Wrapping a Bowed Tendon for Exercise

Q. We have a 4-year-old Thoroughbred with a bowed tendon. He has been laid up for about a year and is now in training and doing well. My question: When we race him, should we wrap his leg to support the bow or leave it open? I say that we should wrap it to support the bow, and my husband says that this will only bow the leg worse.


A. Most bandages are put on horses to keep them from running down (when the back of the fetlock is abraded by the racing surface, often seen in a horse whose fetlocks drop lower than normal). There is very little, if any, benefit to putting front wraps on a horse with an old bowed tendon beyond covering up an unsightly condition. Even though a bowed tendon is "bowed" horizontally, the stresses on the tendon are vertical. There is no bandage that is light enough for racing that has any significant resistance to those vertical forces while running.

With that said, there is absolutely no harm in racing a horse in bandages, and properly applied bandages will not make a bow worse. The most important consideration is the individual horse and the surface where he is racing. The concern is whether or not the horse has a tendency to run down rather than whether he has an old bow. Running down is more common in horses with long, sloping pasterns and on tracks with deep footing, such as the sandier ones in the eastern United States.

About the Author

Rick M. Arthur, DVM

Rick M. Arthur, DVM, is the vice president and director of the Oak Tree Racing Association, and a member of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

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