Tendon and ligament injuries are one of the major problems facing the athletic horse. The tendons and ligaments of the lower limbs of the horse – including those in the hoof – are critical structures for normal athletic movement. Unfortunately, they are also among the most commonly injured areas in horses that jump, run, piaffe, turn, cut, etc. An injury to a horse’s tendons and ligaments can range from a minor, nagging problem to a severe, career-ending (or even life-ending) disaster.
Many thought-provoking observations as to the causes and treatment of these injuries have been made, but, so far, no one has been able to prevent them (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but you have to be able to find the ounce). Nor has anyone been able to figure out a way to return seriously injured tissue(s) to a normal, pre-injury state. There are currently many options, some of which are very expensive, none of which have been shown to be better than giving the injury time to heal. Because tendon and ligament injuries are so problematic – in humans, as well as horses, – work is ongoing.
For everyone involved, tendon and ligament injuries can be frustrating to deal with. Once they have occurred, prompt and proper treatment can help minimize the damage. Once damage has occurred, no treatment – not stem cells, not platelet rich plasma, not surgery – can return the tissue to its pre-injury, normal state. However, proper post-injury care and rehabilitation – ideally done under the oversight of your veterinarian – can help make sure that the horse will ultimately recover to the best degree possible.
If your horse injures a tendon or a ligament, the most important single treatment is adequate rest. “Tincture of time,” no matter what additional treatment is chosen, is needed for tendons and ligaments to heal. A good dose of patience will be necessary on your part. Happily, as with a lot of other things, when it comes to the ultimate outcome of an injured tendon or ligament, patience is usually rewarded.