Chances are, if you’re searching the term “deep flexor tendon” or simply “bowed tendon” - it’s too late for preventative measures. But, the good news is - I can tell you how to treat your horse’s tendon injury in quick, easy steps!
Bowed tendon are two words that strike dread in horse owners and can signify the end of your equine friend’s competitive career. If your horse has a "bowed tendon" he/she has torn the tendon fibers following excessive stress on the superficial digital flexor tendon. Tendon fibers can be stretched or torn either in a single incident or following repeated stress and damage to the tendon. Some horses will show lameness, including heat and swelling over the injury site, while others may simply show swelling over the tendon. Almost all will show pain when the bowed flexor tendon is touched or gently squeezed (palpated). An ultrasound will show the extent of the damage to the deep digital tendon.
The term “bowed tendon” comes from the appearance after the tendon has been torn or stretched. When viewing the horse from the side, the tendons at the back of the leg no longer looks tight and straight. They give the appearance of a bow (as in bow and arrow).
So now what? How do you treat it?
Regardless that I can tell you how easy it is to treat the symptoms - your horse needs stall rest for the first month to six weeks. After that, six months to a year of a long, slow return to physical exercise. Only your vet can advise you how long your horse will take to recover and whether a return to his/her former athleticism is possible.
Along with stall rest, the first goal is to reduce your horse’s inflammation. By reducing their inflammation and increasing their blood flow, you speed their healing process. When an area is injured, swelling indicates fluid retention and pooling of blood at the site of the injury. With increased circulation, you allow much needed oxygen and nutrients to the injured area - thus promoting the healing process.
You will also need to bandage your horse, preferably on all four legs or at least two legs, to prevent excessive strain and swelling on the uninjured legs and support for the bowed tendon injury. Horses will compensate for their injured leg by shifting their weight to their other legs, many times resulting in all four limbs becoming swollen and sore - as well as a sore back and sore muscles!
Cold-hosing and ice wraps or ice packs/slurries are all effective - for the short term, but are time consuming. And your time is valuable. You also want relief for your horse for longer than it takes for the cold hosing to wear off.
I have found a “secret” that will not only treat and help heal your horse’s bowed tendon injury, it will help your horse’s overall physical health! It’s as simple as spraying on a liniment. Yes, that’s right - a liniment! Choose a herbal liniment that will be absorbed into their system that will reduce inflammation and increase their circulation. Make sure that it’s safe for use under bandages.
A cautionary word here - most horse liniments have heating properties and can burn your horse, particularly under bandages. You must avoid any liniments that contain any mints, menthol, or eucalyptus. You need a liniment that contains Ruta Graveolens, or more commonly known as “Rue” - a herb that is specifically for torn or strained flexor tendons. Rue is absorbed into your horse’s bloodstream and will aid the healing process and target his/her bowed tendon. Spray their back and it will ease any soreness or tension in their back or loins.
Your liniment should also contain arnica for pain, butcher’s broom for swelling and fluid retention, comfrey to promote healing of damaged ligaments and tendons, and daisy to address injuries to the deeper tissues, as well as the rue previously mentioned.
While every horse is different for the time it will take to heal a bowed tendon, as well as severity of the injury, there are no short-cuts to their layoff. Applying an all natural herbal liniment will aid the healing process and free you from time-consuming cold hosing or ice packs.
Chapman’s Premium liniment contains all of the above-mentioned herbal remedies and more to aid in the recovery of your horse’s bowed tendon as well as address any other body aches, sore muscles, pain or swelling as a result of their injury.
It’s important that you contact your vet if you think your horse has a bowed tendon. Rest, ultrasound and a slow return to physical activity plus the use of a gentle, effective linament with Rue - and you will be back riding your horse in no time!
Specializing in Natural, Effective Remedies
ps - As I have received numerous requests and questions on bandaging, I have provided a link here for those that are interested. In my experience - it is better not tobandage at all, than to bandage incorrectly. A bandage that is too loose, will not offer the support that the horse needs and is ineffective. A too tight bandage can create what is termed a "bandage bow", and cause further complications.