What's better than the successful rehabilitation of a tendon or ligament injury? One that doesn't happen at all. While it's impossible to completely avoid injury in an athletic horse, the following precautions might help to minimize your horse's chance for injury.
- Good footing. Uneven or deep footing is a perfect setup for a soft-tissue injury. Maintain your own arena footing, and promise yourself never to ride your horse in bad footing-even if it means loading up from a show and going home.
- Good shoeing. Proper, balanced shoeing is critical for minimizing stress to soft-tissue structures. Keep your horse on a regular (4- to 8-week) shoeing/trimming schedule.
- Conditioning. Adequately condition your horse for the work you ask him to do. Long, slow, distance work-such as a 30- to 45-minute walk-is ideal, as it helps to strengthen soft-tissue structures without stressing them.
- Warm-up. Always warm up your horse thoroughly before you ride. Plan to walk him a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes before you start to work.
- Recognize signs. Learn to recognize the subtle signs of an injury before it becomes severe. Identify any abnormal heat or swelling in your horse's legs by carefully feeling his legs every day before you ride and taking note of any changes. You should also pay close attention to any lame steps or obvious changes in his behavior. If you think something feels amiss when you ride, call your vet. By doing so, you'll prevent a minor strain from becoming a catastrophic injury.