From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy went to the vet over the weekend for his second ultrasound. This was planned. A month ago, Speedy over did it during turn-out and tweaked his superficial digital flexor tendon. The swelling was really small and an initial ultrasound said there was some damage, but it was too small to actually be considered a bow. Dr. Tolley called it tendonitis.
For the first week, I did a sweat wrap with Furacin, and then I did three more weeks of a simple pressure bandage. When I took the first bandage off, the swelling was gone and the leg has looked clean ever since.
After first palpating the tendon to search for a reaction, Dr. Tolley then did an ultrasound to see what had happened with the initial damage. To our relief, maybe more his than mine, the spot in question was completely gone.
That's great news of course, but Dr. Tolley is very conservative and thorough in his practice of equine medicine. While "the spot" was no longer visible, he was concerned about the relative size of the tendon when compared to the one on the left leg.
While not immediately obvious to the naked eye, the right leg's tendon does present as slightly larger than the left. Dr. Tolley's diagnosis is that there is still a bit of healing to be done. It may be that the tendon will never return to the same size as its neighbor, but he would like to give Speedy another month to find out.
While the leg is firm and tight, once it was shaved clean, a slight divot appeared near the bottom of the tendon. This suggests that the tendon is slightly swollen still and requires a bit more support and rest before Speedy goes back to work.
To provide more support, Dr. Tolley applied a Gelocast, a wet bandage that molds to the leg and dries into a hard cast. Speedy will wear the cast for two weeks, and then I'll replace it for another two weeks.
Speedy is once again allowed the full use of his stall and exterior paddock - I'm sure he'll be pleased about that. He can also be hand walked. While I did get him out of his stall this past month, it was to graze and walk very slowly. We didn't actually walk as shuffle to the next clump of yummy grass.
Dr. Tolley cleared him for actual walks around the neighborhood. This is important to me as I don't want Speedy to lose any more muscle than he already has. Even walking for 30 minutes three to four times a week will help him to maintain a certain level of fitness so that we aren't starting over completely.
At the end of four weeks, I'll bring Speedy back to see Dr. Tolley for a third ultrasound. Depending on what the tendon looks like, Speedy will either be cleared for a slow return to work, or he'll get another four weeks of just rest with no bandaging.
The timing of this is actually working out to my advantage. The Pollyanna in me is at least locating the silver lining. I've had a solid month to focus on Izzy, which has been great, and now it looks as though I get another month to continue that work. If Speedy gets to start back to work in mid-May, I would have about three weeks of some easy walking rides before we go to Italy. While we're gone, he will have two solid weeks of additional rest which never hurt anyone.
While tendonitis or a bowed tendon is nothing to mess around with, I feel completely confident that Dr. Tolley's very conservative and careful treatment plan will ensure that Speedy makes a full recovery. Yes, it changed my original plans for the summer, but I've already made new plans that are just as exciting as the first ones might have been.
Look for a Speedy update in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, feel free to drop by and give him a visit. I am sure he'd appreciate the company!
Thank goodness that Speedy is a remarkably tolerant fellow because his life has been pretty boring over the past two weeks. Ever since he was diagnosed with tendonitis (a very slight bow), he's been relegated to stall rest.
When I come out to ride, I open his gate to let him wander around the paddock of his stall while I am cleaning and filling feed buckets. He acts like I've set him free on the Great Plains. He sniffs every corner and makes several laps - all at the walk.
Most days I also hand graze him on the lawn around his stall. Actual hand walking is not in the plan yet as we're trying to keep that tendon quiet and still.
He is so happy to be doing anything other than standing in his stall that he never even makes it through the gate before he's mowing down the lawn.
From the very first minute that Izzy was at our barn, Speedy fell in love with him. If Izzy goes anywhere, even just to the other side of the barn, Speedy races around and screams his head off. Since Speedy's life is so monotonous right now, I make sure to do the hand grazing in sight of Izzy, not because Speedy hollers when he's with me (he doesn't), but because he very much enjoys the companionship of another horse.
Other than hand grazing and the freedom to walk around his WHOLE paddock, the only other entertaining thing he gets to do is stand for bandages. Fortunately, Speedy is a saint. He may be bored, but he's also highly intelligent and not too interested in hurting himself. He doesn't kick and bang things, nor does he flip out with energetic explosions. Instead, he relishes the daily attention, even if it's just getting his leg bandaged.
Since the very first bandage that I unwrapped, Speedy's leg has been clean and tight with no swelling. When I first took him to the vet ten days ago, the swelling was limited to a tiny area, but the location and shape told me that it was most likely a tendon which is why he went in. I wanted to get it diagnosed as quickly as possible.
We only have two and a half weeks to go before the next ultrasound. I am really encouraged by the lack of any swelling. When I wrapped it last, I switched from a Furacin wrap to a dry bandage, so I'll see today whether not sweating it had any negative consequences, but I doubt it.
We have just a few short weeks to go before he sees Dr. Tolley for a re-check. I am hopeful that Speedy will be back under saddle before he knows it.
Over the past year I have become somewhat skilled at applying pressure bandages to legs - equine legs not human. It started with Izzy's hind leg which required pressure to discourage the over granulation of tissue (proud flesh) as the wound closed.
If you're a new visitor, you can read all about Izzy's wound including how he got it and what it looks like today. Just follow the Izzy's Leg link on my blog side bar. There are enough posts there to keep you busy for at aleast a few hours.
Now that Speedy has been diagnosed with "tendonitis" (my vet didn't want to give it the classic bowed tendon label because a bow is such an ugly word), I am once again applying a pressure bandage. This time it is to a front leg. And just to insert an update here, Speedy's leg looks so pink because Dr. Tolley shaved it down to bare skin for the ultrasound. The small bit of swelling that appeared over the weekend is already gone.
I know some of the people who follow my blog don't have a lot of experience treating wounds that aren't simply superficial, so I thought I'd share one way to do a pressure bandage. Surprisingly, it's easy to do and mostly requires a good grip with a little muscle power. To start, here are the materials that you'll need.
Before you start, I've found a couple of things to be helpful. First, make sure your horse is pretty immobile. Both of my boys have learned to stand while I work on them. If your horse isn't patient now, it would be a good idea to work on this now so that you won't have to fight with him when it counts. Secondly, and I learned this through experience, make a neat pile of your materials and put them within arm's reach. There is nothing more irritating than having to let go of the cotton because you can't reach the gauze. Ask me how I know!
And with that, here's how to apply a pressure bandage:
That's it. I can get a leg bandaged in under five minutes once I've got everything laid out. One of the reasons I like to start and stop my bandages in the same place is so that when I take it off, I can find the ends. While you can cut it off, I hate sticking sharp scissors down the leg; I prefer to unwind my bandages for removal.
There are many ways to bandage. Some people like to always go counter clockwise, no matter which leg, and others like to spiral up and then down. I am not sure that it actually matters. I am simply following my vet's suggestions, and since it has worked so well, it's the system I use. Please share if you have any special tricks or tips to make the process easier.
After I rode Speedy on Thursday, I turned him out to roll. After he did that, he played and ran and then picked up speed and ran some more. He didn't run or play any harder than usual, but when I brought him out of his stall on Saturday, I noticed a distinctly unhealthy looking swelling on the back of his canon bone. It was small, but it was there. My heart sank. That particular swelling goes with only one thing, a tendon bow.
I called my vet that day, but he wasn't working that particular Saturday, and while I have the utmost respect for BVH's other doctors, I wanted to see Dr. Tolley. We scheduled the appointment for mid-week.
As soon as he saw the swelling, Dr. Tolley had a good idea of what was wrong, but an ultrasound was needed to determine the degree of the injury in order to formulate a treatment plan. The good news is that the damage is so small that Dr. Tolley had a hard time finding it. And even though he landed on a questionable dark area, he was the first to admit that the ultrasound machine is not his specialty as he doesn't see a ton of sport horses on a daily basis.
Even without being an ultrasound expert, he felt that the spot was questionable enough to take it seriously. He had no issue with me pursing a second opinion, but I don't need to do that. Dr. Tolley tends toward the conservative end of things which means he gives the worst case scenario and outlines an appropriate treatment plan. So if that dark spot isn't tendon damage, we're certainly not going to hurt Speedy or make the condition worse by treating it as a minor bow.
So for now, here's Dr. Tolley's treatment plan:
This is most certainly not what I wanted to hear as show season begins. In fact, we were supposed to be at show this Saturday and Sunday, a USDF show (I am still trying to get at least a partial refund). But, it is what it is and crying over it isn't going to help at all. Instead, I will now have plenty of energy to focus on getting Izzy into the show ring. That's why I have two horses.
Look out, Izzy, you've been called up!
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read