Last Updated on August 8, 2022
If your horse has a tendon injury, you will undoubtedly have a lot of questions about the best bowed tendon horse treatment options. Tendon injuries in horses can be tricky to manage and without the correct treatment will often result in long-term lameness or weakness in the limb. Let’s find out everything you need to know about the available bowed tendon horse treatment options!
What Is A Bowed Tendon In Horses?
The term bowed tendon refers to swelling or injury to the two tendons that run down the back of the lower limb of all four legs of the horse. These tendons, the superficial or deep digital flexor tendon, will swell, causing the leg to have a bowed appearance. It is much more common to see this type of injury in the superficial digital flexor tendon rather than the deep digital flexor tendon, although on some occasions both tendons can be injured.
Bowed tendons can occur as a result of sudden injury, for example, if the horse is galloped on uneven ground or jumps on an excessively hard or soft surface. They can also occur as a result of chronic changes to the tendon, normally due to poor conformation or hoof balance, or incorrect shoeing. Long-term changes can also occur if the horse does not follow an appropriate fitness program or is asked to do work it is not yet ready for.
Any horse can suffer from a bowed tendon, but they tend to be more common in high-performance horses such as race horses, polo ponies, and show jumpers. Some horse owners and trainers also inadvertently cause a bowed tendon by putting bandages on the lower leg, which apply uneven pressure to the tendons.
Horses with a mild bowed tendon may just have a slight swelling without any lameness. More severe injury may result in poor performance, reluctance to exercise, or lameness. Even a slight swelling of the tendon of a horse should not be ignored as working a horse with a mild tendon injury can rapidly make this condition worse.
If your veterinarian suspects that your horse has a tendon injury, they will carry out diagnostic tests such as an ultrasound scan. This will help to assess the extent of the damage and inform the treatment plan. You will also be able to establish the prognosis for the horse and the likelihood of it making a full recovery.
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What Is The Best Bowed Tendon Horse Treatment?
Finding the right bowed tendon horse treatment can be tricky and horses with these injuries often require a combination of rest and rehabilitative remedies.
Steps To Follow
In the initial stages following a tendon injury, complete rest is the most appropriate treatment. Any movement, particularly on hard or uneven ground, will only risk making the injury worse. If your horse has a swollen tendon and you are waiting for the veterinarian to attend, it is best to keep him confined to a stall or stable.
During this initial treatment phase, your veterinarian may also advise additional therapies to help reduce inflammation and swelling in the limb. This may include cold hosing the leg or applying a cold water boot. A course of anti-inflammatory medication is also useful to control the initial inflammatory response.
Bandaging the leg of a horse with a tendon injury is a controversial topic and should never be done without the supervision of your veterinarian. If bandaging is not carried out correctly, it may make the injury worse.
Once the initial rest period is over, your veterinarian will discuss a controlled and gradual return to exercise for your horse. This normally includes weeks or even months of walking the horse for a period of time every day, normally in hand or on a horse walker. This controlled exercise is the single most effective way to help the horse rebuild strong and functional tendon tissue.
Complete healing of tendon tissue takes a long time. The clinical signs may resolve quickly, with the swelling subsiding and any lameness disappearing. However, this does not mean that the tendon has regained full strength and any uncontrolled exercise will promptly result in a recurrence of the injury.
Complete repair of tendon tissue can take as much as eight months. During this time, your veterinarian will carry out repeat ultrasound scans to monitor healing and help guide the controlled exercise program.
Summary – Bowed Tendon Horse Treatment
So, as we have learned, finding the right bowed tendon horse treatment can be tricky and horses with these injuries often require a combination of rest and rehabilitative remedies. In the initial stages following a tendon injury, complete rest is the most appropriate treatment, along with anti-inflammatory medication and cold hosing to reduce swelling and inflammation. This is normally followed by a long period of controlled exercise, such as walking in hand, to help the horse rebuild strong and functional tendon tissue.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the best bowed tendon horse treatment! Have you struggled to find the right bowed tendon horse treatment for your injured equine? Or maybe you’ve come across a bowed tendon horse treatment that really works? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
Is a horse lame with a bowed tendon?
A horse with a mild bowed tendon injury may not show any lameness. However, any swelling around a tendon indicates that an injury has occured. The horse should still be rested and veterinary advice sought.
Should you wrap a bowed tendon on a horse?
A bowed tendon on a horse should never be wrapped without first seeking veterinary advice. Incorrect bandaging can make tendon injuries worse rather than better.
Can a horse fully recover from a bowed tendon?
Horses can fully recover from a bowed tendon, but this depends on prompt treatment and a long period of rest and controlled exercise. Tendon tissue can take at least eight months to rebuild fully.
How do you wrap a horse's tendon?
When wrapping a horses leg, you should make sure that even pressure is applied along the entire length of the tendon. This can be difficult to achieve and poor bandaging technique can result in injury to the tendon.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE