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What is Strains and Sprains ?

Strains and sprains can occur in any muscle, and are often due to an injury, or an overworked or overextended muscle. Many strains and sprains occur in the legs, groin or adductor muscles. Strain can even occur in back muscles due to issues with the saddle or riding techniques. While symptoms can vary from mild to severe, you should seek veterinary care immediately if you see signs of swelling, heat, and lameness, as the injury can become more severe if not treated properly.

Sprains and strains result when muscles, tendons, ligaments, or the joint structures swell, tear, or rupture. These injuries become a source of pain, and can result in performance issues, a reluctance to bear weight or be ridden, and lameness. A strain is generally less severe than a sprain, but both lead to discomfort and a reduction in activity for your horse.

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Strains and Sprains Average Cost

From 525 quotes ranging from $2,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Symptoms of Strains and Sprains in Horses

Symptoms of a strain or sprain can vary depending on the muscle that has been damaged. Often, symptoms are pain related, and can include:

  • Decreased level of performance
  • Pain upon palpation of injured area
  • Heat and swelling
  • Discomfort
  • Lameness in the first 1 to 2 days of injury
  • Limping 
  • Tender areas
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Trembling
  • Lacerations or bruises over injured muscles
  • Grinding teeth
  • Refusal to jump or be ridden
  • Changes in gait
  • Reluctance to move
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Causes of Strains and Sprains in Horses

Causes of sprains and strains in horses can affect the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joint structures in your horse, and can include:

  • Direct injury to muscles and associated tissues
  • Accidents causing damage
  • Overworked muscles and surrounding tissues and joints
  • Repetitive or strenuous exercise or movement
  • Overextension of muscles or joints
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Diagnosis of Strains and Sprains in Horses

Diagnosis of a strain or sprain begins with clinical signs. Let your veterinarian know of any history of injury or accidents that may have contributed to the symptoms seen in your horse. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam, and palpate specific muscle groups to locate areas of pain and injury. Usually, your veterinarian will need to watch your horse walking, trotting, or jumping. To rule out other causes of lameness, a lameness exam which generally involves a nerve block may be performed.

X-rays, ultrasounds or thermography may be used to locate specific muscle injuries, and to see if there are any concurrent bone fractures that may need attention. Other testing techniques that may be used include nuclear scintigraphy, or a bone scan, and an adductor stress test.

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Treatment of Strains and Sprains in Horses

Treatment of strains and sprains in horses will aim to relieve pain, and minimize any further damage while the muscles and associated tissues heal. This is accomplished with box rest for several weeks, followed by gradually increasing exercise that should be planned with your veterinarian, and often begins with hand walking. If your horse returns to activity too soon, there is a risk of re-injuring those muscle and tissues. During the course of your horse’s recovery, ultrasounds can be used to help monitor progress.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are used with muscle injuries to relieve pain and inflammation. Muscle relaxants and local anti-inflammatory injections can also be used to the same effect. Alternating hot and cold compresses on injured areas may be recommended. The injured tissues can be supported with the use of support bandaging while they are healing.

Tendons and ligaments tend to heal slower, and carry the risk of scar tissue which can compromise the structural integrity of those tissues. Once healed, tendons and ligaments may not be as strong as before the injury. They also tend to heal at a slower rate, and may need longer periods of rest. Any wounds or bone fractures will be treated appropriately as needed, and can include antibacterial medications, bandaging, and surgery.

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Recovery of Strains and Sprains in Horses

Recovery of mild to moderate strains is good, though more severe cases can take longer. Sprains can vary more significantly in severity, and a successful recovery is dependent on the extent of the injury, the swiftness of treatment, and sufficient rest for healing to occur. At home, you may be given pain medications and anti-inflammatories to administer to your horse, as well as a rest and exercise plan devised with your veterinarian. An ultrasound may be performed in 3 months to assess your horse’s recovery. 

Be aware of the symptoms of strains and sprains so that if your horse is injured, appropriate treatment can be sought in a timely manner, preventing the injury from becoming worse.

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Strains and Sprains Average Cost

From 525 quotes ranging from $2,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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Strains and Sprains Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Tomboy

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Holsteiner

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15 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Limping

My horse lost a shoe one morning, but a friend came and lunged her that day not noticing the lost shoe. she was lunged on soft rubber mix footing for about 10 minutes before noticing the shoe missing. next day Ferrier comes to put the shoe back on and she is limping. no signs of soreness in the foot and she seemed better after getting shoe on. I walked her under saddle for 10 minutes then put her away. 48 hrs later she is limping pretty good on that same leg. Feels light there is some light swelling in the splint bone, or back side top of her cannon bone. I used some liniment on her legs then wrapped both front legs. Any other recommendations I should do? Could she have hurt herself from the lunge with no shoe? Thank you in advance!

Sept. 5, 2018

Tomboy's Owner

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Jackson

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Quarter Horse

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Slight Limping

I think my horse has sprained his ankle the swelling has gone away but he is still limping a little bit it has been about 2 weeks and my instructor says I should start walking him, how long should I walk him for?

March 22, 2018

Jackson's Owner


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2 Recommendations

Stable rest is best, I cannot say whether you should start hand walking Jackson yet or not as I haven’t examined him as he may require longer stable rest; but short hand walks for ten to fifteen minutes are good to start with and monitor to see if there are any changes to the gait, then build up the duration from there. People are divided when it comes to exercising a lame horse, you should call your Veterinarian if you have any concerns. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 22, 2018

Before we figured out Jackson was lame I tacked him up he was just fine, and then I started riding him at a walking pace and he was just fine then i started trotting him and i noticed a sudden change in his gait it was usually smooth but it was rough and bumpy and then my instructor/ the person i lease from she said to leave him in his stall and i did then she texted me and said i should start walking him so then a girl at my barn walked hi and said he was very anxious to get out of his stall Jackson is not the calm type as he is only 8 turning 9 in a week.

March 22, 2018

Jackson's Owner

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Strains and Sprains Average Cost

From 525 quotes ranging from $2,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

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