Part One: Overuse injuries in horses?

As horse owners we worry about our horse getting injured. It can be expensive, time consuming, we are unable to ride and above all it is painful for our horses. Horses can get injured in many ways and sometimes as owners we can not prevent this. However overuse injuries are something that owners can help reduce. This is the first part of a three part blog where we delve into overuse injuries. To start we will look at what they are, part two will look at the causes and part three on how you can help reduce them.

Horses like humans can suffer from overuse injuries due to a build up of micro trauma which is greater than the capacity for the tissue to repair. This results in injury. A horses body is continually going through a cycle where the tissue sustains small amounts of damage. The body then repairs this damage often making it stronger. It is how strength and fitness are improved upon.

The issues occur when the body is unable to repair quickly enough often exhibiting as pain and inflammation. Horses make picking up overuse injuries in their early stages difficult because they are quite stoic in nature. It is part of their survival. This means overuse injuries are sometimes not picked up until they cause a functional problem that affects their movement and performance such as lameness.

Quite often horses may show subtle signs of being in pain when ridden, which if noticed by the owner can help prevent overuse injuries getting to the point of lameness. These include

  • Rushing
  • Bucking/rearing
  • White of eye showing
  • Tongue out
  • Mouth open
  • Ears back
  • Tail swishing
  • Carrying tail to one side
  • Head tossing
  • Unwillingness to go forward
  • Resistance
  • Stumbling
  • Toe dragging

These are just a few signs but if you feel you horse is not being its normal self then it could be due to some discomfort. Rest and some bodywork may be all that is needed to combat this. This highlights the importance in getting your horse regularly seen by a bodyworker or massage therapist especially if they are ridden regularly.

Overuse injuries can build up over time causing discomfort and potentially lameness in part two we discuss what potentially can cause overuse injuries.

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