Despite being big and muscular creatures, horses are sensitive. They are prone to injuries of all sorts. Soft tissue injuries in horses are the most common and, sometimes, more devastating than fractures.
Overview of Soft Tissue Injuries in Horses
By nature of being active animals, horses can get injured as they execute their duties. Whether it’s competitive events, dressage, or hunting and jumping competitions, the more active your horse is, the higher the risk of soft tissue injuries. Examples of soft tissue injuries in horses include:
- Tendon injuries. Tendons are fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone and are responsible for the movement of limbs and locking joints in place.
- Ligament injuries. Ligaments are fibrous connective tissue structures that connect bone to bone (or cartilage) across joints. They, too, help provide stability and control movement.
- Muscle injuries. Muscle tissue can be considered the source of power in animals as muscles provide the strength needed for movement.
All three types of tissues mentioned above can be injured by external trauma or mechanical overload that leads to the tissue being torn or bruised. These injuries are what generally constitute soft tissue injuries in horses.
Soft tissue injuries are common in athletic and working horses and can result from overstretching or overworking a tendon, ligament, or muscle beyond its capacity. They can also result from sudden trauma like a fall or twisting a limb or repetitive movement that leads to the gradual weakening of tissue until it eventually tears.
The Stages of Healing
All it takes is something as simple as a misstep for your horse to suffer a soft tissue injury. However, the healing process is far from being simple. Here are the three stages of healing involved when a horse is recovering from soft tissue injuries:
The inflammation stage starts immediately after the injury and lasts about seven days. The inflammation is a result of increased blood flow to the injured area. This is essential for carrying much-needed molecules required to help remove dead tissue and clean up the affected region. The inflammation stage is also characterized by heat and swelling.
While the clean-up is vital, the inflammation that accompanies it can lead to further damage if not properly attended to.
The second stage of healing from soft tissue injuries is the regeneration stage. This is when healing cells begin to regenerate damaged tissue. A scaffolding develops across torn fibers to connect them and support the collagen fibers produced by the body to fill the injury.
Regeneration of healthy tissue can take several months in a severe injury. Controlled movement (like hot walking) is essential, here, to help stimulate tissue regeneration. At this stage, tissue is formed haphazardly.
The last stage of healing is the remodeling stage. The regenerated tendon and ligament fibers begin to rearrange themselves into a normal pattern. Poor remodeling can result in regenerated tissue cells being randomly lined up forever. Consequently, the structure will be weaker and possess less elasticity after the healing process is complete. As a result, your horse will be at higher risk of getting more injuries in the future.
Soft Tissue Treatment Tips and Tricks
Some soft tissue injuries in horses are easy to diagnose, thanks to the swelling and heat around the injury. However, some don’t give those tell-tale signs and, thus, can’t be easily diagnosed. If your horse is limping or struggling to walk, take it for a clinical or ultrasound exam to determine the location and extent of the soft tissue injury. This will help you develop a proper treatment plan. Here are some soft tissue treatment tips and tricks to help your horse recover fast:
Cold therapy is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation. It involves soaking the injured area in an ice and water slurry for about 20 to 30 minutes. Cold therapy treatment must be applied three to four times a day in the first 48 hours after your horse has been injured. Thereafter, treatment must be administered two to three times a day for about two weeks.
Exercise encourages tissue recovery and generation. However, since your horse is injured, you will have to control the amount and intensity of the exercise in order not to strain the injured tissue. A great way of giving your horse controlled exercise is by hot walking him.
Laser treatment has been one of the mainstays of treating human sports injuries. Recent studies have shown that laser therapy is also effective in reducing inflammation. It also promotes the healing of injured tendons and ligaments by increasing blood flow to the injured area.
Electrical stimulation therapy uses low-voltage intermittent stimulation delivered via electrodes and is applied directly to the horse’s skin. The electrical pulses trigger the release of endorphins, which, in turn, increase circulation and stimulate the healing of damaged tissue.
Soft tissue injuries in horses typically heal on their own with time. The most important thing is to give your horse adequate rest. However, you can speed up the natural healing process by using the treatment tips above. Your horse will get back into optimal performance condition faster.
The Benefits of Whole Body Vibration
Another way to encourage tissue regeneration in a horse with soft tissue injuries is by using whole-body vibration (WBV). WBV therapy involves placing your horse on a vibration platform capable of applying vibrations of different magnitudes and frequencies. Research has proven that this type of therapy is effective in stimulating tissue regeneration. It also improves circulation, thereby speeding up the recovery process.
Overall, the biggest advantage of whole-body vibration in treating soft tissue injuries in horses is that it encourages your horse’s body to heal itself. Besides helping heal soft tissue injuries, whole-body therapy also has the added benefits of:
- Boosting healthy hoof development
- Relieving stress and pain
- Optimizing muscle growth
That’s why a whole-body vibration therapy platform is an essential addition to your horse healthcare tools. You can’t get better vibration plates for horses than those from Vitafloor. Vitafloor’s proven equine vibration plate technology is used by top equestrians throughout the world.
Vitafloor pioneered the first horse vibration plate system. Because of that, we’re ahead of the competition when it comes to developing vibration plates to help horses recover faster from injuries and improve their performance.
If you need to help your horses heal faster from soft tissue injuries, get your horses a vibration plate from Vitafloor. If you need us to walk you through the best model for you, give us a call at (352) 737-6743. We’ll be more than happy to help.