- Bowed tendons are common in athletic horses, but they can happen to any active equine. Usually affecting the front legs, a bowed tendon is caused by a tear in the superficial or deep digital flexor tendon located in the cannon bone area of the leg. The tear causes swelling on the back of the lower leg.
- Tendon ruptures are a serious injury and cause intense pain. When a tendon extends beyond its capacity to recover, it can snap or tear. You may hear a popping sound when this injury occurs, and the site of the injury will swell and become hot. Because the tendon is no longer providing support, the fetlock, the rounded structure above the pastern, may drop. If your horse suffers a ruptured tendon, immediate action is required. Stop riding and contact your veterinarian to minimize long-term damage.
- Deep cuts---lacerations---can damage tendons. Lacerated tendons require careful treatment to prevent the buildup of scar tissue that can cause permanent disability. Monitor lacerated tendon injuries for infection and follow your veterinarian's instructions for care and rehabilitation.
- The best and most successful treatment for tendon injuries is rest. Dr. Carol Gillis, writing in Texas Vet News, states, "There is no treatment that will allow a tendon to heal without adequate rest." Your horse should be confined to her stall and hand-walked daily. Do not, however, allow your horse to become completely inactive. Without light daily exercise, the tendon can shorten and leave your horse vulnerable to reinjury.
Tendon injuries require ongoing treatment and therapy for the best results, but most horses are able to resume an active schedule within six months.
- Tendon-damage prevention starts with the feet. A properly trimmed, well-balanced hoof puts less strain on your horse's tendons and allows more natural walking. Whether your horse is barefoot or shod, maintain a regular schedule of hoof care.
Look around your barn, pastures and paddocks and make note of any uneven or dangerous terrain. Be especially cautious in wet or freezing weather.
Finally, keep your horse in good shape. An overweight, underconditioned horse is not ready for a challenging, long distance ride. Daily, 30- to 45-minute walks are the best way to strengthen tendons without stressing them. Before riding your horse, take him on a short, 10-minute walk to warm up for activity.