Rehabilitation of Tendon Injuries in Horses

September 22, 2008 (published)

Tendon injuries are fairly common in performance horses. Rehabilitation of these injuries requires a lot of time and effort for healing to occur.  If your horse has injured a tendon located on the lower legs, it is important for your veterinarian to perform an ultrasound on the tendon as soon as possible.  This initial ultrasound gives your vet an idea of how severe the lesion is, as well as an idea of how long the horse will be unable to perform.  Also, tendon lesions that are bleeding will sometimes heal quicker if the tendon is split with a scalpel to let the blood escape.  An ultrasound exam is required to determine if the tendon will benefit from surgery.  For this reason, it is important to have a baseline ultrasound exam within a day or two of the injury. 

A lot of these horses with swollen areas around tendons in the lower legs will be lame initially but they may seem fine after resting for 30 days.  However, putting these horses back to work is a big mistake.  Dr. Carol Gillis indicates that any tendon or ligament injury will require at least 6 months of restricted activity to heal.  The tendon must be monitored with an ultrasound every 30 to 60 days to determine if healing is occurring.  All horses with tendon or ligament injuries must be confined for healing to occur.  There is no treatment that will allow a tendon to heal without adequate rest.  These horses need to be confined to a stall but can be hand walked one to three times daily.  If the horse is totally inactive, the injured tendon can shorten and that can predispose the horse to re-injury later on.  So if you have a horse that has injured a tendon, be sure to contact your vet for advice.

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