Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Common Eventing Injuries and Soundness Threats

 Just like other equine athletes, eventers can potentially get injured or suffer a soundness threat, especially in cross country, where they gallop at high speeds, soaring over solid, immobile jumps. Landing at such speeds puts a lot of weight and pressure on the forelegs, which increases the chance of injury. Furthermore, the footing in cross country isn't as soft and forgiving as arena footing, something that makes the horse more prone to taking a misstep, slipping in rainy weather, or bruising his hooves. Although a myriad of injuries can occur, there are a few that are more common than others in event horses: damage in the tendons and ligaments of the forelegs, injuries in the stifle and feet, degenerative joint disease.

Suspensory Ligaments and Superficial Digital Flexor Tendon
 The superficial digital flexor tendon(SDFT) lies just below the skin at the back of the cannon bone. Underneath that is the deep digital flexor, then the check ligament, and finally the suspensory ligament. The suspensory ligament and superficial digital flexor tendon are commonly injured in event horses because a lot of pressure is put on the front legs when landing from a jump at the high speeds eventers ride at during cross country. The tendons absorb the shock of the impact while supporting the ankle along with the ligaments. If too much strain is put on them, they may tear, or even rupture completing, possibly even causing the bone to fracture. Injuries range from mild to severe.

 Detecting a torn or strained SDFT or suspensory ligament can be difficult, especially if the injury is mild. Heating, swelling, and sensitivity may occur, and and injured SDFT may appeared bowed. Injuries on the ligament are hard to diagnose because it is covered by other structures. However, a veterinarian should be notified if you suspect an tendon or ligament injury.

 A horse with such an injury usually has his injured leg cold hosed or iced, is put to a stall rest, and hand for a few minutes a day. He is gradually returned to work, as prescribed by your vet. Ligaments and tendons often take a long time to heal, ranging from only a few months for a mild injury and up to 18 months or more for more severe ones. If the horse is put back into work too early, he may re-injure the tendon or ligament.

Bruising and Other Impact Injuries
 It is not uncommon for a horse to hit a fence when doing cross country. Though some hits may cause only bruising, hitting the knee may even fracture the kneecap, and other unprotected joints, such as the stifle and fetlock, can also be injured hits the solid, unforgiving jump. The impact sight may feel hot and sensitive, and will often have cuts and bruising. If the wounds are deep and may need stitches, or have debris embedded in it, call the vet. The vet should also be notified if lameness persists for more than a few days as they can check if any bone was fractured. Minor injuries normally do not need the assistance of a vet. Bruises can normally be cold hosed for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day the first day, and poultices can be made to draw out the swelling. For minor cuts, gently hose them to clean them out.
Rebecca Howard and Riddle Master. Ouch! This likely caused a stifle injury.

 Bruising and swelling can also occur in the hoof, for several reasons. The impact of galloping over hard ground can often bruise the soft tissues of the hoof. A horse may also lose a shoe, which may not be noticed if it doesn't affect his way of going too much. His hoof will be sore afterward, and you may not detect anything if he is not visibly lame. Extensive bruising can damage bone and cartilage. Sole bruises, too, can be handled on your own. You can soak the hoof in a warm Epsom salt bath for 10 to 15 minute up to twice a day, followed by a poultice.

 In both cases, the horse should rest until the swelling and soreness decreases. The prognosis is normally great for these kinds of injuries and the horse can usually return to work within a few weeks or months.

Degenerative Joint Disease
 Degenerative joint disease(DJD), inflammation in the joints, occurs mostly in the hock, stifle, coffin bone, and fetlock in event horses. The wear and tear on joints in event horses, or an injury, often causes this condition, which begins with inflammation in the joints and leads to the joint fluid becoming watery and the cartilage becoming damaged. Common signs are heat, swelling, pain, though DJD is not easily detected until it becomes too advanced and severe. Subtle signs include on and off lameness, stiffness, less fluid gaits, and resistance to certain maneuvers.

 Many vets use joint injections and or medications to control the inflammation, although they haven't found a way to completely reverse the affects.

 Though you can't 100% reduce the chances of injury, you can do all several things to reduce chances of lameness. One thing you can do is ride with safety in mind and not ride too fast if the footing isn't great. You can also give your horse time to recover between events, carefully watch for and quickly treat injuries, and give him good hoof care. You can also condition him properly so he doesn't tire too quickly. A tired horse is likely to make mistakes or missteps.
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 This is post is based off on article I read I Practical Horseman, called "Soundness Threats for Event Horses," by Elaine Pascoe and vet Kevin Keane. I found it very informative so I wanted to do my own post about.

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