How to Treat a Sprained Ankle in a Horse

By Melody Dawn

A horse sustains a sprained ankle when the ligaments that support the fetlock joint become over-extended. The horse is referred to as "lame" and is often put to sleep if the sprain is very bad. In order to heal your horse's sprained ankle, you need to provide him with physical therapy, a range of movement exercises while undergoing other treatment steps.

Call your vet and have your horse checked out. The earlier you have your horse looked at, the sooner you can treat the pain and get your horse on the road to recovery. Your vet can diagnose your horse and figure out if the injury is a sprained ankle or if the lameness is the result of another illness, such as a foot abscess.

Apply ice, 20 minutes at a time, to the sprain during the first 48 hours to bring the swelling down and ease pain. An alternative is running cold water over the horse's legs or using immersion by soaking the horse's legs in cold water. The cold will minimize bruising and can control muscles spasms.

Use heat packs after the cold packs have addressed all of the swelling. Do not apply heat until the horse has begun to heal. Your vet can tell you exactly when, but it may not be for many days. Warm moist heat can help alleviate pain and can increase blood flow at the site of the injury. Administer heat for 20 minutes at a time when the horse begins rehabilitation.

Massage the horse's injury gently to increase circulation and reduce scar tissue. Use care when rubbing the injury--use long strokes on the ankle and lower legs. Massage is combined with light exercise in order to achieve a full range of motion sooner.

Replace the horse's regular shoes with therapeutic shoes. These special shoes help to absorb the shock of impact on the ground while the horse is healing.

Allow your horse plenty of time to rest and recover. If you try to work your horse too soon, he can re-injure his leg, making rehabilitation harder.