Brushing your horse’s lower leg, you discover a lump that you don’t remember feeling before. Is it a new injury or an older one you are just now noticing? The following questions will help you arrive at the most likely answer:
• Is it hard or soft? A new injury is still in the early throes of the inflammatory process, when fluids are flooding the area, leading to a soft, “squishy” feel. The lump of an older injury is made up of firmer scar tissue or calcifications that take time to form.
• Does he care if you touch it? If your horse flinches as you palpate the lump, chances are good it’s a fresh injury. That sensitivity is associated with the early stages of inflammation.
• Is your horse lame? A “fresh” lump large enough for you to feel on a limb is likely to make your horse lame or at least slightly off. By contrast, a very sound horse could sport multiple old leg lumps from previous injuries.
To sum up: A sore, soft lump on a lame horse warrants a call to your veterinarian, while a harder, non-sensitive lump on a sound horse probably doesn’t. Simply make a note of it; perhaps even take a picture, so you’ll never again be left wondering if you’ve seen it before.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #441.