No matter what sort of treatment you choose when your horse injures a
tendon or a ligament, the most important treatment will be time. At this point in time, no treatment has been shown to be more effective or quicker than controlled rest and rehabilitation in giving a horse with an injured tendon or ligament a chance to return to full function. That’s right; no matter how eagerly you sweat, magnetize, “shockwave,” or stem cell your horse’s injured tendon, if you don’t also give adequate time for rest and rehabilitation, it won’t matter. In fact, there’s not really good indication that adding any of these treatments will make any difference at all!
For most tendon or ligament injuries, horses should appear fairly pain-free in three to eight weeks, mirroring the situation in injured human athletes. But the horse isn’t ready to go back to work at this point, in fact, returning him to work too early runs a huge risk of reinjury. And, with tendons and ligaments, when a reinjury occurs, you’re often back to square one, that is, you have to start the who rest and rehabilitation process all over again. So, when it comes to trying to get an injured tendon or ligament to heal, it’s better to be a little prudent and cautious, and take an extra month, than it is to hurry your horse back to the ring, and end up needing another six months in addition to the time that you’ve already put in.
A few years ago, Dr. Carol Gillis, at the University of California, at Davis, CA, developed a rehabilitation program that’s fairly well-known, and well-accepted, by most equine veterinarians. Dr. Gillis advocates a program of controlled exercise, along with regular ultrasound examinations of the healing limb, in order to help maximize the chance of a successful outcome. It makes a lot of sense to follow the guidelines. If you go to fast, and get the horse working too early, you can make the situation worse; if you go too slowly, you’ll waste time (I mean, admit it, you will be anxious to get your horse back to work).
The general idea of Dr. Gillis’ program is a period of rest and medication, to control the inflammation that occurs with tendon and ligament injuries, followed by a period of controlled exercise, which stimulates the tendon to heal to be as strong as possible. Serial ultrasound examinations are recommended to check the healing progress of the injured area. This isn’t a quick or easy process; successful resolution often takes 8 or 9 months. But, as they say, “All good things come to those who wait!”
If you’re like to read an article by Dr. Gillis, describing her rehabilitation program in detail, CLICK HERE. It’s excellent – follow her guidelines, and you’ll give your horse the best chance of making a full recovery from his tendon or ligament injury!