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Natraliving Horse EQUINE ISSUES

We have put together a simple 'at a glance' guide to provide some basic information about common equine ailments or issues and the appropriate recommended natural herbs or healthcare products which might be considered for use. Over the years we have experienced many situations listed below that have been successfully helped.

Horses and ponies may vary in their response to conventional or complimentary care. If you are in any doubt about a specific health issue please consult your vet to obtain a proper diagnosis. Now a days any vets are more than happy for you to combine a natural approach in conjunction with medical treatments.


Hoof abscesses are probably the most common cause of acute lameness in horses. Foreign matter (such as gravel, dirt, sand, etc.) or infectious agents such as bacteria or fungal elements gains entry into the hoof through a separation in the sole-wall junction (white line). This foreign debris will migrate in the hoof to the sensitive sub solar or sub mural tissue leading to infection. Another common cause of sub solar abscesses is penetration of the bottom of the foot (sole) by a sharp object. Infection may also gain entry into the foot by way of a hoof wall crack or multiple old nail holes.


An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Allergies are defined as hypersensitivity to one or more allergens (such as mould spores, pollens, or insect bites), resulting in a markedly increased reactivity (overreaction) of the immune system after repeat exposures.

Upon exposure to an allergen, the horse’s immune system produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Upon subsequent exposures to that same allergen, it binds to IgE localised on special cells of the immune system called mast cells and basophils. This in turn causes inflammation due to histamines and cytokines being released from these cells. These inflammatory mediators have far-reaching effects and can cause smooth muscle constriction, dilation of blood vessels, and stimulation of the nervous system. Other mechanisms, cytokines, and immune cells are also thought to play a role in equine allergic reactions.

According to experts, equine allergies, which primarily affect the skin and respiratory tract, are increasingly common. They can be performance-limiting, painful, unsightly, and expensive to diagnose and treat. Not only is the allergy itself problematic, but secondary problems such as self-trauma (e.g., tail rubbing due to extreme itchiness [pruritus]) can occur that require treatment. Horses can develop allergies at any age and, once affected can remain allergic to those substances for the rest of their lives.

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There are very many reasons for a horse to be anxious and display signs of anxiety but it will almost always have a root cause. The cause may be physical (caused by a physical factor – such as a frightening object or a sudden loud noise) or psychological (past abuse or stress and separation anxiety). It may also be hereditary – so it is important to determine the cause of the problem. All horses that exhibit prolonged or sudden anxiety should undergo a full check up at the vet. Other causes of anxiety may include:

Remember that horses are fight or flight animals, so when they are put into stressful situations they have a tendency to become anxious and want to ‘flee’. Some horses will be less nervous than others because of how they are able to handle stress. Also, always check for physical things that may be causing the anxiety – such as a banging door, fireworks etc.


"Arthritis” is a general term that refers to inflammation in a joint. The joints can be hot, painful, and swollen, although horses can still have arthritis without these signs. In horses the most common and important type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA).

Osteoarthritis is a specific form of arthritis that involves a progressive destruction of articular cartilage—the specialized tissue that lines the ends of the bones inside the joint. Equine OA is the most common cause of lameness in horses. Recent estimates show that approximately 60% of lameness problems in horses are related to OA.

Articular cartilage permits smooth, frictionless movement and is shock-absorbing, cushioning the underlying bones slightly against body weight loads during movement. In healthy joints the articular cartilage’s matrix is continuously "turned over,” or replenished, to stay healthy and capable of withstanding high forces during movement.

In arthritic joints, however, the balance between the breakdown of the old cartilage and the production of new, healthy cartilage tips toward the destructive phase, so the cartilage physically degenerates over time. There are also changes in the underlying (subchondral) bone and other joint tissues such as the synovial membrane and joint capsule.

This condition is degenerative and needs to be managed carefully to slow their process down, relieve pain and support soft tissue health.

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Azoturia/Tying up

Azoturia is a condition that damages the muscle tissue in horses. It is usually due to overfeeding carbohydrates and irregular exercise it also appears to have a genetic link.

The problem occurs when there is an inadequate flow of blood to the muscles of an exercising horse. The muscle cells, lacking in oxygen, begin to create a buildup of waste products, acid, and heat. This subsequently alters the cell by preventing the cell's enzymes from functioning and the myofilaments from efficiently contracting. The cell membranes may then be damaged if the horse is forced to continue work. The body builds up a store of glycogen from converted carbohydrates in muscle cells. Glycogen, a fuel used by muscles for energy, is depleted during work and restocked when a horse rests. Oxygen-carrying blood metabolizes glycogen, but the blood cannot flow fast enough to metabolise the excess stored glycogen. A horse on a high-grain diet with little work collects more glycogen in its muscles than it can use efficiently when exercise begins, which is why horses on a high-grain diet are more likely to develop Azoturia.

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This is where the underlying surface of the skin is damaged. Bruising can occur from a kick or knock or from treading on an uneven surface and bruising the sole.

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Owners are often very concerned about their horse’s behaviour and it is important to understand why a horse behaves in a certain way. Some horses need to be calmed because of anxiety, some because of excitement and others for training purposes and to increase concentration. Horses also may be deficient in an essential trace element which in turn can have an effect on behaviour or more often than not they are overfed and under exercised.

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The condition of a horse's coat is a telling sign of general level of health; a dull coat is indicative of a horse that is just not up to scratch healthwise. In itself, the dull coat only says that the vitality is lower than normal due to possible metabolic imbalance, digestive inefficiency or a toxic load. There are numerous possible underlying factors - which can include iron levels, lymphatics, kidney, and / or circulatory problems or parasitic infestation.

Although there may not be any other obvious symptoms of ill-health, a dull or 'starey' coat is a warning of a metabolic imbalance that should be addressed. Looking into the reasons for your horse's dull coat immediately you first notice it is the correct preventative approach, rather than waiting for an illness to develop.

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Concussion (legs)

Lameness problems from the fetlock down are usually caused by excessive concussion to the area, conformation faults, or both. It is important not to push your horse too fast with intense training (especially a young horse) and remember to take the time to warm up and cool down properly. Be aware of when your horse is tired. If you have any doubts about your horses’ condition or what to do always call your vet.

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The combination of the right diet and correct workload should keep your horse in good condition. A horse's condition will vary depending on its breed, age and workload. Before you can begin to decide what to feed your horse, you need to check if he is already in good condition or if he needs to lose, or gain weight.

What does good condition mean?

A horse in good condition will have the following qualities:

+ A firm neck with no crest but be careful not to confuse a crest with a well-muscled topline.
+ The ribs should be covered but still felt - the horse's coat thickness should be taken into account.
+ There should be no crease along the back and spinal bones should be just felt.
+ The rump of the horse should be rounded with a cover of fat, but the pelvis felt where the skin is supple.

Make sure you take a good look at your horse before making a final decision on his condition. Bodycondition score tables are available and these are very useful when assessing condition.

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It is rare for a horse owner not to have experienced a period of ‘box rest’ or convalescence. Reasons and length of time vary enormously from serious tendon injury with months spent in the stable to a few days following a minor injury or procedure. There are various things to look out for in the convalescent horse and care needs to be taken regarding their food intake and keeping them occupied in some way. Horses are herd animals and need companionship and to interact even if it is only with the carer or owner. Some equines can become stressed and anxious others bored and dis-interested - it is therefore important to keep a watchful eye on behaviour as well as considering the original injury or other reason for box rest in the first place.

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Coughs in horses can be due to allergic reactions to stable dust, pollen and viral infections. These can also result in long term irritation, causing coughs that do not respond easily to veterinary treatment.

A lethargic type of equine coughing could be a bronchial infection whereas a more vigorous cough is more likely to be an allergic type of cough


+ Bacterial or viral infection in the throat and lungs.
+ A blockage in the gullet or airway
+ Allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to the dust spores in hay and straw or other bedding
+ Seasonal allergies - this produces a mild seasonal cough which does not seem to get any worse with exercise
+ Influenza
+ Imbalances in the immune system

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A long, curly coat that fails to shed normally is the classical clinical sign of Equine Cushing's Disease (ECD). However, it is now thought that many more horses and ponies have the condition to some degree, even if they don't show the most obvious signs. All breeds and types may be affected, but ponies appear to be at greatest risk. Cushing's is usually seen in horses and ponies over the age of 15 years, and cases are often in their 20s or 30s. Mares and geldings are equally affected.

The signs of Cushing's are often vague and variable, and may easily be confused with other diseases or simply put down to "old age". Weight loss and lethargy are commonly observed, despite a normal or occasionally increased appetite. Loss of muscle mass, particularly over the saddle area and rump, is caused by protein breakdown. Some horses and ponies may develop the appearance of a "pot belly" due to weakening and stretching of the abdominal muscles. Fat may be deposited along the crest of the neck, above the tail and above and behind the eyes. Sweating is a common sign, particularly in areas where the coat is long. Affected horses may drink and urinate more than usual, although this can be very hard to assess, especially in field-kept animals.

Affected horses may appear more docile and tolerant of pain than others. Recurrent infections (especially dental and respiratory) are common due to suppression of the immune system. In addition, wound healing may be delayed and simple things such as mouth ulcers can become a major problem. Sometimes, there are other potential clues, like the coat that looks as if it has been permed or otherwise inexplicable bouts of laminitis. Sometimes the link is not recognised, but laminitis is probably the most serious complication of Cushing's and may be difficult to treat. In fact, more than 50% of horses with Cushing's are estimated to suffer from laminitis and associated foot abscesses. If your horse or pony keeps suffering from pus in the foot, it might be worth checking to see if there is an underlying cause.

Despite its name, ECD is different from Cushing's disease in humans and dogs. In horses, there is a problem with part of the pituitary, a small gland at the base of the brain. One of the functions of the pituitary is to control production of natural steroids by the adrenal gland. Equine Cushing's is caused by either hyperplasia (enlargement) or adenoma formation (benign growth) in part of the pituitary gland. For reasons that are currently unknown, aged horses and ponies affected by Cushing's have lowered production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter released within the brain. This results in increased levels of cortisol, the body's natural steroid, which is to blame for most of the problems associated with the disease.

Confirming Cushing's can be challenging and no test is 100% accurate. A diagnosis can often be made based on the history and the delayed shedding of a long, uneven coat, as well as other clinical signs. In less clear-cut cases, it may be very difficult to reach a diagnosis and your vet will be able to advise on the most suitable test.

Cushing's cannot be cured, but effective treatment can improve the horse or pony's quality of life

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Cuts & Wounds

Serious cuts and wounds must be seen as soon as possible by a vet. Minor cuts, wounds and abrasions can be treated successfully at home with a wide range of products.

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In day to day modern life it is not only us that suffer the effect of pollutants; so do our animals. It is quite difficult to provide non chemically enhanced food for our horses , especially those on high performance diets. The liver, kidneys, lymph, blood, skin and respiratory system all act to process and eliminate foreign and potentially damaging substances from the body. But when these processes are overwhelmed, substances build up and challenge the cells’ ability to function optimally. We can do a lot to naturally assist our horses system to function well and eliminate these toxins.

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There are many causes for diarrhoea in horses from anxiety and excitement to worm damage and serious digestive problems. It is a horses’ natural instinct to ‘empty’ at times of stress. Some are more prone to doing this than others – if you feel your hors e does this more than normal there are various solutions.

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The digestive system of a horse is most suited to eating small amounts of food steadily throughout the day, as they do in nature grazing on pasture. This is not always possible with modern stabling practices and human schedules which tend to determine twice daily feeding. A horses digestive method is quite delicate, they can’t regurgitate food so cannot vomit, they have a long complex large intestine and a balance of microbes that can be upset by changes in feed, environment and when stressed. This makes them very susceptible to colic, and in need of regular, clean high quality feed.

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Eye problems

Eye injuries and infections are common in horses. This is a good reason why you should check your horse thoroughly every day. Untreated eye problems can get nasty very quickly but can also clear up very quickly when treated correctly. Your horses eye should be clear and bright with tight lids. The inside should be pale pink and moist. Tearing should be minimal with perhaps just a droplet at the corner.

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Horses are naturally creatures of flight and can be frightened by many situations and stimuli. If you can find the cause of the problem and change or remove it your horse should improve and calm. If the fear is rooted in the horse it can be more difficult to overcome.

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Filled legs

This is commonly seen in horses that spend the day in the stable and especially standing stalls. From the knee or hock down, the legs fill with fluid and look puffy. It is usually noticed in the morning, and the swelling goes away when the horse is let out or exercised. Horses have poor circulation in their lower legs and when they are not moving even poorer circulation because of decreased heart rate. This causes the legs to fill with fluid. Also the lack of muscle movement causes lymph to stagnate in the lower leg.

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Head shaking

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Filled legs

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Horses are prone to infections of many different kinds and it depends on thetype of infection as to the products we would recommend.

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Dependent on the type of injury we have some products which can help with minor accidents or to encourage healing and reduce scarring. If your horse has been injured and you are worried abput his welfare always call your vet.

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For immune system support use the following products.

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Itching can have very many causes in horses.

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Joint conditions

Horses are prone to joint conditions by nature of their weight and confirmation as well as the amount and type of work they do. Obviously the best way to avoid joint problems for as long as possible is to monitor work levels, keep fitness and ensure the work is suitable for the individual horse – but wear and tear is inevitable. It is however possible to assist supporting tissue and manage issues by use of nutritional supplementation and other natural remedies.

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Laminitis is a painful inflammatory condition of the tissues (laminae) that bond the hoof wall to the pedal (coffin) bone in the horses hoof. It can affect any horse, of any age or sex, at any time of the year. Although it is traditionally considered a disease of fat ponies, laminitis can be triggered by a variety of metabolic or physical causes in any horse. Laminitis is caused by weakening of the supporting lamina within the hoof, leading to painful tearing of the support structure suspending the pedal bone within the hoof. If laminitis is not treated promptly, the pedal bone drops or the pedal bone can rotate downwards.This condition is one we are asked about almost more than any other. We have a number of products which can be used in different combinations to a) prevent and b) assist with laminitic symptoms. Recognising the problem and treating sooner rather than later is crucial – always consult a vet if you think your horse or pony has laminitis. The Laminitis Trust is a good souce of information and support. www.laminitis.org

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Liver support

To help with liver support use the following products.

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Sporadic lymphangitis (the most common form) is inflammation of the lymph vessels most usually in the limbs and in the majority of cases, the hindlimbs. The lymphatic system includes lymph nodes and lymph vessels (similar to veins) containing "lymph” which is basically the fluid part of blood (without the red blood cells). Its main function is to remove extra fluid from the lower limbs and help to prevent infection. It appears to be caused by a problem with the horse’s immune system - generally, however, there is a break in the skin or a wound allows infection to get through the epidermis and into the lymphatic system. Once the infection gains access to the lymph vessels, it can spread up the leg causing widespread inflammation that not only restricts drainage causing the leg to swell, but also causes a great deal of pain. Initially, the lymph vessels can appear as painful thick cords but as the disease progresses the swelling increases and there is a loss of definition of the joints and it can, in severe cases, appear like a "tree-trunk” leg. As the leg swells there is usually intense pain leading to severe lameness and they often become non weight-bearing on the leg. Frequently fluid (serum) leaks from the leg due to the pressure and this may dry as scabs on the skin. In long term or recurrent cases there is scarring and breakdown of the one-way valves within the lymph vessels (almost like varicose veins in humans) leading to permanent swelling of the legs. Once this happens the condition never really resolves and movement is restricted. A high temperature or fever is a common finding with lymphangitis and often the horse appears clinically ill; depressed and may reduce food intake or not eat at all.

This is a serious illness for which veterinary treatment is vital, however support for the condition at immediate onset and as it improves can be very helpful.

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To help with Mudfever use the following products.

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There are many causes of nervousness in horses – some behaviours can be traced back to bad experiences and accidents others cannot really be explained. We need to work to understand the root of nervousness in our horses and help them to be more able to cope with certain stimuli and situations. However these products can help to sooth a horse and make life a little more relaxed.

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Navicular Syndrome

This disorder is caused by a gradual deterioration of the navicular bone at the back of the horse's foot, near the heel. Some vets will diagnose navicular syndrome, using the term to broadly include all the soft tissue surrounding the navicular bone. There is uncertainty on exactly what causes the bone to deteriorate, but most feel that navicular disease is a degenerative condition like arthritis. Frequently, navicular disease strikes horses that perform hard work, often on hard surfaces. Once thought to be an extremely common condition, many veterinarians now think that it is less common than was once believed. Treatments vary and include corrective shoeing, trimming and wedging the foot, and medication. It is a degenerative condition but much can be done naturally to slow the process and make the horse more comfortable.

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To help with Rainscal use the following products.

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Respiratory conditions

Respiratory conditions are common in horses especially those stabled for long periods.

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Is a common problem with horses and need to be treated quickly – be aware it can spread very quickly to other animals and humans so keep the horse and any grooming kit, rugs and feed buckets separate and clean.

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Scar tissue

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Horses in shock are in an extremely dangerous situation and veterinary help is always necessary. Whilst waiting for the vet homeopathic remedies can be of great help – administer three tabs every 15 minutes until vet arrives. Keep the horse warm and as calm as possible.

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Soft swellings

Soft swellings are common in horses for a number of reasons, most often the problem is filled legs from standing in stables overnight when a horse has not been moving its’ lymphatic system does not work efficiently enough and fluid builds up. Generally this is helped by movement and disappears quickly. If it is more of a problem nutritional support can stimulate the lymphatic system and gently help the body to cope.

Other soft swellings usually happen as a result of a soft tissue injury and can be warm to touch and sore for the horse. We have a number of different products to sooth and help reduce pain and swellings.

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Bony enlargements usually on the inside of the front legs just below the knee (sometimes up to the size of a half golf ball). Can be multiple smaller bumps running down between the Splint and Cannon bones. Most often on forelegs but can occur on hind legs. Generally caused by poor conformation, rapid growth, trauma or striking the leg with the other hoof.

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Horses in hard work often need help to build stamina – feed combined with work and recovery time increase fitness and ability to perform at a higher level. Lack of stamina in horses not in hard work can occur for many reasons and the may need veterinary diagnosis. For general help with fitness and a little more energy the following products will help.

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It is difficult to avoid flies and other biting insects in the summer season. Some insects vary around the country and can be very irritating when horses move to new homes and they can react very badly both behaviourally and physical reactions. Good yard hygiene can reduce the number of insects such as removal of standing water, fans and fly catchers.

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Sun/UV protection

Sunlight has beneficial effects for horses, including the manufacture of vitamin D by the skin, relief of muscle and tendon stiffness or soreness and possibly even improved immunity. But horses with pink-skinned areas may suffer sunburn if overexposed and could be at higher risk of equine skin cancer over the years. Keeping horses in during the day and out at night in the summer can help reduce exposure and risk. UV blocking rugs, masks and boots are also available. Some horses have extreme reactions to UV sensitivity – skin lesions and sores are becoming increasingly common.

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Sweet Itch is a medical condition in equines caused by an allergic response to the bites of Culicoides midges. It may be found in any horses and ponies, especially in the warmer regions. It may also occur, too, in other equines. It is also found in Canada, Australia, the US and many other parts of the world.

A hypersensitivity reaction to specific allergens causing an extreme immune response in the saliva of Culicoides midges. These allergens appear to be cross-reactive across many species of Culicoides - i.e. many different varieties of midges produce similar allergens, giving the same effects upon horses.

The hypersensitivity response is mediated by IgE, an antibody produced by the horse's immune system which binds the allergens, causing a cascade production of histamine and cytokines which make the horse's skin inflamed and itchy. Of these, histamine appears to be the most important in the initial phase of reaction.

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When it comes to tendon and ligament injuries, there are many varying degrees of damage and future prognosis. The initial bad news, of course, is the diagnosis itself. One thing that hasn't changed in millennia is that any injury to a horse's leg tendons or ligaments--which make possible the lifting, extending, flexing, and shock-absorbing that equine limbs do--is a serious threat to his short-term soundness and his future career prospects.

The structures most commonly injured in performance horses are the suspensory ligament, one of which runs down the back of each cannon bone, and the superficial and deep digital flexor tendons (DDFT), which run from the back of the knee (or hock) all the way down to the navicular bone in each foot and act as a "sling" for the back of the fetlock to help it bear the animal's weight.Either structure can be injured by sudden trauma or gradual overloading. In racehorses and elite athletes such as polo ponies and event horses, what often seems to be a single dramatic breakdown is in fact the result of weeks or months of minor strain to the tendon or ligament fibres, culminating to a point of no return.

A horse with a fresh superficial or deep digital flexor tendon injury will exhibit heat, swelling (caused by inflammation and bleeding into the interior of the structure), and lameness. Suspensory injuries can be less obvious, resulting in on-again, off-again lameness and little to no swelling. Since suspensory ligament inflammation, is often associated with splint bone problems, heat or swelling in the splint bone region might also be present.

Most horse people instinctively reach for ice packs and/or cold water hosing to reduce the initial inflammation when this sort of injury first occurs, and the instinct is good. But if lameness persists past a few days, it's time to call in the advanced diagnostics.

When tendon or ligament damage is diagnosed there are many therapies and approaches available. Time is also an important factor and whether or not you want your horse to return to competition if you competed before or a quieter less demanding lifestyle

Urinary system/Kidneys

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Weight issues

Soft "spongy" swellings around the back, front and or side of the fetlock joint. The inflamed joint capsule distends with additional synovial fluid in an effort to protect against injury.

Caused by joint concussion, excessive work while a horse is young and joints are still developing, or stress and fatigue due to intense work load on the joints.