Applying Human Tendon Rehab Techniques to Horses

Tendon rehab in horses should include heavy and slow loading, pain monitoring, and progressive resistance.

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rehabbing horse tendons
Strengthening exercises for horses might include hill work over the course of three to six months. | Photo: Walter Baxter/Wikimedia Commons

It’s not unusual for equine researchers and veterinarians to take a page from human medicine when it comes to treating challenging conditions in horses. Some of the tendon-healing philosophies and therapies doctors use in human patients might apply to equine ones, as well.

During the 2018 British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Sept. 12-15 in Birmingham, U.K., Seth O’Neill, PhD, MSc, PGCE, HE, MCSP, MMACP, of the University of Leicester’s College of Life Sciences, in the U.K., discussed how tendon rehab techniques in humans might transfer to horses. O’Neill works with “a mixed bag” of elite and nonelite human athletes.

He described tendinopathy (tendon injury) as “an imbalance in the rate of wear and repair.” While some stress on a tendon during training is good—the transient changes that occur after exercise cause the tendon to adapt and become more resilient—overstress can cause it to degrade. The resulting structural changes to the tendon then put it at risk of failing catastrophically during normal loading, he said

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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