Strains and Sprains in Horses

Strains and Sprains in Horses - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Lethargy / Limping / Pain / Swelling / Weakness

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Rated as moderate conditon

5 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Lethargy / Limping / Pain / Swelling / Weakness

Strains and Sprains in Horses - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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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

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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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3320 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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smoke

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Australian Stock

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10 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lame

I bought this horse 3 weeks ago, I noticed on the right rein he lifted his head and appeared to be in pain. I have taken him to the vet that picked up lameness on right foot, we blocked it and he showed lameness in same side hind hock, we blocked the hock and he was lame in the front, we blocked the knee and he was the same in front. Xrays showed nothing wrong, scans showed a small hole in the patella on right hind hock but she didn't think that was the cause. She injected cortisone into affected knee and hock and asked to see him again in two weeks. He also has very heavy balance shoes in the front and they are being changed today by an excellent farrier. Thinking could the cause be sprain/strain, as he was out of work and they worked him in a heavy sand arena before we looked at him, on the lunge he doesn't really appear to be lame

March 1, 2018

smoke's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Smoke myself I cannot really say what the cause or reason may be for the lameness; however reshodding him and reviewing types of shoes and other issues with the Farrier would be useful (as you know the right Farrier can make a world of difference). You should not try to do anything outside of the scope of your Veterinarian’s instructions before their next visit. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 1, 2018

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Monkey

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Appaloosa

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2

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

My mare was diagnosed with a likely adductor sprain or strain. She was non weight bearing the first day. After about 24 hrs and some bute, she was bearing weight, but clearly sore. Much more swelling on day 2 and 3. What is the average recovery time for this injury? We really don't know how it occurred. She was in her stall.... so either cast or slipped upon rising.

Nov. 22, 2017

Monkey's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

You can expect Monkey to be out of action for a few weeks to a few months depending on the severity of the injury; your Veterinarian will be able to give you a better idea of recovery time after an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/equine-adductor-muscle-injuries

Nov. 22, 2017

Thank you so much for your insight. Much appreciated.

Nov. 25, 2017

Monkey's Owner

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Buck

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Quarter Horse

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20 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

What should I do?I don't think he could be hauled to the vet and a vet would not come out to see him. I think he has a sprained fetlock.He only puts his toe on the ground, the joint is warm and only bends a little.

Nov. 9, 2017

Buck's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

Without examining a horse it is difficult to say whether is it a simple sprain or something more severe; rest is best in these cases along with pain management. I do not know your specific circumstances or whether a Veterinarian would visit you or not but you should seek some professional advice, even if you speak with a Veterinarian in your area to see if they can assist. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 9, 2017

Thank you for your insight. Much appreciated.

Nov. 25, 2017

Paige

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slim Shady

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APHA

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13 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lameness At A Trot Swollen Pastern

13 yr old gelding. Pulled up after work and he appeared fine. Saddled you my other horse and went to pony him off. He was sound at walk but I sound at trot. Immediately to barn and slight swelling and warm at right front Pasternak to 1/3 way up medial and lateral tendon. No wound. It’s been two weeks and he’s bandaged and in equioxx daily. Still sound at walk and turning at walk. Swelling has gone down significantly but still minor and he’s 75% improved at a trot with bandage off and 90% with wrap on. So my question is when do I start with any work? Or continue until 100% sound?

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Tootsie

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Pony

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15 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly Rear Gait

I bought a pony and when I got her off the trailer she was wobbly and dragging her back legs I think she might have fallen in the trailer, I had her tied. I have a two-horse trailer and from the scuff marks I think she went under the divider.

Strains and Sprains Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$4,000

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