Last week while a volunteer was grooming Garnet, we noticed that her right front leg was swollen. In looking at the injury more closely, it was apparent from the swelling that she had bowed (torn) her digital flexor tendon, which is the large tendon that goes up the back of the leg to the knee. She did not seem uncomfortable or lame on the leg, which was a good sign that it was not a more serious injury, although the area was swollen and there was quite a bit of heat in the injured area. We really are not sure how she injured the leg- she could have just twisted it wrong while moving around in her stall. Just like people, horses get hurt in the oddest ways.
In order to reduce the swelling, we first did a cold water poultice for about 10-15 minutes, which is literally just standing next to the horse as we run cold water over the leg with a hose on low pressure. Then we dried the area and put on a poultice that will help to compress the area, and then put on a medicinal bandage wrap- no bow wraps underneath standing wraps. This helps to keep the area compressed and reduces the swelling, and helps to reduce further injury. We did this for several days, until the majority of the swelling and heat went down, then stopped the poultices and just wrapped the leg.
Because horses can’t rest a leg like humans can when we injure ourselves, healing takes a lot longer. Wrapping the leg helps quite a bit, and we have put Garnet on stall rest for a few weeks, then will start hand walking her for short distances as we rehabilitate that tendon. For the most part, torn tendons just take time to heal- while there are a number of different fads out there promising the quick-fix to tendon tears, the best remedy for these injuries is just time. While Garnet may not understand why she isn’t allowed to play like she usually does, at least she is not in any pain, and soon she will be completely healed and able to run around like normal!