As horses age, their tendons become stiffer and are less able to resist repetitive loading.
New research into how tendons age has found that the material between tendon-fiber bundles stiffens as it gets older, and that this is responsible for older horses being more susceptible to tendon injuries.
Studies in the past have shown that stiffening in aging tendons contributes to increased injuries, and this new research zeroes in on the tissue that holds tendon-fiber bundles in place.
Tendon-fiber bundles are surrounded by tissue that enables them to slide past each other and stretch independently. In horses, the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT), which is similar to the human Achilles tendon, stores energy for propulsion and requires stretching of that surrounding tissue.
While the tissue around the tendon is elastic, it’s prone to injury in older age because it becomes stiffer and is less able to resist repetitive loading. This new discovery implies that new treatments could be developed to prevent injuries in older horses.
Tendon Care for Senior Horses
- Talk to your vet regularly about how your horse is doing and handling his exercise routine. He made need to drop down to an easier level of competition, for example.
- Take extra time to warm up and cool down your senior horse for exercise. Spending 10-15 minutes walking on both ends of your schooling session will go a long way toward keeping stiffer joints and tendons healthy.
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!