Getting Your Horse Back Into Work after a Tendon Injury
Part Three: Transition to Canter, Plus Tips for Preventing Re-Injury
Your horse’s walk and trot reconditioning phases are successfully completed, and an ultrasound confirms his tendons are healing well. At last, you have the green light to canter post tendon injury!
But whether including this gait on the horse walker or under saddle, continue to be conservative. You don’t want to undo the successful equine rehabilitation work you’ve done so far.
Introducing the Canter
Your vet will probably want to add five minutes of canter gradually during the first two weeks. Begin and end every session with ten minutes of walk work, and split the total canter time allowed into short segments.
- Trot before and after cantering: don’t transition up to canter from walk, or down from canter to walk.
- Avoid abrupt changes of gait or direction.
- Don’t lunge your horse, as his tendons are not yet sufficiently conditioned for moving in circles of twenty meters or less.
Every two weeks, continue to increase the total time spent in this new gait by five minutes, or as your vet prescribes, until you reach twenty minutes of canter work during each one hour exercise routine.
Using the Horse Walker
The freestyle horse exerciser once again becomes a valuable tool. It allows you to control your horse on a gentle curve in a contained area, and you can gradually increase and decrease the speed for smooth gait transitions through trot. Putting a steady buddy on the horse walker with him will have a calming effect. Only canter your horse for this stage of rehab on exercisers with large diameters (65′ – 70′) with safe track footing.
Your vet will ask you to continue riding in straight lines and on large circles, to minimize the stress on his tendons.
Another way to reduce tendon strain is to collect him. In the last post we talked about how collection is not just for dressage training – it benefits all horse disciplines. Here again is the link to an informative article on the correct way to collect your horse: Collection
Collecting a horse in canter makes sense, because it reduces the amount of weight on his forelegs.
Your horse’s rehabilitation is now complete. You’ve been patient and worked hard, and the chances are good that he will soon return to his normal work load.
Tips for Avoiding Tendon Re-injury
There are no guarantees your horse won’t injure himself again, but here are a few ways to help prevent another set-back. We’ve talked about some of them already.
- Always walk your horse for ten minutes before progressing to faster work.
- Always walk your horse for ten minutes after faster work.
- Avoid abrupt downward changes between gaits and sudden turns.
- Work your horse evenly on both reins. It’s tempting to concentrate more on his worse side, but overdoing this can lead to tendon and suspensory problems.
- Listen to your vet’s advice about turnout. Start with a small area, and maybe a mild sedative, and move to a larger paddock only when your horse is reliably quiet.
- Avoid turning him out in muddy areas where he can skid and pull that tendon again.
- Avoid trot extensions when your horse is tired.
Check his legs every day for unusual swelling or heat and call your vet if you notice anything wrong.