse’s paddock, on good, dry footing. So every morning, he got “turned out” with the others and every night came in. Your vet may want you to cut down your current paddock, at least, so think about options. If electric fencing is already in place, that makes it easy.

Good luck! Been there, and it isn’t fun, but hopefully your vet can help you come up with a plan your horse will sign on to as well.

You are doing what I would do if my horse injured a suspensory a second time. One long stall rest is enough; I would not do it to my horse again unless it was his only chance (life or death). I might see if there is a smaller paddock he could be out in 24/7, and I might sweat the leg during the day if the paddock is small enough. But I would basically do what you are doing.

My horse had something quite similar to yours. It was a mild strain and vet recommended stall rest. Horsey made it quite clear that it was not in his best interested to be inside. We turned him out and he was happy and quiet. Healed up in 8ish weeks and has had no problems since. This was about 10 years ago and this horse is now 20 and still jumping 3’-3’6

I don’t want to dispense advise…only you & your vet know the severity of the injury…but did want to share our story. I have a 19 year old OTTB. 10 years ago, about 8 months of the track he injured his LF suspensory in poor footing at an event. The vet originally prescribed stall rest. He was an absolute nutcase in a stall, he had been living out 24/7 and was having nothing to do with this “lock me up in a cage” nonsense. He would spin, rear, kick…just be completely out of his mind ANGRY. I was more worried for his safety in the stall, than out. My vet at the time was “old school”, and he said to turn him out for a year. That’s what we did…and in 10 years that leg has never caused him an ounce of trouble… and he’s an event horse, so it’s not for lack of testing it. He does however, have 3 other legs to stir things up with. :wink:

Thanks everyone–I will be checking in with his vet–I just couldn’t wait to check in with him because my horse was progressively acting worse one evening. I appreciate hearing about your experiences with horses such as mine–that really helps. :slight_smile:

Tonight, I am going to bring him into his stall (he is fine when physically in his stall, and we bring the mini in to keep him company) and sweat his leg. Then we’ll try turning him out in the morning–if he goes out calmly it would be great. I’m just not sure if he will go along with that plan!

I put my horse out with a quiet buddy.

You are doing what I would do if my horse injured a suspensory a second time. One long stall rest is enough; I would not do it to my horse again unless it was his only chance (life or death). I might see if there is a smaller paddock he could be out in 24/7, and I might sweat the leg during the day if the paddock is small enough. But I would basically do what you are doing.[/QUOTE]

This along with walking under saddle for increasing lengths of time is what I would do in this case.

I should mention that the strain was mild enough that my vet said to do the limited turnout, leg sweating, and ride walking for a month–and that we would then reintroduce trotting and see where he is at the end of that month. We’ll be doing a recheck when this vet comes though Indiana again in the first part of November.

So would you guys continue to do hand walking or ride walking even if he’s out in his regular paddock, walking about on his own? Or would you guys just say that he’s likely getting enough walking done on his own? Thanks.