Bowed Tendon Update

The story began just before Christmas on a mild winter’s day when Annapolis took a mis-step and rebowed his tendon. I could hardly believe our bad luck, since he was only walking at the time and you tend to associate bowed tendons with high speed and jumping. What actually happened, I believe, was that Annapolis tripped with his right foot, and in attempting to save himself from falling, he hyper-flexed the tendon in his left foreleg, the one that had bowed and ended his racing career at the age of 6.

Since our original visit to the vet, when an ultrasound exam confirmed that he had a bowed tendon, Annapolis has been mainly confined to his stall. I have been going to the barn each day to groom him and to gently walk him in the barn aisle. On mild days he was taken out for some hand grazing. However, after more than 8 weeks of confinement, Annapolis was getting more and more of a handful outside the barn.

Two weeks ago, I took Annapolis back to the vet for a follow-up ultrasound scan to evaluate his progress and received some very encouraging results. The ultrasound images showed that the dark areas of fluid accumulation had dissipated and that scar tissue had formed, indicating that the healing process is well underway.

Dr. Heitman, the vet that performed the most recent ultrasound, was pleased with the results. He told me that Annapolis is making excellent progress and that his activity can now be increased. In fact, controlled activity is one of the main things that will help the tendon fibers lay down scar tissue in a longitudinal pattern, instead of in a knot that will lack the elasticity it needs to remain healthy in the future. Interestingly, an article in the March 1988 issue of Equus magazine, states that research now shows that, except in cases of fractures etc. where the horse should be kept immobile, gentle controlled exercise is beneficial to the healing of the horse from as soon as seven days following the injury. So Annapolis might even have been better off getting more exercise than he did.

The vet also stated that Annapolis could be turned out for short periods each day, provided that he did not buck and run, and could be hand-walked for longer periods. I have not actually turned him out yet – we have been getting a lot of wind and rain and did not feel comfortable letting Annapolis out where he might act silly and then slip and hurt himself. Instead, I compromised. Last weekend, during our hand-walking session, Annapolis was just bursting out of his skin, jogging and jumping all over the place. I decided to let him get rid of some of his excess energy in the round pen, where he would be fairly safe and not likely to slip in the mud.

Annapolis did not immediately go crazy, but first of all rolled on both sides, which he likes to do in the round pen. Once he had stood back up and shaken the sand out of his coat, however, it was like watching a replay of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. He had a great time, bucking and rearing and twisting around. The whole show lasted about 4 minutes, at the end of which, he slowed to a trot, then a walk and came over to where I was standing in the middle of the round pen and hung his head over my shoulder as if to say, “Thanks, I needed that”.

I’m not sure if I have ever mentioned this before on this Web site, but Annapolis was owned by Monty Roberts as a yearling and it is very evident that Monty started him. Whenever I have him in the round pen, I can use Monty’s techniques and Annapolis very quickly joins up with me and follows me around.

Until the weather dries up a little, Annapolis is being turned out into the round pen for about a hour each day which gives him a chance to see what is going on around the barn and stretch his legs. When I go to the barn in the evenings, I am hand-walking him on the tarmac driveway for about 15 minutes and then hand grazing him for about 30 minutes. Once he is turned out again with his pasture mates, I will no longer have to hand graze him and we can both return to a more normal routine.

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