Help! The Mare’s Got a Swollen Leg- Vet Call

A vet call can range anywhere from unnecessary to ‘you’ve got to get here now’ status and luckily this week’s was more of a, “Can you come sometime today?”

I ride at a private barn with eight horses, three are boarded and the other five are the owners.  This means I get a pretty special level of access to the every day goings on of running a barn.

Last week that included a vet visit to diagnose some mysterious swelling and lameness in the walking horse mare’s left hind leg.  She had a small abscess that formed after she capped her hock kicking the Appaloosa in the trailer on the way to the neighbor’s indoor arena.  All of a two minute drive.

Yep she’s the alpha mare.

At first we thought it was from staying in during a bad spell of weather for a couple of days and maybe she’d just gotten stiff from inactivity.  But then the swelling started and heat showed up.  The vet, Dr. J, was called right away since the mare had previous suspensory injuries that we had just finished rehabbing her from last year and we were worried that she’d re injured it.

It took Dr. J about five minutes to diagnose pitting edema.

Considering myself a fairly advanced beginner at riding, but still pretty green about horse care and treatment, I asked the vet about what exactly it was and how to go about treating it.

She had me feel the mare’s leg and where it was swollen it felt like pressing my thumb into dense clay, with the thumb print staying indented longer than it should normally.  There was some puss built up in the cut on her hock, about a zit’s worth, sorry for that graphic. After squeezing all of the discharge out the vet prescribed antibiotics and an initial round of poultice to help take the swelling down and keep it from spreading further up her leg.

The vet said that after the first couple of days if the weather got any better to walk her outside and try to cold hose her leg to help with the swelling too.

Being the incredibly patient and awesome vet that she is, Dr. J even took the time to show me how to use the no bow wraps to keep the poultice covered and different ways to wrap it so that it either ended just below the point of her hock or covered it.

All in all the prognosis is great and she should be back to normal as soon as the treatments start kicking those bacterias’ butts.  Dr. J said since we called her out right away it hadn’t become a more complicated infection or turned into cellulitis, which can get nasty really quickly.


It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly delicate horses are.  Despite their incredible size and athletic ability they can be laid low by the smallest of things.  Goes to show the importance of paying attention to the little details so you can catch potential problems right away.