Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Horse Care Tip #2: So your horse has a tendon what?

So your horse has just been diagnosed with a tendon injury. This dreaded news may make some think that it is the end of their horse's career, but it doesn't have to be. In this blog, I will share with you the rehabilitation program that Sakura Hill Farm has used to successfully return performance horses back to full work and continue their careers in sport.
The vet will more than likely suggest an alloted time for stall rest (with or without hand walking) depending on the injury.

Other treatments may be suggested, such as Stem Cell Therapy, Shock Wave and Ultrasound Therapy. You may, like us, decide to invest in owning or renting a very expensive machine called The Game Ready Machine.

  We are firm supporters of this machine and have used it along with our program to rehabilitate successfully several soft tissue injuries. The machine combines intermittent compression with circumferential cold, which aids in reducing swelling, speeding up recover time and preventing further tissue damage. To read more about The Game Ready Machine, please click here.

So what happens now that your horse has been stall rested and is ready to begin back into work? The following rehabilitation program was suggested to me by Director of the Mount Holyoke College Equestrian Center and daughter to a soft tissue specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School.

What I was told was that the crucial concept of the rehabilitation program is that *WALKING IS ESSENTIAL TO RECOVERY.*

After stressing the tissues through trotting or cantering, walking allows for the tissue to recover, heal and regenerate. The way I think of it is  by visualizing a rubber band that you are trying to fit around something. If you stretch it too hard too fast, it will break. If you stretch it only a little it bounces back. What you need to do is stretch it just enough that it doesn't break, but it retains its length, becoming more and more pliable every time. In order to do this, you must slowly stretch it and let it bounce back, stretch it a bit further and let it bounce back until it retains its new length without breaking. The key here is to let it bounce back, or in relation to the horse, return to walk for a period of time.

Another way to think of this concept is when you blow up a balloon. Have you ever blown up a balloon and you blow and blow and then you hit a point where it becomes very easy to blow it up to completion? Well, that point is hard to reach, but once  reached the rest comes more easily. This analogy stresses that the start of the rehabilitation program is the most crucial.

So how is it done?

 The seriousness of the injury and length of time  the horse has been stall- bound and out of work will determine whether or not each stage is completed within 1 week or 2 weeks but for the sake of this blog entry, let us assume that the horse has been stall bound for a long period of time (90 days) and is not only being returned to work to rehabilitate the injury, but must also be building fitness and therefore is going through each phase at 2 week intervals (a very conservative approach) In other words, approximately 4 months. If you are taking the "Fast route" for a more minor injury, it would take approximately 8 week before resuming jumping.
  • Week 1 & 2:   walk 10 minutes, trot 5 minutes (split between both directions), walk 10 minutes=25 minute session

  • Week 3 & 4:   walk 10 minutes trot 5 minutes (one direction), walk 10 minutes, trot 5 minutes (the other direction), walk 10 minutes (notice that the trotting has doubled in time, but so has the walking).=40 minute session

  • Week 5 & 6:   walk 10 minutes, trot 7 minutes, walk 10 minutes, trot 7 minutes, walk 10 minutes=approximately 45 min session

  • Week 7 & 8:   walk 10 minutes, trot 10 minutes, walk 10 minutes, trot 10 minutes, walk 10 minutes=50 minute session

  • *Week 9 & 10: walk 10 minutes, trot 15 minutes, walk 10 minutes, trot 15 minutes, walk 10 minutes, canter 5 minutes, walk 10=65 minute session (once you reach 15 minutes of trotting each direction, you may introduce 5 minutes of cantering)

  • Week 11 & 12: walk 10, trot 15 minutes, walk 10 minutes, trot 10 minutes, walk 10 minutes, canter 10 minutes, walk 10 minutes= 75 minutes *(notice that the second set of trotting decreases by 5 minutes as the cantering sessions increase by 5 minutes)

  • Week 13 & 14: walk 10 minutes, trot 15 minutes, walk 10 minutes, trot 5 minutes, walk 10 minutes, canter 15 minutes, walk 10 minutes=75 minutes

  • ***Week 15 & 16: walk 10 minutes, trot 15 minutes, walk 10 minutes, canter 15 minutes, walk 10 minutes=60 minutes (this resembles more or less a normal workout and can be considered completion of the program.)

Now you can begin to slowly introduce jumping.

With this program and the use of our Game Ready Machine after each workout, we have had no re-injuries and all of the horses returned to full work. Obviously each horse is an individual and must be treated as such. Pay attention to their fitness- some horses may not be able to endure 25 minute sessions from the beginning--it is up to the rider's discretion to determine how fit your horse is and how to moderate this program to fit each individual situation.

Good luck and I wish your horses a speedy recovery!

Oilily VDL on a walking trail ride (a great way to keep them mentally happy while rehabing)

1 comment:

  1. As an equine sports massage therapist, this is the sort of rehab plan that makes my job so, so much easier. :)I started out working with Special Forces soldier (I'm married to one), and then combined my horse hobby with my career. It's amazing how much the theory of stress then rest translates.