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How soon did you start jumping after soft tissue injury?

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  • How soon did you start jumping after soft tissue injury?

    To preface, I've been working closely with my veterinarian and will continue to follow their guidance, but I know a lot of people take a more cautious approach than what the vet prescribes, and I'm looking to hear what others did and how it turned out for them.

    My horse was off since August and finally diagnosed with a soft tissue injury in the fetlock in October. He's been on a regime of turnout and controlled exercise. My vet did not feel he was a good candidate for stall rest.

    Our last recheck showed significant improvement, and we expect a full return to work in March. (Fingers crossed)

    All this has given me hope for competition season, but obviously I want to be uber cautious about reintroducing him to jumps. Without the injury in play, I wouldn't jump a horse until he was properly fit, which will probably be mid-April if I follow my usual return to work after winter routine. I plan to be even more cautious with his reintroduction, but I just have no idea how much time is helpful or even necessary.

    I was never sent a follow up from the ultrasound, so I'm a little unsure about the specific diagnosis. I was told it was a small tear to a lateral tendon in the fetlock.


  • #2
    About a year, or more of a bad injury but it sounds like yours is on the milder side. Might do some poles or cavaletti sooner, but you will be taking a much slower approach to legging up than you would with an ininjured horse after a winter slump.


    • #3
      Define "controlled exercise"? Walking under tack or trotting?

      I've always done a month of walking, a month of trotting, and a month of cantering. Start at 5 min and work your way up to 20 min with each. All 3 months are straight lines and wide turns. Month 4 reintroduce turns/lateral work/poles. Month 5 small jumps a few times a week. Month 6 back to courses. Month 7 usually ready to show at whatever height they previously showed at (3'6 or 1.20+)

      This has worked on several horses that had small tears and no true stall rest, which I don't really believe in anyways

      Also depends on what kind of jumping and quality of footing. Always remember a long walk to start and finish is very important.


      • #4
        My personal plan would be

        1. 14-16 weeks to go from pasture status to W/T/C
        2. Ultrasound to confirm everything looks good with no signs of inflammation
        3. 45-60 days in full work with a progressive re-introduction of more demanding work (more frequent transitions, circles, etc.)
        4. Ultrasound again
        5. Start introducing cavalettis and "pole courses" and very light lateral work
        6. 45-60 days later start introducing small courses
        7. Back to jumping normal course height once a week 7-9 months after first starting back under saddle if all ultrasounds are good and there are no signs of heat or stress on the leg along the way
        8. Start considering horse "normal" 9-12 months after starting back under saddle

        This is all with the assumption that normal course height is in the under 3'3 ish range. If I had a 3'6+ horse I'd be that much more cautious and would heavily look towards local sport medicine specialists who have successfully brought a horse back into full work.

        It is easy to map out a fitness plan from the couch but very few people stick to them once they hit week 6 of walking straight lines and are bored out of their mind. I know so so so many horses who either re-aggrevated minor soft tissue injuries or experienced soft tissue issues with another leg that started compensating.

        I don't think there is any way to expect a horse diagnosed with a soft tissue injury in October to be ready for a competition season.


        • #5
          Originally posted by luckycricket123 View Post
          My horse was off since August and finally diagnosed with a soft tissue injury in the fetlock in October. He's been on a regime of turnout and controlled exercise. My vet did not feel he was a good candidate for stall rest.
          What exactly was the injury - what structure, what grade?

          Our last recheck showed significant improvement, and we expect a full return to work in March. (Fingers crossed)
          I can't tell if this means "in early Feb I'll be starting ridden work, and by the end of March he should be back to his regular work" OR "in March he can return to work."

          If it's the latter, then
          All this has given me hope for competition season,

          Without the injury in play, I wouldn't jump a horse until he was properly fit, which will probably be mid-April if I follow my usual return to work after winter routine. I plan to be even more cautious with his reintroduction, but I just have no idea how much time is helpful or even necessary.
          If you're used to taking 6-ish weeks to take a Winter rested, pasture turned out horse, back to a full w/t/c work, then double that, minimally, for a lower leg, weight-bearing soft tissue injury. Personally, I'd triple it,but it all depends what structure, and how badly it was injured

          I was never sent a follow up from the ultrasound, so I'm a little unsure about the specific diagnosis. I was told it was a small tear to a lateral tendon in the fetlock.
          You definitely need to know those details. What "lateral tendon"? Lateral extensor tendon? If so, that's a whole different ballgame, as it's not weight-bearing.
          Last edited by JB; Dec. 31, 2018, 08:36 AM. Reason: fixed quotes
          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


          • #6
            ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

            Originally posted by LauraKY
            I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.


            • #7
              Definitely agree you need to get the actual diagnosis. Is it a lateral flexor tendon? Or a lateral collateral ligament injury? You should call and talk to your vet, and discuss more details with them regarding ultrasound recheck schedule, rehab progression etc. Whatever they tell you I would add more to.


              • Original Poster

                My regular vet has been wonderful and responsive, but the vet I used to ultrasound hasn't ever sent a full diagnosis or the images. I've emailed a few times, and I will reach out again after the holiday shuffle. It's super frustrating, but I'm working on it and unfortunately there's not much I can do in the meantime. I already paid the bill in full. The only things I can remember is what it wasn't. It's not a suspensory injury and it's not a deep digital flexor tendon injury.

                It's not really this vets fault, I'm so used to my own vets who send me a write up with all the imaging and my invoice 15 minutes after they leave the barn. This guy went into more detail in person and did a good job explaining but I never wrote anything down, and he never sent me a follow up. I also know what they found was quite a small tear, but nothing beyond that.

                Our controlled exercise is only walking (under saddle, or being led or being ponied) 30 mins 3-5x a week. We've been building that up and will keep adding on 5 mins each week until March.

                I'll do a recheck with my vet in March and that's when I plan to add trotting in straight lines on good footing. Thankfully, my arena has the best drainage, and even on really soggy days I can always hack around the roads.
                For the record, I am not expecting him to make it back out for the beginning of any competition season, but I didn't think it was unreasonable to hope for a fall event or aim for a walk trot dressage show in the summer, based on what both vets told me.

                I'm not sure what caused the injury, I went to ride him in a lesson and he was off. It might have been chronic and building due to unbalanced hind feet. Or maybe he was running around the paddock and slipped on mud. He should probably have been shod behind, but he was a kicker when I first got him so I was reluctant to put on hinds, especially given his light workload. I've talked to my vet, and farrier about possible cause. No one is exactly sure.