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Re: [RC] Future prospects for bowed tendon/pulled suspensory? - Lucy Chaplin Trumbull

Louise wrote:
> Either I'm confused or you aren't listening to
> what we are saying.  Why are you doing all this
> stuff with your horse?  Why don't you just leave
> him be?  Why are you doing all this hand walking
> stuff?

Although I agree that many horses don't heal properly
because the owner can't bear not to ride, so does too
much, too soon, and doesn't allow enough time for
recovery; it is also true that if you do *too little*,
the injured tendon doesn't heal properly - instead it
just builds up weak scar tissue which doesn't hold up
and gets reinjured as soon as any stress is put on it.

The generally accepted rehab program that my vet
prescribed for my horses - which is also shared by
UC Davis, and, I believe, is mostly espoused by TI
in his "The Bowed Tendon" book (which was recommended
by about 40% of the 25 or so people who responded to
me privately on this subject) - works as follows:

* Confine the horse to a small enough space that it
can't reinjure itself careering about for fun in the
paddock - but not such a small space that the horse
goes crazy.

The trouble with tendon injuries is that after the
initial (fairly short) healing period, there is very
little pain involved - so the horse feels fine and
doesn't bother moving about gingerly. He isn't lame
and so the rider feel encouraged to get right back on
and ride as normal. Of course, as soon as any load is
put back on the leg, the tendon restrains again and the
horse goes lame again - which is why you so often see a
progression of intermittent lameness - horse is lame,
is given a couple of weeks off, horse is sound, horse
is ridden, horse goes lame again, is given a couple of
weeks off, horse is sound, horse gets ridden.... etc...

* Hand-walk the horse daily for short periods of
time over many weeks. This usually starts at about
20-30 mins a session and builds up in 5 minute
increments every couple of weeks.

The reason behind this is that tendon collagen is
formed by many fibres stretched along the length
of the tendon. If you think of it like spaghetti -
"good" fibres are laid down in straight lines like
uncooked spaghetti in the packet, while the newly-
formed "scar tissue" tends to come in like cooked
spaghetti piled in a bowl - going every which way,
and therefore weak and not very good at doing the
tendon's job.

If you start lightly exercising the horse (by careful,
slow hand-walking), you encourage the new fibres to
lay down along the length of the tendon and as they
heal, are able to take on the job of the tendon.

Left to his own devices, the horse might just stand
around and not stretch the tendon in such a way that
the new fibres grow how you want them to.

So the trick is to allow the tendon to heal without
*over-straining* it, but at the same time, load it up
enough that as it heals, it does so correctly. It's
definitely a balancing act.

I believe in TI's "The Bowed Tendon" book, he suggests
that you have to almost *overwork* the tendon to
break down the weak scar tissue and cause it to
reheal correctly. So, as one person said to me,
you take two steps forward, one step back in the

Once you are up to hand-walking 50 mins a session,
you can progress to the next step of loading:

* Riding the horse at the walk. The reason behind this
is you want very gradually, to build up the tendon to
withstand more and more strain. So again, over the weeks,
you very gradually ride for longer and longer periods
of time.

In my case, we started riding 30 mins a session (on the
flat) and we were allowed to add a whole 5 mins of riding
every couple of weeks.

Once you progress to riding the horse about 50 mins at a
time, you get to add even more load:

* Riding the horse for 50 mins, but adding 5 mins of
trotting... and every couple of weeks or so, you add an
extra 5 mins of trotting to that.

During this whole time, you need to have the horse checked
by ultrasound to make sure things are progressing properly.

We had a scare with Mouse over Christmas, when she was only
a couple of months into recovery - she got out and galloped
about our property, through some cannon-bone deep wet clay,
and then down our very steep driveway for about 300' before
doing a sliding stop and galloping back up again.

You've got to believe that after 65 days of daily, careful,
hand-walking, tiptoeing up and down the driveway to get off
the property, I wasn't the most cheerful of horse-owners.

Thankfully, the next ultrasound showed that somehow she'd
gotten away with her little escapade with no long-term
damage, but it certainly set us back a month or so, as I
more or less went back to square one with her.

Anyway, I hope that goes a little way to explaining "why
I'm doing all this hand-walking stuff" with my horses and
not just letting them alone.

Thanks again to the many people who responded privately -
I really do appreciate your encouraging words and feel
much more positive about the likelihood of my horses
actually getting to do distance work again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
elsie AT foothill DOT net
Repotted english person in Sierra Foothills, California
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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Re: [RC] Future prospects for bowed tendon/pulled suspensory?, Lucy Chaplin Trumbull