A bowed tendon is a sprain and/or tearing of one or both flexor tendons that run along the back of your horse's lower leg. The result is swelling, heat, pain and lameness. A bowed tendon is a serious threat to a horse's performance career because the healed tendon is weaker and less elastic than the pre-injury tendon, and therefore more prone to re-injury.
Here's a step-by-step guide to wrapping a bowed tendon. Your goal is to slow the swelling and protect the tendon from further damage while you wait for the vet.
Step 1. Ice the leg, allowing tissues to chill while you gather materials for the bowed tendon bandage. You'll need several layers of roll cotton for padding (emergency substitute: disposable diapers or folded dish towels); stretch gauze as a security layer (this layer can be omitted); and Vetrap, Elastikon or something similar to use as an elastic bandage.
Step 2. (PHOTO A) Apply a minimum of 1-inch padding over the leg, extending from below the coronary band to just below the knee. This should take several layers, depending on the material you're using (see step 1).
Step 3. Hold the padding in place with a layer of stretch gauze, applied in a spiral or figure-8 pattern to avoid girdling the already damaged tendon. Anchor the end with surgical or masking tape.
Step 4. (PHOTO B) Apply the elastic bandage tightly, leaving enough room to admit your pinky finger between padding and leg. Start with an anchor loop above the injured area, spiral down below the coronary band onto the hoof wall, then spiral upward. Overlap each round by half the bandage material's width, until all but the uppermost 1/2-inch of padding is covered. Secure the end with surgical or masking tape.
This article originally appeared in Hands-On Horse Care by Karen E. N. Hayes, DVM, MS; edited by Thomas C. Bohanon, DVM, MS, and Sue M. Copeland. To order, visit www.EquineNetworkStore.com or call 1-800-952-5813.