‘‘Fix Me Up So I Can Ride Today’’

Photo by Adam Hill.


ShowMD’s Dr. Barb Blasko explains why riders need to treat their own injury recovery like that of their horses.

A good friend from the barn called me in tears. Her horse had slipped in turnout. The vet examined the injury and determined it was a high suspensory injury that would take 8-12 months to heal. The vet recommended stall rest, Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment, laser, Shock Wave, and hand walking.

The words tumbled out through her tears. I did my best to just listen and let her vent. From my own experience dealing with suspensory injuries, I know how long they take to resolve. Recovery has its ups and downs, and the constant agony of waiting for the next ultrasound visit. Fortunately for my friend, she had another horse who was starting to compete in the young jumpers.

Two weeks later, the same friend arrived at my medical trailer at the horse show—one riding boot on and one boot off. Her right ankle was wrapped in ice. She had fallen off her bike and said to me, “My class starts in an hour. Fix me up so I can ride today!”

I examined her ankle. It was pretty swollen and starting to bruise already. I was concerned about the movement in her ankle and suggested we X-ray.

She hobbled over to the machine and we got some quick x-rays, which miraculously showed no broken bones. However, the swelling, inability to walk, and my examination findings indicated a very bad sprain.

“Great!” she replied “Nothing is broken! Help me get my boot on so I can ride.”

Photo by Adam Hill.

With a grade 3 ankle sprain, she was definitely not riding that day, and would possibly need surgery.

“But I need to ride,” she countered.

This was the same woman who had called me two weeks prior, saying her horse needed 12 months of rehab. And that she was willing to give her horse every therapy and as much time as he needed.

What her ankle needed was immediate ice, elevation, and compression. She was on stall rest.

Fortunately, sprains tend to heal in 6 to 8 weeks, not a year. My friend accepted that an air cast, ankle brace, and crutches were in her future. I recommended PRP, ultrasound, and ice—all commonly used in the treatment of athlete ligament injuries.

These “fix me ASAP” exclamations are something I frequently hear from riders. They are willing to treat their equine partners as athletes that need proper treatment and downtime, but they don’t extend themselves the same grace.

We need to ditch the “competition at all cost” mindset for equestrian athletes. You can swap out a horse if one has an injury, but not your own ankles.

When our horses jog off, we put them back in the stall for treatment and recovery. We understand the importance of catching even small injuries early, before they become something career-ending.

One of my missions as a physician and equestrian is to encourage riders to take their own health as seriously as they take that of their horses.

Your own injuries deserve the same thoughtful consideration. Give yourself the appropriate time and treatments to heal so a small sprain doesn’t become something catastrophic.

Photo courtesy of Barb Blasko, MD.

THE EXPERT: Barb Blasko, MD
Dr. Barb Blasko is a Board-Certified Emergency Medicine Physician with 22 years of experience working in multiple Emergency Departments throughout the United States. An amateur rider and avid entrepreneur, Dr. Blasko combined her passions and founded ShowMD to improve the lives of equestrian athletes. Dr. Blasko’s medical expertise includes specialty in clinical strategy, Emergency Medicine, telemedicine and biomedical informatics.
With her own horses, she actively competes in USEF show jumping competitions and is personally and professionally active in west coast hunter jumper communities.
For more information on Dr. Blasko and ShowMD, visit showmd.org

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