Q: My mare bowed her right front tendon about a year ago. After lengthy stall rest and rehabilitation, she became sound, and I’m now riding her again. I’m constantly worried, however, about her reinjuring that tendon. Is she more susceptible to injury in this area? Is there anything I can be doing to prevent it? I’d like to return to showing in low hunters. —Judy Drye; Franklin, New Jersey
A: It is great to hear your horse has returned to soundness following her tendon injury. Most require a recovery period of about six months after tendon damage has been sustained. This allows the tissue to heal and regain adequate integrity to again withstand the rigors of performance. The fact you have increased this post-injury time period and have been actively involved in the rehabilitation process bodes well for your mare’s future.
That said, tendon injuries heal with a degree of nonelastic scar tissue that does not have the same properties as the original tendon fibers. This means that their ability to handle increased loads may be compromised. The extent of this compromise can be difficult to measure or predict. Theoretically, your mare is more susceptible to reinjury around this area.
To minimize the possibility of re-injury, monitoring and management are key. Watch for signs of heat, swelling and lameness related to the area of the past injury. Your veterinarian can physically examine the tendon and then utilize ultrasound to evaluate tissue integrity periodically during regular wellness checkups.
The key to returning to low hunters is management of increasing load exercise and developing tendon tissue “fitness.”
Good footing and farrier work can play important roles in reducing stress on these tissues. Some boots and bandages can provide tendon support during exercise. Reducing potential inflammation with hydrotherapy, ice or supportive bandages (with or without poultices) can be helpful after jumping lessons or showing.
With your diligence and monitoring, it is very likely your mare can return to the show ring with little chance of reinjury to the tendon.
Duncan Peters, DVM, MS
Hagyard Equine Medical Institute Sport Horse Division