Soft tissue injuries are not common in horses that live in the wild; these injuries generally occur when a repetitive motion is carried out in an unnatural way. Even small movements done repeatedly can damage soft tissue damage over time, even if the injury starts out as minor.
Tendons and ligaments in equine legs act as springs; to do their job correctly, all parts, including bones, tendons, ligaments and cartilage, must be aligned and positioned properly. Even the smaller soft tissue structures are important for a horse to maintain soundness.
Soft tissue injuries can potentially affect the long-term athletic future of a horse, if all available treatment modalities are used. Because of this, it’s worthwhile to investigate what could potentially be causing the increase in soft tissue injuries in working horses. Dr. Carol Shwetz reports that horses being asked to circle repeatedly and in poor form is the culprit of a lot of soft tissue injuries. Round penning, lunging, schooling and competing in many disciplines ask a horse to work on a curve. While a horse can turn in a circle, his body is not designed to do so repeatedly.
An unfit horse asked to circle endlessly will experience torque, tension, compression and shear on his body. The greater the speed and the tighter the circle, the more stress he will endure. Though effective as a training tool, the tissues can be injured if the horse is forced to repeatedly circle in poor form.
When executed properly and in a reasonable amount, the circle is beneficial to the horse. However, the body of the horse needs to be properly conditioned and educated to travel correctly on the circle without bringing harm and distress to the body. In addition to the physical stress constant circling can place on a horse’s body, this motion can be mentally detrimental as well.
Horses that are kept in stalls or in small turnouts must continually bend and curve as they encounter the sides of their enclosures, as well. Many soft tissue issues are misunderstood and chalked up to misbehavior or training problems. A horse that is unwilling to go forward, rushes, spooks, opens his mouth, twists his head or displays any number of other issues may be trying to let his handlers know he is uncomfortable. It’s worth trying to determine if a horse that exhibits these issues is physically uncomfortable (and not just being “bad”) before a soft tissue injury develops into a debilitating lameness.
Read more at Alberta Farmer Express.
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