Nursing a Horse Back From a Fractured Leg

Photo courtesy of Julieanne White

BY JULIEANNE WHITE

A few years ago, I went to the pasture to collect my Arabian gelding, Devon, when I noticed a large gash to his right hind tetlock area. He favoured it when he came to me. This wasn’t our first adventure with the vet. I’d previously done stem cell therapy in the US, and he was already scheduled at Hook Norton Veterinary Group located in Banbury, Oxfordshire for bilateral sacro-illiac joint injections.

I cleaned and wrapped his wound for the journey to the hospital, and relayed the new injury to his attending veterinarian Sam Cutts, DVM surgeon and brilliant C*** eventer after competing at Blenheim Castle. Not only is Dr. Cutts a brilliant veterinarian, he’s an accomplished equestrian as well. 

Upon investigation, it appeared Devon was kicked by another horse in pasture whilst running the fence line. He was incredibly stoic and calm despite the circumstances. I remained close to his insight and voice to reassure him. I was with him all the way. I was not going to leave him.

He was prepared for his bilateral sacro-illiac joint injections like we had planned, but I also asked Sam, his attending veterinarian, if she would x-ray his right hind fetlock area and cannon bone. She replied absolutely since upon trying to touch the area it was evident he was in pain.

The views revealed he had sustained a right hind cannon bone fracture with laceration and displacement of the suspensory ligament. Our plan was to avoid surgery for his fracture, consequently we decided on pressurized bandaging for a period of six weeks with strict box rest.

Photo courtesy of Julieanne White

I immediately thought of the 40-minute journey from the stable in the village of Moreton Morrrell to the equine hospital in Banbury through twisting and turning small country laneways. My thoughts were of Devon, his incredible composure, balance and calm demeanor knowing his level of discomfort. All the while during our journey to the equine hospital his eyes remained focused on me knowing I was right there with him. I still think back to this day of a horse demonstrating increible composure under extreme duress.

We wanted to avoid surgery, therefore the first three weeks he was wrapped with a heavy pressure bandage. We changed it every several days to address the laceration and avoid infection to the bone. He would be kept to strict box rest for six weeks, followed by a step down phase of hand held grazing and then reduced pasture enclosure to prevent reinjury. 

Following the first three weeks of heavy pressurized bandaging, we followed with a step down phase in which I would rewrap every day for the next three weeks to ensure complete bone alignment. I was given direct instructions by Sam Cutts, his attending veterinarian to ensure pooper bone alignment whilst continuing to address the laceration to prevent bone infection. During this entire healing process, I remained with my horse every day for up to eight hours to ensure he remained calm with his strict box rest to avoid further injury. Since this injury occurred late Spring into early Summer, the pastures were green and fresh with all the nutritional values to assist healing. Since Devon could not go outside, I brought the pasture into him daily with fresh hand picked buckets of lovely green gases with all the micronutrients along with vitamin E to assist the healing process. 

Photo courtesy of Julieanne White

Finally the day came to x-ray to confirm bone alignment, we were successful—complete bone alignment, no bone infection.  

He was the best and most compliant patient, eager to return to his playful and athletic self.

Now there were additional compensatory changes to address due to the fracture and his extended box rest. I used my skills as a certified imaging specialist with thermal imagery to detect the compensatory changes. The next several months were his time of rehabilitation to strengthen his hind end and his core. 

Photo courtesy of Julieanne White

I employed the equicore banding system approved by the Royal Veterinary College in London. He found it difficult with the banding secured around his hind end to proceed for ten minutes on flat surfaces. Our sessions were three times per week for ten minutes gradually building to 30 mins per session. When I added the enticement of carrots for lateral work and deep paraspinal lumbar stretching, he began to look forward to our sessions. His strength returned quickly since he was a young horse. We gradually added uphill inclines with the equicore banding system.

Photo courtesy of Julieanne White

It was a team effort dedicated to horse welfare and truly a labour of love. There is nothing more gratifying to watch a horse run freely with such joy and happiness. Healing my horse was about teamwork, dedication, compassion, devotion for the welfare, and plenty of love for a beautiful and free spirited Arabian horse, Devon.


Julieanne White is a former World Class Professional Ironman Triathlete having competed for the commonwealth of Canada with an extended career in running ranging from 5km to Ultra marathons Internationally. She has worked in the corporate world, but her true love has always been sports with an equal love for animal welfare. She is a licensed & certified imaging specialist, doing thermal imaging both canines & equines. Additionally, she am a Licensed & Certified Sports therapist having attained these credentials whilst a professional endurance athlete.

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