Reintroducing the Injured Horse to Turnout

Let's face it, having a horse on layup is always stressful, and when it's time to reintroduce them to turnout, it can be exciting. But it can also bring with it a whole new slew of concerns. Will my horse be over-excited? Will he reinjure himself? Should he have leg protection on? What about using supplements or medication to help "take the edge off" and keep him calm as he gets used to time in a paddock?

All of these are valid questions, and depending on the type of injury the horse sustained, the answers may vary. Based on my personal experience, I have two horses that were recently reintroduced to limited turnout after two very serious - but very different - injuries. Both horses are OTTBs in their mid teens, and can be a bit high strung at times. Lucky injured his heel bulb and hoof with a severe laceration, and Sky is rehabbing from damage to both hind suspensories. Recovery is long and slow for both horses, and while there are similar concerns, because their cases are so different, so are their needs.

Lucky is already sound at the walk, and mostly sound at the trot. Because of the location of the injury, it remains wrapped, and in a hoof boot to help keep any dirt or debris from making its way under the bandage. If he decides to act out and play or run around a little, it's not too much of a concern since the injury is already growing in good granulation tissue and the coronary band has even started to regenerate. The biggest concern in his case is making sure to keep the would covered and clean.

Horse rehabilitating in a paddock.

Sky in his paddock at the rehab center.

For Sky, his scenario is a little different. A pasture accident last winter led to reaggravation of old suspensory injuries dating back to his track days. They were compounded by a few other issues (pulled muscles and general soreness) but by May we were solidly on track to recovery. Between a month stint at a rehab facility, and then injections to the suspensories to help speed healing, he's finally ready to go back out on turnout - as long as he stays quiet.

Unlike Lucky, trotting and playing absolutely has to be limited, as too much activity too soon can result in re-damaging the suspensories as they are in the fragile stages of healing, and cause major setbacks.

Based on knowing both horses, I decided to turn them out together. Lucky goes out first so that he can run around and get his kicks out, and then Sky goes out several minutes later to calmly join his buddy. Lucky goes out in the hoof wrap and a protective boot, while Sky goes out in hind support boots to help those suspensories. And for both of them, finding a paddock that was clean, dry, and relatively flat was important.

They currently share a small paddock that is approximately 60' x 20' so that there's not a lot of room to run, but plenty of room to walk around for the few hours they are out. They also tend to do better together and keep each other company than when they are separate, so they go out together for a few hours a day.

Two horses eat in their paddock.

The view from my patio - Sky Lucky in their small rehab paddock at home.

And when it comes to keeping the ground firm and solid, Lighthoof panels are a must when considering turnout options for a horse in rehab. Whether it's for a flesh wound like Lucky's, or a ligament or tendon injury like Sky, the risk mud poses is significant. Should mud make its way into Lucky's bandage, he risks infection and complications (he is on SMZs as a preventative measure). With Sky's suspensory injuries, slipping in mud could not just cause a setback, but create additional injury sites within the ligaments as well as reverse all the healing that's happened in the past 8 mos as well.

At the end of the day, if you have a horse on rehab getting ready to return to turnout, it always makes sense to have a plan and review your options.

If you or your boarding facility has Lighthoof panels installed, that can me better and safer turnout as your horse recovers and offer great peace of mind.  

Before & After Lighthoof

Check out some of these great before and after pics shared from some of our customers, and if you have or are planning to install Lighthoof panels, be sure to mail us your before and after pictures with your story for a chance to be featured in one of our blogs! We even have veterinarian, Dr. Sarah Owens, DVM MRCVS using Lighthoof panels on her property with great success. You can read her testimonial for even more great feedback. 

Have you ever dealt with a rehabilitating a horse and reintroducing them to turnout? We'd love to hear about it, so share in the comments below.


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