Getting Back to Work

My 5-year-old mare has been suffering from an odd gait problem for a few weeks. She "hikes up" her right hind leg from the hock at a walk, but is perfectly sound at the trot and canter. She has been diagnosed with a form of tenosynovitis involving the tendon sheath of the digital deep flexor tendon in the area of the Achilles tendon above the hock. She does not appear to be uncomfortable or in pain, so I have been advised to keep up light riding exercises, along with massage and stretching exercises for the leg. It is slowly improving, but I am still mystified by this problem and wonder if you have had any experience with the symptoms and treatment.                Dylan

I wonder if your mare might also be manifesting a form of stringhalt--a neurologic dysfunction that involves the receptors, so we think, controlling the action of the lateral digital flexor tendon. In this condition, the horse hyperflexes, or exaggerates the amount of flexion of the affected leg as it starts to step forward with it. This occurs so much that in some cases the leg actually slaps the underside of the abdomen. This condition is painless, which is why I am wondering about it, since any horses I have seen with tendonitis involving the area you point out usually have an associated lameness. I have not seen the sort of abnormal gait that you describe associated with inflammation of that tendon sheath.

It's a good sign that she is improving, so I would strongly recommend that you give her plenty of time doing the light work. I would probably not increase her work until she had returned to normal and stayed that way for at least a month.

About the Author

Midge Leitch, VMD, Dipl. ACVS

Midge Leitch, VMD, Dipl. ACVS, having closed her referral practice which focused primarily on performance horses in Cochranville, PA, is now a member of the Section of Sports Medicine and Imaging and serves as the Clinician in Radiology at New Bolton Center, Kennett Square, PA.

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