First aid essentials — dealing with swelling

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Swelling in a horse’s leg can be caused by fluid accumulation, infection or injury. Carl Hester’s head groom Alan Davies explains what action to take when faced with distended limbs.

Swollen or filled legs in horses can be worrying, but there is usually no pain involved and it can be easily rectified. Swelling generally affects the lower part of the leg below the knee and, in most cases, doesn’t cause lameness.

In all cases of swelling, you should contact your vet to determine the cause.

Once your vet has examined your horse and is happy that the injury isn’t due to a serious injury or illness, there are a number of things you can do to help reduce it:

  1. Gentle exercise, such as walking in-hand or on a horse walker, can increase circulation and help to reduce swelling, as can turning your horse out.

  2. Cold hosing for 20 minutes a few times a day will help. You can also apply ice boots for 15-20 minutes if running water isn’t available, or cooling gel. Cooling the area increases circulation and helps to reduce inflammation and swelling.

  3. Stable bandaging will support the limbs while the horse is standing in his stable for longer periods.

  4. For mild cases of filling, your vet may recommend a more regular turnout regime or in-hand walking to increase circulation and encourage the swelling to dissipate.

  5. In cases of lymphangitis or cellulitis, your vet may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. He may also prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. He may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines to alleviate any pain and reduce swelling.

Don’t miss the latest issue of Your Horse Magazine, jam-packed with training and veterinary advice, horse-care tips and the latest equestrian products available on shop shelves, on sale now. Find out what’s in the latest issue here

Three reasons to vaccinate your horse, from KBHH

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Worryingly, around 50% of UK horse owners do not vaccinate their horses against flu and 40% do not vaccinate against tetanus, putting a large proportion of our horse population at risk.

Here are three reasons why you should vaccinate your horse: 

1 – Disease can make horses ill or even worse

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The last thing you want is for your horse, or any horse, to get ill, so prevention is always the best approach. 

Although flu does not usually cause long term or fatal illness, it can lead to pneumonia in very young and old horses. 

It can take from a few weeks to several months for horses to fully recover which could result in them being out of action for a significant period of time. 

You may be restricted from competing and yard closures can be put into force. 

If you see signs of flu in your horse, which include a dry cough, nasal discharge, fever, lack of appetite and lethargy, you should isolate your horse and contact your vet. 

Signs of tetanus, such as seizures and muscle stiffness, can be severe and develop rapidly into a ‘rocking horse’ stance and ‘lock-jaw’.

Unfortunately, in many cases the disease proves to be fatal. It’s awful to see horses suffering with tetanus, and prevention by vaccination is the best option

2 – Disease spreads more easily than you think 

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Diseases can also spread indirectly via people, water, feed and equipment that have been in contact with infected horses.

Furthermore, equine flu can travel up to 5km in favourable conditions.

Even if a horse lives alone and doesn’t leave home, he’s still at risk of infection if left unvaccinated.

Ensure contact with horses and people off-premises is minimised, especially at competitions.

People who visit the yard should regularly wash their hands thoroughly and disinfect boots on entry and exit.

3 – Your horse is well connected 

Even if he doesn’t leave the yard, your horse may still be in contact with horses who do, which can increase the risk of diseases spreading. Watch the video below to see how easily diseases can spread worldwide. 

If you are concerned about your horse’s risk of contracting an infectious disease, speak to your vet to put a management plan in place. 

Do you want to find out more about horse health? Check out the Keeping Britain’s Horses Healthy Facebook and Twitter pages.