Every Horse Owner Needs to Know About Wounds

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The picture above is the easy one to look at.  If you are sensitive to graphic wound pictures, you may not wish to read much more of this post.  On the flip side, if you have a horse, you’ll probably benefit from learning about the good outcome of this particularly worrisome injury.  A while back I posted a blog about managing wounds.  Then I posted a blog about my horse, Zeke, who’d suffered a horrific accident.  The two stories were not connected at the time, but now I’ll share how good wound care truly saved the life of this great horse. After his accident,  I was faced with the decision to either treat the  wound or put him down.  This is the story of how he survived and how he is  now active in a sport I am sure he loves.

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After a severe hail storm on April 19th, I arrived at the barn to this horrendous picture.  My veterinarian was on her way to help with the assessment of Zeke’s injuries.  Based on this devastating picture,  I was sure I’d have to put Zeke down.

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Dr. West examined the wound with me and assured me there was no structural damage, just a lot of soft tissue wounds.  I think she could tell by my expression that I wasn’t confident we could turn this one around.  The treatment plan was long and extensive.  She looked at me and said, “If anyone can help this poor guy and give it a try, it would be you.”  I gave myself all of 5 seconds to decide I had to go for it.

Zeke and I go way back and I just didn’t have the heart to call it quits at that moment. Something about this gentle giant gave me the fortitude to march on and take on the challenge.

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The commitment meant daily wound care had to be performed for at least 2 weeks, maybe longer. Dressing changes would likely continue for months and I could not be sure of the final outcome.  My burn nurse past had me confident that I had the skills to perform the tasks, I just hoped it would be for the right reason.  Would Zeke recover to a quality of life that a horse would want? Was I making the right decision?

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The wound had a HUGE flap of muscle that was hanging over Zeke’s knee that couldn’t be sutured.  I knew that he would need to be in a pressure bandage for the first week with minimal disruption if the flap was going to adhere even a little bit.

With Dr. West’s advice I started him on antibiotics and kept him in strong wraps for the first week.  The wound care was very carefully done to not disrupt the chance of the flap sticking.

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After only one week, the granulation tissue was closing up the space.   Although the flap didn’t fill the entire wound space, it was successfully reattached.  This picture shows how the flap was holding just above the knee.

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The wound was closing with great progress and no signs of infection.  I was encouraged to believe there was hope, even though we were not out of the dark woods yet.  Another week of daily dressing changes and the picture was even better.

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Each day, there was an amazing amount of progress and no signs of infection.  The daily dressing changes included good soap and water cleaning with debridement (removing all the scab and drainage).  After the wound looked completely clean, a topical antibiotic was spread thickly over the wound before the dressings were applied.  Three weeks later, the size of the wound was significantly reduced.

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The rest of the story continues with great success.  Each day I increased his activity level and eventually turned him out in a pasture where I could monitor his wound, yet allow him to start the return to exercise.  The appearance of the wound at 2 months is the miracle of how these wounds can heal.

Today, you can hardly see his wound.  The knee has returned to near normal size and he appears to be sound.  The great ending to the story is that a local vaulting barn was looking for exactly this kind of horse.  They needed my gentle giant, and I believe he now needs them.  He doesn’t need to be jumping 4 ft, he just needs a job, and people, to love him and believe in him.  Just like I did.