Yesterday morning, Rocky’s right hind leg was swollen and hot all the way up to his inner thigh.
He was glum about it.
Oh boy, I thought, in perfect Linda manner. An opportunity to practice treating thermal edema! (I’m not sure that’s the correct medical term for “hot swelling” but it sounds good.)
I ran my hands gently up and down the leg and in the crisp morning air it felt like touching a space heater. No sign of a cut, bump, bite, bruise, lump, or a big red circle around the words Injury Here.
Every horseperson I know tells me that they learned to do wraps, whether polo or pressure or standing, by doing it a thousand times. I stood there with padding, wrap, plastic cling wrap, bute, and poultice, and played the warnings through my mind. Wrap toward the spine or you could bow a tendon. Keep the pressure exactly even all the way. Don’t let a wrinkle form, that could constrict a blood vessel. Better to leave unwrapped than to make a mistake in the wrapping. (This article has more tips and warnings.)
I’ve practiced wrapping as an Activity, just to learn how and to get Rocky unconcerned about it. I’ve been directly tutored and had my wraps checked after. But this week is my first time wrapping a truly injured leg, with no one to monitor me. I did ask advice from Donna, who learned her wrapping expertise in thousands of miles of endurance racing, and she gave me great information and encouragement. But when it came to treating the leg, I Did It All By Myself.
I started with 15 minutes of cold hosing. As usual, Rocky supervised.
I rubbed in a poultice of epsom salt and something menthol-like. (I think it’s Durvet Epsom Salt Poultice but the label on the barn jar a bit worn so I could be wrong.) The gummy texture made it difficult to coat the leg with any sort of evenness, but I tried to massage and swirl and at least get the epsom salts in there. Warm water added to the jar helped a bit.
I played some friendly game with the saram wrap, including putting a carrot in the box and bending the razor edge out of the way so Rocky could explore it with his lips. I then set it down for a while next to his hay and played some porcupine games with his halter, then scratched around the base of his ears. This sounds innocent, but this horse came to me with a fear of having hands anywhere near his ears.
By the time I pulled out a length of plastic wrap to put around his leg, Rocky no longer cared about the weird crinkling sounds. (Yes, it’s about two years past time I replaced the savvy string on my carrot stick with a plastic bag, and looped the savvy string around my wrist.)
I couldn’t keep it totally smooth and that evening I had a heart-pounding few hours of wondering if I’d botched the whole thing and injured him permanently with a wrinkle in the wrong place.
Over the plastic, the soft pillow wraps that feel so good in the hand but also refuse to flatten smoothly around a horse leg. And over that, the stretchy wrap. It took me an hour and fifteen minutes to satisfy myself that I had the proper balance of snug support that wasn’t straining the tendon or pressing wrinkled inner layers against his flesh. I lost count of how many times I wrapped, unwrapped, re-rolled the bandage, and started over. Erin and the vet both suggested wrapping the normal leg too, to give it some support as it’s taking most of his weight. That one only took 15 minutes.
One of the earlier attempts, the first one I considered leaving on:
The one I finally did go with, even though I left a lot of padding sticking out the top:
I was pleased this morning that both wraps had stayed on. The mud disguised the left one at first and I thought he’d unraveled it in the night, but a closer look saved me from a fruitless search of the pasture.
Despite all this, he was still hot and swollen today. Dr. White will come out in the morning and take a look.