“Radar! What did you do now?” He gave me a quizzical look and his head followed me down as I knelt to examine his leg. He had a long gash across the back of his left front leg. It was low, about 3” above his fetlock and right about where the suspensory ligament tear was. Great. There isn’t a lot of skin covering a horse’s lower limbs, and the gaping wound I was looking at went deep into the tissue. Blood was oozing out in a slow trickle, but it looked to me like it was already beginning to clot. I closed his door and went back to the house to get my husband.
We brought Radar out of his stall and turned on the hose. Once the blood was rinsed away, my husband got down on one knee to examine the wound. For years, my husband Gary has always been the go-to guy for leg issues of every variety. He has even been known to pinpoint and correct issues over the phone as long as the owner is giving him correct information. All he could say this time, however, was, “Shit.” We both stood there silently, trying to decide what it is we could or should do. It was a clean cut—no telling what he did this time.
Radar was always injuring himself and was constantly covered in nicks and scrapes. Over the years my husband told me that he has seen horses like him before. It’s almost like they “thrive” on the pain. And we’ve seen Radar playing with his pasture buddy, Cash. He will egg Cash on until Cash hauls off and bites or kicks at him. But even when Cash has his teeth firmly grasping Radar’s skin, he still won’t back off and asks for more. Walking up to the paddock to find Radar with a wound somewhere has been a daily occurrence since the day he arrived at our facility. This wound, however, was one we couldn’t simply walk away from.
Fortunately, we have a feed store on our property so I hiked back up the hill to get some supplies. I came back with sterile gauze pads, brown gauze wrap, Vetrap, and Banixx Wound Care Spray. Then I dug in my tack trunk and brought out a clean pair of pillow wraps and a set of standing bandages. Dropping the pile at my husband’s knees, I stepped back to hold Radar’s head while my husband worked his magic on his leg.
After about a twenty minutes, Gary stood back up and brushed off his knees for the final time. Radar was now sporting a matched set of leg wraps and the wound was about as protected as it could possibly be.
“Now what?” I asked.
“Now, we wait,” he said.
We unwrapped that left leg daily, cleaned the wound and reapplied the wraps again. The right leg was only unwrapped and reapplied when it started to slip. It’s crucial to always wrap the opposite leg with any leg injury, Gary had once told me. Don’t ever forget that step, he had said and I never have.
As the wound began to heal, the proud flesh began to grow. Proud flesh is the proliferation of granulation tissue that protrudes over the edges of a wound. Granulation tissue is necessary to fill in a wound and “skin” will keep granulation tissue in check, but when the lower limbs of a horse are involved, there simply isn’t enough skin to suture over a gaping wound.
I had a good sense when I first saw this wound that proud flesh could now be another cause of lameness for my horse. If we couldn’t get the proud flesh to shrink, the wound would never close and he would probably be lame for a very long time, if not permanently. Here we go again.