Even a severe tendon injury doesn’t have to spell the end: case study

  • The words “tendon injury” fill most horse owners with dread. But even with a poor initial prognosis for tendon injuries in horses, there can be a happy ending, as show horse Pink Floyd proves.

    The successful large hack qualified for Horse of the Year Show two years ago — during his first season competing in the show ring — and his owner, Sarah Briggs, envisaged an exciting career ahead. But less than a week after returning from Birmingham, the 16hh gelding severed a tendon and his future looked bleak.

    “He was only six and had his whole life in front of him,” says Sarah, who bought the half-brother of multi-titled Pearly King as an unbroken three-year-old.

    A son of Kilvington Scoundrel, in 2013 Floyd progressed from novice to open large hack classes with Loraine Homer in the saddle. The pair claimed five championship titles and stood reserves on two occasions.

    No one saw Floyd injure himself because he was in the field. He might have been playing around, and caught himself with a hind leg. Suddenly the girls on the yard saw that he was on three legs and called me.”

    The tendon injury

    The wound on Floyd’s front tendon was “a good inch deep — he had severed most of the tendon. His fetlock dropped and we had to prop him up to help take some of his weight. Floyd was in so much pain — it was horrible.”

    A vet from nearby Hook Norton Veterinary Group treated the wound and applied a heavy-duty bandage. Putting the leg in plaster was also attempted to give the tendon greater stability.

    “The vet said straight away that Floyd’s showing career was over because the leg would never look the same. We couldn’t even be sure he would be ridden again — survival depended on the tendon healing well enough for Floyd to live a comfortable life,” adds Sarah.

    Tendon injury treatment

    The first few days are critical following a tendon injury. Pedantic care, veterinary attention and the horse being a good patient are vital.

    “Floyd had good days and I began to hope, but also bad days where he looked uncomfortable. Scans confirmed it was a severe injury, but I wanted to give him a chance.”

    Floyd spent six months at Radway Equine Rehabilitation Centre, which is run by Fiona Elliott, a vet at the Hook Norton practice.

    Spa treatments became key to the horse’s recovery.

    “Floyd didn’t even like stepping in puddles, so at first he was sedated. But by the end he was so relaxed that he would doze in the spa,” recalls Sarah.

    Half way through his rehabilitation Floyd was able to walk in slow, straight lines, progressing to large circles and, as the walking increased, spa time decreased.

    The next stage

    At the end of his six-month box rest, Floyd’s progress was favourable. He returned home and started light, in-hand exercise in a round pen.

    In May 2014 he was turned out for the first time.

    “He spent six weeks walking first to build up strength, and he was sedated in the field to begin with,” says Sarah. “Turnout came with risks, as fooling around could have undone everything. But he had been in so long that the health benefits — particularly for his mind — far outweighed them and he spent the whole summer outside.”

    In October, Floyd moved to Ryan Hawkins’ Swindon yard to return to ridden work.

    “Floyd had lost so much strength after a year off, but Ryan did a great job of building him back up. At best I thought he might go hacking, but when his confidence returned on the leg Ryan felt he would do well in dressage.”

    Floyd entered a dressage arena for the first time three months later and is currently competing at prelim and novice level.

    “It’s a case of so far so good. Floyd wears magnetic boots in the stable just in case, but to date his leg is not causing any problems. It’s unsightly for a show horse, but Floyd makes up for it with expressive movement,” concludes Sarah. “I am so proud of him. He’s proof that tendon injuries aren’t the end of the world and show horses are versatile.”

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