Knowing how to deal with a horse injury is part and parcel of responsible horse ownership. As your horse’s partner, you want to make sure that you give them the best quality of life you can provide. Aside from grooming, horse training, and shelter, you’ve got to make sure that you can attend to your horse’s medical needs, especially when they’re injured.
While you probably know the basics of horse care, you might find yourself wondering if there were more holistic options for horse rehabilitation. After all, being able to help your horse heal at home means being able to minimize their movement, which in turn speeds up the healing process.
You’ll be happy to know that there are a ton of alternative treatments available to horses today, ranging from horse acupuncture to therapeutic massage. There are also a lot of ways you can safely DIY injury recovery, which is pretty handy knowledge to have.
Before you try any of these home treatments, make sure to check with an equine vet first. As much as we’d like to be able to help our horses with injury recovery at home, we don’t always know if a particular treatment is exactly what they need.
Sometimes, for example, you might think your horse is just dealing with a sprain, not knowing that they actually suffered a hairline fracture. No amount of sprain treatment is going to fix a fracture, and leaving the actual problem untreated may lead to something even worse in the long run.
At the same time, some treatments might not sit well for your horse. Just as every doctor is taught to treat each patient as a unique case, you need to understand that what works for other horses might not work for yours. Your horse, for instance, might be allergic to an herbal remedy your dressage trainer recommended, which means using it will do much more harm than good.
Consulting a horse veterinarian helps you reduce the risks of home treatment, while also giving you more information on what sort of remedy works best for your horse.
Keeping this in mind, here are a few things you can do at home to help speed up horse rehabilitation:
Treat ankle sprains with a bucket of ice water.
A common horse injury, an ankle sprain usually happens when a horse muscle is overexerted or overextended. If your equine vet confirms that your four-legged friend is limping because of a sprain, the most recommended treatment is stable rest. Depending on how serious the sprain is, horse rehabilitation can take anywhere from a week to a couple of months.
In order to speed up the healing process, you can try to get your horse to stand with their injured ankle in a bucket of ice water for about 20 minutes, a few times a day. The ice-cold water will reduce the swelling around the sprain, relieving your horse of a lot of pain.
If you prefer to avoid using anti-inflammatory medicine to aid with horse rehabilitation, this does the trick fairly well.
Make a cold poultice for swelling.
Sprains aren’t the only cause of swelling. Other injuries, like bumps and muscle strain, can cause a painful inflammation in your horse. In many cases, the swelling happens in places that an ice bucket can’t reach.
To treat swelling from a horse injury, you can try using a cold poultice. This is essentially a homemade cold compress that you can apply to the injured parts of your horse’s body.
To make one, all you need are some Epsom salts, some water, and dry grains like bran or oatmeal. All you have to do is dissolve the salts in the water, and then mix in enough of the grains until you get a wet, clay-like compound. You can add in other cooling ingredients like grated potato to maximize the effects. Cool this mixture in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, and it’s ready to use.
Apply the cold poultice to the injured horse muscle, and then cover it with a damp old t-shirt. Wrap a bandage around everything to keep your poultice in place, and you’re done! Depending on the severity of the horse injury, you might need to replace the poultice a couple of times a day. Make sure that it doesn’t stay on overnight.
Use a warm poultice for infections.
If cold poultices are used to treat swelling, warm ones are used for infections like hoof abscesses. These compresses effectively pull out the pus from infected wounds, speeding up the healing process.
You can make a warm poultice using Epsom salts, water, and grains, too. The only difference is that the water needs to be warm.
Before applying the poultice on a horse injury, make sure you touch it to your skin, first. Applying a poultice that’s too hot might hurt your horse or cause it to panic.
Keep wounds clean with saline and sugar.
Your horse will get their fair share of cuts over your years together, with some nastier than others. If you happen to find a gash on your horse’s body, you help it heal with two kitchen essentials: salt and sugar.
The first thing you need to do is use a saline solution to clean your horse’s wound. You can make it by dissolving about two tablespoons of salt in one gallon of boiled or distilled water. The salt in the mixture helps get rid of harmful bacteria that might be on the wound. Make sure you wash the affected area gently; too much pressure might cause it to tear further.
Once the wound is clean, you can pat on a little bit of sugar on the outer edge. This will help stimulate the healing process. Once the sugar is in place, cover up the wound with a bandage to make sure pests and other contaminants stay away.
Check the wound on the next day to see if it’s scabbed up. If you see that scabs have started to protect the wound, you can stop with the treatment. Otherwise, you’ll want to repeat the wash, sugar, and bandage cycle until the horse injury has healed.
Soothe bruises with arnica gel.
Arnica gel is another herbal remedy that could help with injury recovery. It’s known to reduce swelling and heal bruises that surround injuries. This, in turn, provides a good amount of pain relief for your horse.
Just make sure that you don’t use it in areas that your horse can accidentally lick. Arnica can be poisonous in large amounts, so exercise caution when using it.
Treat rain rot with this oil mixture.
Rain rot is a bacterial infection on your horse’s skin that causes the formation of dry, scabby lesions and bald patches. In the worst cases, these lesions can get large enough to keep your horse from activities like riding, and can be bad enough to qualify as a serious horse injury.
To rehabilitate your horse’s skin, you’ll want to use a mixture that both softens and disinfects it. Softening the skin helps remove the lesions, while disinfecting it kills the bacteria that causes more of them.
Try combining equal parts of baby oil and 3% hydrogen peroxide solution with a splash of iodine tincture to make the treatment. The baby oil takes care of the softening part, while the hydrogen peroxide and iodine get rid of the bacteria. Gently sponge this mixture onto the affected areas and let it set overnight. In the morning, you should be able to wash off a lot of the rain rot.
Just a quick warning: don’t keep the mixture in a closed container. It tends to release gas, and might cause the container to explode as a result.
Alternate hot and cold compresses for back pain.
Sometimes, riding can take its toll on your horse’s back. When this happens, you can help speed up injury recovery using both hot and cold compresses.
Start with the cold compress on the affected area to reduce swelling, and then use the hot compress to increase blood flow and improve healing. Do this several times a day, and the horse injury should go away sooner rather than later.
You can also try using gel saddle pads to prevent this problem in the first place. Gel pads act as a sort of shock absorber under the saddle, distributing the rider’s weight more evenly on the horse’s back.
If the problem persists, you might want to consult an expert with equine therapy certification. Some back pain issues might require regular physical therapy on top of the home remedies.
Fight pain and fever with white willow bark.
If you want an alternative way to help your horse deal with the pain of their injury, you might want to try some white willow bark. The bitter herb is usually ground into a powder and fed to horses.
Along with providing pain relief, white willow bark is also known to be effective in bringing a fever down. This is especially helpful if your horse has wounds that are prone to infection. Before you start using it, however, consult a horse veterinarian for proper use.
Use Preparation H to prevent proud flesh.
As a horse injury heals, there’s always a chance that their wounds develop proud flesh. This happens when irritated skin gets a little too eager with the healing process and starts forming pink scabby layers on the wound. These layers ironically slow down the healing process, putting your horse at risk of infections.
In case this happens, wash the wound with saline solution and then apply some Preparation H onto the affected area. The active ingredients help reduce irritation and slow the growth of proud flesh.
Heal saddle sores with diaper cream.
When a saddle isn’t properly fitted onto your horse, it can rub against their skin while you’re riding. The friction causes the skin to wear down, resulting in saddle sores. These patches of raw skin can be quite painful for your horse, and could lead to infections.
Saddle sores need to stay dry in order to heal properly, which is why diaper cream is surprisingly good at treating this horse injury. Not only does it soothe the irritated skin, but the zinc oxide found in most diaper creams helps keep excess moisture out.
Again, make sure you consult an equine vet before trying out any of these home treatments. The best way you can take care of an injured horse, after all, is to make sure that you’re doing what’s right for them, in the right way.