Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Allison Price
These guidelines can help you and your veterinarian evaluate the future health prospects of horses with old tendon injuries. For Practical Horseman magazine, Rick Mitchell, DVM and Elizabeth Iliff.
Do you have an old “bowed tendon” on your horse or one that you are considering buying off the track? You might be asking, “Will his soundness problems continue in the future?” Can he do the job that I want? What kind of care do he require?| Mandy Lorraine
A small number of horses with bow tendons are not able to perform again. A large number of horses can go back to racing and other disciplines once their bows heals. Many of these show jumpers go on to have successful careers in the show ring, some even becoming grand prix jumpers. Many show hunters have been jumping 3-foot 6-inch fences for many years with no problems.
How bad is it? Answer the following questions to evaluate an old bowed tendon:
1. What date was the tendon last bowed? The shape and consistency of bowed tendons changes as they heal. Ask your veterinarian for help if you don’t have enough information about your horse’s past to answer this question. It will require rest and care if it is still in its acute phase. You will need to carefully legging up horses that have had six to one year to heal. If the horse has a bow that is older than one year, it’s not worth buying unless you are an expert in this field.
2. A certified ultrasonographer has examined the tendon. Although this is a useful tool for diagnosing a tendon bowed, it cannot be diagnosed by simply palpating (squeezing the fingers). The use of ultrasound technology has allowed us to avoid too early returns to work for horses who appear healthy but are still healing. It also allows us prolong the time needed for horses who have already healed.
However, not all veterinarians feel comfortable performing tendon ultrasounds. Many vets use low-resolution ultrasound equipment for reproductive checks. This makes it less effective at diagnosing tendon injuries. Ask your vet if you feel comfortable doing lameness or ultrasound work. You can also ask the question, “How does this case compare with other cases?” This is an unusual ultrasound finding in your experience. He might suggest that you consult a large referral clinic, a university hospital, or a single practitioner who specializes in lameness. (The American Association of Equine Practitioners is a good resource for specialists; to find a member veterinarian in your area.
3. How severe was the injury? Expertly analyzed ultrasonography can help you determine the extent and likelihood of permanent damage. A banana bow with a steep curve is a sign of a serious injury. It may have been treated poorly and left the tendon to heal. Horses with extreme bows are more likely not to be sound than horses with smaller contour changes. To be safe, I wouldn’t recommend buying a horse with an extremely thick or disfiguring bow.
A bow can cause a horse’s leg to change in conformation. I would not buy it. Massive scarring, for example, can cause tendon damage that causes the leg to become more straight in the pastern than its mate. The knee may also seem to be buckling forward when the horse is still standing. While he may seem sound, permanent injury can limit his athletic abilities and lead to recurrent lameness.
Secondary problems are most common in the middle and lower thirds of bowed tendons. Lower injuries can interfere with the annular ligament which surrounds the superficial Flexor tendon in the canal behind the Fetlock joint.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!