This is the worst news that a horse owner can get from their veterinarian. An injured tendon or ligament means weeks or months of lay-up, hosing, wrapping, medicating – everything EXCEPT riding. Muscle injuries and general soreness are easier to remedy, but can make your horse a cranky, unwilling partner. How do these happen and what can be done to avoid them?
Some injuries happen because of an accident – a slip and fall or hard play in the field, but most are due to repetitive use and lack of flexibility. In people, repetitive use injuries are conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow. The person does repetitive actions – like using a computer mouse – all day long. Pretty soon, the muscles become shortened and less flexible because they are repeating the same action over and over. When muscles become shortened, tension is increased on the tendons which attach the muscles to the bones. The increase in tension causes pain and stiffness, the horse starts taking longer to warm up, moves with a shortened stride and becomes less willing to work. The horse begins to compensate for the pain and stiffness by moving his body in ways that cause less pain or by “locking up” areas and not moving them. This compensation then places strain on all the structures of the body and pretty soon you are chasing your horse around the field to catch him and fighting to get him tacked up. He can’t get on the bit or become round and grits his teeth and fights you all the way around the ring.
The chiropractor has to make multiple adjustments every month because the muscles are becoming less and less flexible and they are placing strains on the joints which keep them from articulating properly. Next, the veterinarian is recommending hock injections to keep the horse more comfortable. All this is due to the muscle shortness and tension on the tendons. It becomes a viscous cycle.
Next Topic: How to stop the cycle.
Theresa Gagnon is a Certified Veterinary Technician and Licensed Massage Therapist. She is the Director of Animal Programs at the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy in Worcester, MA, and a partner with Jodi Clark in mending Fences Equine Wellness. Theresa’s specialties include craniosacral fascial therapy for animals, rehabilitative massage and modalities, and gait analysis. She can be reached at the school www.HorseAndDogMassage.com , through her own website www.FreeMovementMassage.com or through www.MendingFencesEquine.com .
by Theresa Gagnon