A tendon injury can be as serious as a broken bone and requires immediate first aid. The horse may pull up lame or develop heat and swelling, with or without lameness, soon after fast work. With mild tendon strains, there may be heat and swelling, but no detectable lameness.
If you suspected a damaged tendon, intense cold and support bandaging should be applied immediately to reduce inflammation and minimise damage to the tendon fibres.
Chemical cooling wraps help to maximise the chances of satisfactory repair, but packs of frozen peas, bags of ice or even basic cold-hosing can be used in an emergency.
Cold treatment should be applied for a maximum of 30 minutes, with a 30-minute interval. This cycle can be repeated up to three times; any longer, and you risk causing other damage.
Immobilising the limb will prevent further damage and help to relieve pain. Applying support bandages with plenty of padding and support will help.
With any severe tendon injuryanti-inflammatory painkilling drugs will help reduce the amount of inflammatory damage and help the horse feel better. Drugs injected directly into the vein by your vet will act quicker than drugs given in feed.
The vet’s role
If you suspect a tendon injury, the horse should be examined promptly by a vet. Significant tendon damage can occur even if the horse isn’t lame. Diagnostic ultrasound scanning is a useful means of estimating the severity of a tendon injury, and should be considered if there is any suspicion of damage.
If the fetlock has dropped closer to the ground, there is an open wound, or the horse is in severe pain, your vet should be contacted immediately.
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