Elongation, distention, and curvature of the tendon are the main causes of temporary or definitive early retirement for many racehorses, be it flat, obstacle, or trotting race horses.
To understand what happens when the tendon is injured, you first need to have some knowledge about its function and normal structure.
What is the tendon?
The tendon is a kind of solid, very elastic band, composed of special fibres, that connects a muscle, of which incidentally it is an extension, to a bone.
It’s precisely thanks to tendons that muscles can work on bone rays.
Tendons and ligaments
The tendinous tissue is a system of parallel fibres closely interconnected and held tight by the connective tissue.
The tendons most vulnerable to injuries during the training session or after a direct trauma are the flexor tendons, located on the backside of the tibia: the superficial flexor tendon and the deep flexor tendon.
In flat race horses, obstacle race horses and competition horses, the flexor tendons of the forelegs are particularly affected, whereas in trotting race horses, injuries are also frequent on the flexor tendons of the hind legs.
Due to their functionality, tendons, together with the carpal bridle (in the forelegs) and the suspensory ligament of the fetlock, serve as an apparatus for supporting the fetlock and the distal part of the leg.
In reality, the suspensory ligament of the fetlock is also a tendon, but, having lost during the process of evolution of species the muscle to which it was originally attached, it is now attached on both sides to bony parts; so, it is now categorized as a ligament.
Why do tendon lesions occur?
Tendinous tears generally occur during the effort or due to an uneven ground or an insufficient warm-up. In other words, the tendinous lesion occurs when the request for traction of the muscle to the skeleton is excessive, or when the muscle is not used enough to make regular contractions, or because of irregularities of the ground that may force the horse to make an unexpected effort in order to keep its balance.
Another common cause of tendinous lesions lies in leg faults because of bad horseshoes. A tear may affect a single flexor tendon or both, and any area between the carpal bone or the ham and the fetlock, just like it may affect the suspensory ligament of the fetlock.
What are the first signs of a tendon injury?
Clinically, the lesion shows signs of inflammation in the affected area: heat, swelling, pain. The degree of inflammation depends on the severity of the injury, the real nature of which is usually unknown. Sometimes, cases considered as typical of tendinous tears turn out to be only lesions of the tissues adjacent to the tendon (sheath or tendinous synovitis), without any alteration of the tendinous fibres strictly speaking.
Anyway, in case of a tendinous tear, some fibres generally break and a blood flow is noticeable as well as a swelling. This break, even if it is slight, always weakens the normal structure of the tendon.
A tendinous lesion causes inflammation, heat and swelling. A minor deterioration of the fibres creates a slight distention of the affected area that will get warmer to the touch compared to the same areas of the other leg. Slight elongations may not even cause any lameness. On the other hand, in the most serious cases, the limb may become very painful and swollen and the horse may be very handicapped. If the tendon is broken, the horse may walk with tips turned up. If an infection of the sheath of the tendon is also noticed, the horse will show a clearly noticeable lameness.
How to diagnose a tendon injury?
If a tendon injury is suspected, it would be advisable to make the horse undergo a medical examination as soon as possible in order to confirm or disconfirm this worry. Signs such as the thickening of the affected tendon, symptoms of heat, pain at the touch, etc. will be sought. It may be difficult to estimate the injury in its entirety without doing a deep ultrasound scan to visualize the structure of the tendon and possible damages. Furthermore, the scan of the tendon allows to check the current recovery process.
What treatments are available?
The curative treatment of the torn tendon is one of the main concerns in the hippiatric world. The blood supply to the tendon is very weak compared to muscles and other tissues. This is exactly why recovery is slower.
The first thing to do is to try to reduce the swelling and the liquid influx in the area concerned. Compressive dressings of any type, bandages and anti-inflammatory substances are the first measures to implement. Rest is essential.
Sometimes, when the tear is light, the above-mentioned treatments seem so effective that the trainer may be tempted to make the horse start train again very quickly. Unfortunately, it’s important to remember that only symptoms will be treated, not the lesion. If the horse starts train again under these circumstances, its state of health will only get worse.
The recovery time is usually quite long. How long exactly, it depends on the horse’s own recovery and healing abilities. Most tendinous lesions require at least three months of limited training and the tendon can take up to one year to completely heal. Controlled training is essential to maximize the strength and healing of the damaged tendon. To this end, frequent ultrasound scans provide a priceless help in assessing healing progression.
It is possible to inject the injured tendon with medicine that support the healing process. Among the most recent substances used for injections, let’s mention plasma, rich in platelets, stem cells, and bone marrow. These substances are taken from the injured horse then injected into the tendon. This practice only supports the natural healing process. Among the other substances used for injections, we can find hyaluronic acid and polysulfated glicosaminoglycans, which is an organic derivative. Ultrasounds, roentgen therapy, or shock waves can be practiced as well.
The surgical treatment aims to remove all the adhesions of the damaged tendon to neighbouring tissues, but the results are not always satisfactory, mainly because the adhesions form again.
The lightest lesions affecting colts or the lesions in which the sheath surrounding the tendon is particularly concerned will be more easily and completely healed if, besides the treatment, the subject rest long enough.
The new rubefacient and stimulating tinctures and unguents can perfectly replace the traditional « vesicants » to stimulate blood flow in the affected areas, favouring this way the natural repair process without jeopardizing the safety of the epidermal and mesodermal tissues, and thus without any side-effects.
Tempest proposes several products, among which stronger or lighter unguents and tinctures, made with phyto-derivatives of various kinds, whole of them placed under the sign of naturalness and total respect of equine and human well-being. These new generation revulsive products combine a vasodilation effect, necessary to attract blood and to oxygenate more rapidly this tissue that is known to be naturally not very vascularized, and an anti-inflammatory effect thanks to the phyto-therapeutic substances present in addition to the revulsive substances.
Kaliz and Red Blister for a strong attack action, Bio Blister and Black Blister in balsam for a general well-being, Bio Scurf with ozonated oil during the stabilization phase: the latter has a regenerating revulsive power enhanced by the effect of Ozone, O3, a high oxygenation and micro-capillary stimulation that leads to a reduction of healing and regeneration time.
The pack of 1 Kaliz 100 ml. + 1 Red Blister 100 ml. + 1 BioScurf 180 ml. is now available at a cut price.
A comprehensive protocol adjuvant to natural innovating therapy for tendons and joints is now available and, with the new special offer, everyone can afford it. Why hesitate?
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