Treating Equine Soft Tissue Injuries

A veterinarian describes conventional and alternative therapies for helping tendons and ligaments heal.
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Treating Soft Tissue Injuries in Horses
Electrical stimulation might reactivate and/or stimulate muscles and can be used in conjunction with therapeutic ultrasound. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Erin Denney-Jones
The steps for helping tendon and ligament injuries heal are simple but time-consuming. Think of a human athlete who pulls a hamstring or sprains an ankle—he or she will be out of the game for quite some time to heal. Your horse is an athlete, as well, and the repair process will take months.

After your veterinarian diagnoses a soft tissue injury and determines its severity, he or she might then recommend a specific treatment protocol using conventional as well as other treatment modalities. One part of conventional treatment is limiting the patient’s exercise—what we call controlled exercise. This typically involves hand-walking the horse on a firm surface with stall rest between walking sessions. The reason we prescribe this tedious process is because horses don’t understand how to “take it easy.”

Another conventional treatment is controlling inflammation using cold therapy such as ice or cold hosing, as well as wrapping the injured area to reduce swelling. If you suspect your horse has a soft tissue injury, you can start these treatments before your veterinarian arrives.

Other therapeutic modalities can enhance and possibly speed up soft tissue injury recovery when used in conjunction with conventional treatments. These include shockwave therapy, platelet-rich plasma injections, stem cell injections, laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, and electrical stimulation

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Written by:

Erin Denney-Jones, DVM, is an FEI veterinarian and owner of Florida Equine Veterinary Services, in Clermont, Florida. Her interests and practice areas include chiropractic care, sport horse medicine, reproduction, general medicine and surgery, and preventive care including wellness programs, vaccinations, parasite control, and dentistry.

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