Tendon Injuries, Ice and Rehabilitation

Bringing a horse back from a tendon injury to return to full athletic performance takes time, patience and dedication. The speed of repair and renewal of tendon tissue is much slower than that of other tissues within the body such as bone or muscle. This is partly due to the poor blood supply tendons have.

The application of ice is certainly of benefit in reducing acute inflammation and swelling, and may be indicated as part of a treatment program in the acute phase of injury. However, when the horse is ready for rehabilitation and gradual return to exercise, the use of ice may be contraindicated. Ice slows the tendon’s metabolic response to exercise and impairs blood flow (remembering that blood flow to tendons is generally poor as it is). This blood flow is needed for fibre repair. Thus, in order to promote optimal tendon fibre repair, there may be significant benefit in avoiding the use of ice in training. Icing a horse’s legs after work may in fact be working against the goal you are trying to achieve: i.e. promoting optimal recovery and tissue adaptation.

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