The most common tendon and ligament injuries affect the deep and superficial flexor tendons and the suspensory ligament. However, there are several other types of similar injuries that affect the annular ligament, reinforcing ligaments, tendon sheaths or extensor tendons. Tendons are collagen tissue. They have very little blood supply and that's also what makes it heal so slowly.
If you look at a piece of tendon under a microscope, it is wave-shaped, like a piece of wavy hair, and if you pull it, it becomes a little longer. It should act like a very durable rubber band.
Classic visible symptoms are lameness, swelling, heat and pain on palpation, when you squeeze it. You could say that if you notice pain, the injury is 'active'. If there is swelling but no pain, it is probably 'old' and not active. It can be a very visible swelling but it can also be barely noticeable and it can be soft or hard.
Unfortunately, the active phase can be very short, perhaps only one day, so it is easy to not take the injury seriously. Many coaches have dismissed an acute phase as just a warning or a small bump, only to be faced with a major injury later on.
We can distinguish between two different types of tendon injuries;
Traumatic, resulting from an accident or, for example, a kick.
Stress-related, which is caused by incorrect or excessive loading and becomes an abrasion injury.
The traumatic inhury heals more easily. This is partly because the tissue is healthy before the accident, partly because it is more difficult to change habits and other factors.
Injury time is divided into three parts:
1) Acute inflammatory phase which is 1-10 days long.
2) Proliferation phase, healing phase that lasts 4-45 days
3) Maturation/remodeling phase which is 45 days to Years... A lighter injury often heals in 3-6 months while a more severe one can take 1-2 years.
How to prevent tendon injuries
For all ages, of course, hilly pastures with good opportunities for movement and activity are important to strengthen the tendons and the whole horse.
Train the horse in time and prepare it for the work it has to do. Work on the training piece by piece, not too much at once. Always get the horse gradually used to increased loads.
Always a varied surface, preferably both in the paddock and when riding/training and never a surface that is too deep/heavy/soft.
Do not neglect to warm up for at least 15 minutes.
Always palpate through the legs before and after riding sessions so that you know what is normal and not and how the horse reacts to the training and leg protection.
Wear well-fitted leg protectors so that they do not fit incorrectly or press and risk increasing the risk of tendon injury. Don't wear too hot pads and don't wrap unnecessarily just because it looks good. Don't wrap too tightly either. Use protection when necessary.
Cool horses legs after hard work or after training in hot weather.
Use a good farrier/hoof care professional. Hoof balance can contribute to the risk of injury.
Make sure your horse has a balanced diet.
There is also a very important component. Having a therapist who can detect tissue weaknesses and address them before an injury occurs.