A Quiet Summer — Slightly Bowed Tendon…

Every time I go out to ride, I look at the back of my horse’s legs. Even if I do virtually nothing else before tacking up, I know that if there is a problem with a horse’s legs, it is most likely to be exhibited the tendons and ligaments that go down the back of their legs — and mostly on the forelegs.

So when I went out to ride Gamble on a morning tempo-run hack on June 3 — two days after my dressage lesson with Phil — I did my normal look and, much to my dismay, Gamble was showing a slight bow in the superficial digital flexor (SDF) tendon that runs down the back of his right leg.

Bowed Tendon - June 3, 2014

Crap. So I called Dr. Tara Foy out to have a look and she confirmed my fear that he’d “bowed” a tendon. We’d dodged the bullets with Gamble for 3 years, but sure enough he’d done something to stress the tendon. It wasn’t at an event and certainly not in the dressage lesson 2 days ago. So he must have done it in the paddock during his day off, of all things. Gotta bubble-wrap these guys I guess.

Note, however, that he wasn’t ever lame. But one has to let this sort of issue heal, or you could ruin the horse. At just 8 years old and having completed 2 Intermediate level events, Gamble has lots of time left to compete.

Tara took an ultrasound and sure enough there was blood pooling in around the tendon.

Ultrasound of Bowed Tendon - June 3, 2014

So the plan became as follows:

  • Write-off most of the eventing season. Had to get my head around that one.
  • Ice once a day for a half-hour or so.
  • Heat — in the form of Back On Track boots.
  • Walk for 30 minutes four times per week.
  • Re-evaluate in a month.

Well, that sucks. But I know first hand from running that you can’t push the healing. And time is the best healer. The ultimate goal of any therapy for this sort of thing is to get blood to the region to allow the body to repair itself. So I would pop over to the barn in the morning and put a sock (yes an actual sock with the toe cut out) on Gamble and stuff a flexible ice pack down the back of his leg. Then the person who was turning him out into the paddock would remove the (now warmed-up) ice pack and put on the Back-on-Track boots. I gave him the weekends off — mostly because my schedule wasn’t conducive to heading to the barn that early!

Work was limited to 3 walks of 30 minutes per week. Lots of hacking!

Here is how the leg progressed over that first month:

June 3 2014

June 9 2014

June 17 2014

June 24 2014

June 30 2014

July 2 2014

Dr. Tara came out again for another ultrasound and she was quite happy with how it had healed. The blood that had been collecting around the tendon had dispersed and the swelling was down. Here is the ultrasound:

Ultrasound of Bowed Tendon - July 2, 2014

We kept with the same plan — ice pack in a sock in the morning followed by Back on Track boots, which we had on for 12 hours now from morning turn-out to evening bed-check. We increased the work slightly to 4 times per week walking for 30 minutes.

Julu 18 2014

July 28 2014

August 5 2014

Tara came out again and had a look on August 2. Again, she was happy with the progression and we were now able to start increased work. 40 minutes of work 5 times per week including 4 x 2 minute sessions of long, strong trot. After a week, we turned one of the 2-minute sessions into a slow canter. After 2 weeks we would add some low (2’6″) jumps and start building him up from there.

She asked me to check his tendon after each workout and if it was sensitive, I’d need to back off a bit.

So, progress. He is super happy to be back getting a bit of cantering and jumping. I have to hold him back because he wants to run. Can’t wait to get back into eventing again!

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