Tendon injuries can mean lengthy time off, stall rest, etc. for your horse, so all of us want to do everything possible to prevent them from occurring. Here are five steps on how to prevent them:
1. Buy a horse with the best conformation possible. We all realize that there is no perfectly conformed horse and there are definitely cases where you have to give up a little of the conformation for a horse with a good brain or that is really good at its job, but ideally you buy as good a conformation as possible, especially for your particular discipline. Certain conformations are more prone to various injuries. Horses that are very straight through their hind end are more prone to hock and high suspensory issues. Horses with long pasterns and underrun heels are more prone to suspensory issues in the front limbs and/or various other tendon issues. Horses that toe in put a lot of strain on the ligaments on the outside of their limbs. If you can buy a horse that minimizes these conformational faults, you are setting yourself up better for success.
2. Shoeing is key. Have a good farrier and keep your horse on a regular schedule. Again, horses that have conformational faults will put more strain on their ligaments at the end of a shoeing cycle when toes are long and heels are underrun due to greater leverage on these areas. So keeping them on a regular cycle is key. Also certain things can be done with trimming and shoeing to minimize stresses on various areas. So find a farrier you trust. Consult with your vet. And have the two of them work together.
3. Fitness. We all know what it’s like to be a weekend warrior and not exercise all week and then go out and overdo it on the weekend. Horses are no different. So don’t go out and expect to do a 50 mile endurance ride after not riding your horse for several weeks and expect him not to be sore. The more fit your horse is the less likely that he is to fatigue while you’re riding him. Injuries often happen when your horse is fatigued and not taking care of their body as well as they could. These tendons and ligaments also get tired and are more prone to injury at this time.
4. Terrain: Ride your horse on different types of terrain. Always riding on the same terrain makes tendons and ligaments accustomed to only that type of terrain. It makes sense to ride them on different types of ground. Ride them on hard ground. Ride them on grass. Ride them in an arena. Ride them carefully over uneven ground. All these things will strengthen your horse’s ligaments and make them less prone to tearing.
5. Cross train your horse. This means ride them in an arena. Take them out on trail rides. Do trot sets. Ride them long and low. Ride them more collected. This will help strengthen your horse’s core and strengthen their hind end. Also getting them to use their core will help strengthen their back and horses can get sore backs just like we can.