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Deep Digital Flexor Tendon Injury - Seeking Anyone With Personal Experience

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  • Deep Digital Flexor Tendon Injury - Seeking Anyone With Personal Experience

    Looking for someone who has had personal experience with this injury. Vet is now suggessting retirement. Wondering what sort of future a horse with this injury might have. What level of "retirement" is likely going to be necessary? I am wondering about what to expect for his quality of life?
    Last edited by katie16; Mar. 27, 2009, 10:06 AM.

  • #2
    I've been through two DDFT's. In the first instance, my TB hunter made a full recovery (eventually), although there were many setbacks along the way. He was out of commission (jumping-wise) for two years, although started back under saddle the last eight months of those two years. He continued showing for another ten years and we never had a problem although I was overly-cautious and if there was even a hint of a potential problem, I gave him time off or scratched classes (if the footing was deep) or did whatever was necessary. My vet at the time used to preach "two weeks of walking, two weeks of trotting, two weeks of cantering" whenever I'd freak out something was going wrong. I iced his legs and put him in standing wraps after jumping or a hard workout. He's now 21, sound as could be, and my lovely trail horse.

    Second case hasn't gone quite as smoothly. My now eight-year-old half TB/half percheron tore the DDFT in left front and impar ligament in right front. We're on month 18. I gave him four months of stall rest (and handwalking) and then brought him home here & turned him out to let nature do her thing. We've had a very frustrating rehab process but given the severity of his tears (and the fact there are two of them), his prognosis has never been very positive. We're up to 12 minutes of trotting. Long way to go. He's never taken a funny step in the pasture, howeve, so if worst comes to worst, he'll make a lovely pasture ornament.

    I can't see any reason why your horse couldn't retire happily. Unless the tendon is nearly severed, probably the worst that would happen is the level of lameness would stay the same. My vet never discouraged me from turning my horse out (after the first few months) and felt it was unlikely my horse would make his injuries worse. If you wanted to be very cautious, you could do a few months of rest and then turn your horse out.

    But plenty of horses go straight to pasture with a soft tissue injury. And some of them come back better than ever!

    Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.
    R.I.P. Ollie (2007-2010) You were small in stature but huge in spirit. You will never be forgotten.

    Godspeed, Benjamin (1998-2014). A life well-lived. A horse well-loved.


    • #3
      I am rehabbing my gelding with DDFT injury and I am pretty optimistic. We were given a very slim chance of recovering and at 11th month after injury.
      Our injury is in the hoof, so the only way to see what is happening for sure is to do MRI and I am not rushing with it.
      How bad is your horse's injury? Mine is definitely sound for the pasture and has been looking very good for the last 2-3 months after we put the front shoes on, so I am still hoping for his low level dressage carrier In fact, I have not seen him taking a lame step even on tight turns for weeks, so there is hope after all!
      I kept him in a stall/attached paddock and handwalked daily after the injury and while doing treatments for about 6 months. Then I send him to the place with lots of land He is turned out during the day and stalled at night. He was bucking and running at first but quickly came down, he still runs and plays with his pasture buddies (they were introduced very slowly and we started with mini horses now he has a lame retired show jumper and two old mares as pasture mates)
      What makes you think your horse would not be pasture sound? Its a soft tissue and it will heal eventually :O yes, it will be prone to reinjury, but its not the end of the world. Plus, there are plenty of horses with successful recovery. How long has its been since injury?
      How much do you like your vet? I had 3 opinions on my horse, but even though UC Davis told me they have never seen tendon injury being that bad, they never told me to retire the horse immediately. I would think that 4-5 months for tendon injury is nothing, in terms of recovery time. I was given 12-18 months period to even start thinking about bringing him back to riding.


      • Original Poster

        Thank you to the two posters above. I have sent you both a PM.

        Also, I just wanted to add in case it made any difference to anyone, that the leg in question is a HIND LEG.


        • #5
          Katie, may I ask how the DDFT injury was diagnosed? I think you remember what happened with my guy.


          • #6
            My mare has a terrible left hind DDFT injury -- navicular bone is eroding due to scarring and reduced circulation, hoof is contracted and deformed. She is quite lame on it but still gets around just fine and even gallops around the field with the others. She has a great attitude and seems quite happy and has for several years. She's gets MSM but no pain meds.


            • #7
              It really depends on the severity and location of your injur(ies). I free leased a lovely horse that ended up having multiple lesions in his RH DDFT. One of them was located far down in the pastern where the DDFT gets very narrow, making it almost impossible to treat with Acell (also due to the severity of the lesion, there wasn't much left).

              Vet did not give a good prognosis at all- told me he would lucky to walk trail ride, he would never jump again without the risk of the tendon completely snapping.

              I made a very difficult decision, sent him back to his mom. I loved this horse and was totally willing to spend the time on the rehab, had the prognosis been a little better.

              His owners vet ended up doing shockwave on him. I don't believe it helped the end result much. I think now a days he makes a very pretty pasture ornament.

              Good luck with your case. Hopefully you have a good vet working with you.


              • #8
                I went through that and with complications!! Horse had a DDFT tear, diagnosed via MRI, was on stall rest x 14 months, started back in work ( was hand walking all but 1 month of stall rest for progressing amounts of time) added in shockwave. Did very well at first, WTC sound for longer periods of time. came in lame from the field ( has a hill), vet/ farrier determined that he had aggrivated his ring bone - maybe DDFT. Short stall rest , back to work. Once again, started back under saddle and doing well. Then got kicked in his hind end - lame again up front and had a vicious cycle since. Even with isoxsuprine and periodic Bute can't get him to stay consistanly sound - farrier has actually recommended neurectomy. Still debating.


                • #9
                  My horse was diagnosed with a massive lesion on the DDFT (it looked like a hole on ultrasound and MRI) and a broken navicular, the main treatment was stem cell therapy (andipose) and lockdown stall rest for 6 months and stall rest with minimal hand walking to limited turnout for 6 months after that.
                  His prognosis was grim until about 1 1/2 years later he was consistently sound and I was given approval to sit on his back and WALK (even though all the horse wanted to do was run and buck, which was okay with me, I was happy to be up there!).
                  Right now we are almost at the 3 year mark and he is as sound as he can be, he has maximum turnout in a smaller turnout space, he can now go out with a pal. He is able to be ridden for up to 30 minutes- mostly walking, with trotting mixed in.
                  When the poop hit the fan with this, I was given very little hope that he would live through his worst months, then I learned to be hopeful that he could make it as a pasture ornament, and I know for sure he will never ever jump again...now that he is sound I would love to do beginners dressage with him...if i could only get over my fear of pushing him to hard and reinjuring him


                  • #10
                    There is a poster on this board who got a LOVELY mare VERY cheap because of this injury. Her other owners were told by a TOP vet that there was no hope this mare would ever be sound.....and she was sold as a broodmare prospect to the buyer who apparently wasn't told the entire truth........(I spoke to her after the fact)
                    but the joke is on the former owners.......because I've since spoken to the buyer, and the mare has been sound since she's been there, although I don't know if she's been ridden nor certainly not jumped.
                    I know the mare got the best of care with the previous owners, but the injury happened only about 9 months before she was sold I believe..........
                    I hope this one has a happy ending, but I can't report for sure!!
                    www.flyingcolorsfarm.comHome of pinto stallion Claim to Fame and his homozygous son, Counterclaim. Friend us on Facebook!https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Fl...04678589573428


                    • #11
                      If it were my horses I would turn out on pasture for 12 months. A lot of tendon injuries can heal but few owners want to wait.


                      • #12
                        *raises hand* My 4-yr old (now coming 5 this year) was found to have a minor tear in her DDFT via MRI (it was already healing when the MRI was done, the film showed fibrosis).
                        It was originally diagnosed by my regular vet as possible NAVICULAR!!!

                        Thank GOD my mare was insured and thank GOD I decided to follow my gut and get an MRI done.

                        Prognosis was fairly good - vet's orders were regular front shoes and 6-8 months of hacking in straight lines on flat ground. That's what I did, she continued to get turnout during the day and was stalled at night. She's now (at 10 months post injury) leased out to a Dressage rider and is 100% sound.


                        • #13
                          My now 19 year old was diagnosed 7 years ago (no MRI, top lameness vet's opinion based on multiple tests) with a DDFT bow in his right front foot. Poor prognosis of returning to be a hunter. 2 years of turnout (after months of stall rest, handwalking, etc.) and he's sound to hack and in the pasture. I've jumped him over tiny things, and he's stayed sound so far.

                          I agree that location and severity determine recovery.
                          Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                          • #14
                            My mare completely severed her DDFT above the hind heel bulb.. and bowed the same tendon higher up .. surgery / casts / splints and a lot of prayers..
                            Showed her in a schooling show at 25 months ... she got 8's on her gaits.. ! we are 2.5 years into this and she is 100 % sound..
                            I am very careful as the other poster.. she cannot be lunged... her paddock is small enough to move around but not big enough to gather up full steam and gallop..
                            It can be done..


                            • #15
                              I got a cute little mare that had a strain of the DDFT, she was originally diagnosed navicular, but then rediagnosed with DDFT, they had eggbar wedges on ehr and was making problem worse. I got her as owner had to get rid of her, pulled her shoes and turned her out for 6 months. She wasn't a horse prone to running around and was not "dead lame" but definitely off. After six months she went back to light work/trail riding and within a year she was jumping again and sold her to a wonderful family who still owns and shows her now 5 years later.


                              • #16
                                i should add that the correct shoes have played a big role in soundness.
                                my horse's injury is in the RF...he started with an 8 degree wedge and he slowly worked his way down to a 2 degree (the farrier, vets, nor i think he will ever get out of that wedge). the LF foot has had a flat pad on it for support. i am so thankful for a farrier so willing to work with his veterinarians and their requests and his injury.


                                • #17
                                  I am on month 9 of stall rest with my horse's double front feet DDFT injuries... one leg was severe and chronic along with suspensory tears, bursitis and tendonitis in both front legs at the navicular bursa area (MRI). I had stem cell transfer (bone marrow) and tenoscopy/bursoscopy surgery with him and he is doing ok. He is stiff from stall rest, 3 out of 5 lame at the trot and definitely retired permanently... mine's not so positive, I guess. He may one day be able to be walked but he was a high level jumper and not really a quiet trail safe horse to begin with. He's very pretty though and super sweet... especially after ulcergard treatment and I wanted to save him just so he could be a horse for once.

                                  He is currently sporting an 8 degree wedge on one foot and a 6 degree wedge on the other with bar shoes and pour in double pads (expensive ). He is wrapped for 12 hours on... 12 hours off (when in the stall) for support. He's also on platinum performance/ ortho-chon II HA and Adequan. I have no idea if that is helping, though.
                                  My horse developed ulcers while on stall rest and stopped eating and drinking even after two months of treating him on ulcergard (full dose). My vet said sunlight would perk him up so that's why I've added the two hours of sedated turnout in a teeny tiny paddock with grass and a rolling spot... unless it rains and then he just gets normal handwalking. Made a huge difference for him. Now he eats and drinks like he used too... but still gets the 1/4 dose for now... sigh.


                                  • #18
                                    my mare severed her superficial digital flexor tendon in half. vet said put her down. instead, fluphenazine and stall rest for half a year, out to a small paddack for another 6 months. sound horse, ready to go. might not hold up to advanced work but that remains to be seen. who knows?


                                    • #19
                                      I bought a nice mare some years back, for practically no money, who had a lesion on the DDFT behind. The seller's vet said the mare would never be sound. I did 3 months of stall rest, with back legs bandaged 24/7 (changing daily, of course). Hand walked her daily for 20 minutes or so (THAT was loads of fun). Actually hand walked her in a bitting rig eventually to keep her from losing her top line completely. Brought her back slowly with walking in the tack for a few weeks, then a little trotting, etc. She went on to be 100% sound in less than a year. She even passed an extensive pre-purchase exam and was sold as a fairly expensive horse less than a year after I purchased her.
                                      I also recall a horse many eons ago, when I was grooming for a BNT, who had a lesion up front. After laying up for the appropriate time (can't recall now), he went on to be 2nd Year Green Conf. Horse of the Year. How's that for a success story?


                                      • #20
                                        My gelding had a small tear in his deep digital flexor tendon at the fetlock and a collateral ligament tear and his pastern back in March 2007. chronic injury took a year and four different vets to diagnose. The first year he was rested with walking but wassn't very quiet remained a 2/5. When we got the MRI May 2008 the tendon and ligament were filled with inflammation actually the collateral ligament was a least 2.5 times its normal size. We injected the tendon and his pastern joint with steroid and HA. We also put wide webbed shoes on with rolled toes. He was then put on six months total rest (no hand walking) in 12x24 with tons of sedation. This horse did not know the word "quiet" and after the first year of rest with him running around I was being very strict (reserpine and ace) this horse is only six. I loaded him with legend and adequan, I gave him adequan weekly for like four months he also got recovery EQ HA. Upon recheck he was a 1/5. I started hand walking 15 minutes a day add five minutes every two weeks, he was still in 12x24 with full sedation. During hand walking he appeared to have good days and bad days sometimes head bobbing lame at walk I troted him out head bobbing lame, was really depressed buted him for ten days he was walking sound. Febuary 2009 still on sedation in a 12x24 we return to specialist horse is an intermitent 1/5 with negative flexions and sound both directions on the lounge. We did IRAP and specialist had me start undersaddle even if he was alittle bit lame. He figured the tendon ligament were healed and needed to strech out to functional lenghth. He was short for the first three weeks and I was really nervous. Now two months of troting he appears sound!! I am still really nervous.

                                        If I were ever in that situation again I would go straight for a bone scan, x rays, ultrasound, MRI. I would use bone marrow, or platelet rich plasma, IRAP for inflammation, stall rest followed by lots of turnout.

                                        Best Wishes! My horse was only given a fair prognoses but I had an excellent sergeon specialist who guided me after my regular vet told me my horse would never be sound.(sorry for the spelling errors) Now he appears sound we will be done rehab by June and if all goes well he will very slowly return to a low level hunter. I even got to email videos to specialist to monitor soundness, last week troting video specialist said he looked very good, I think that ment sound.
                                        Last edited by Fharoah; Mar. 28, 2009, 03:01 PM.