Tendons are stiff structures that connect muscle to bone. Tendons cannot shorten or lengthen on their own – this movement is caused by the muscle to which they are attached. Tendon damage is caused by severe overloading or overstretching. A tendon can also be injured by a kick from another horse or from overreach.
When tendons are damaged, antibodies are transported in fluid and oedemas are evident. This process, however, also eliminates healthy tissue. In order to prevent further damage to tendons, this natural healing process should be tempered without being curbed.
The blood supply in tendons is poor compared to other structures in the body. This impairs the supply of nutrients and the elimination of waste products, slowing recovery. Tendon injuries should be treated as quickly as possible and the tendons should be supported through preventive measures.
And what about the muscles?
If the muscles are not adequately prepared for effort or if exercise is harder than usual, the walls of the muscle fibres may also rupture . The body reacts by sending antibodies to the damaged zones. An inflammatory reaction develops. Damage to the muscles leads to the release of substances which activate the nerves in the muscles. These make the horse’s muscles painful and stiff.
Muscle soreness mostly occurs about 12 hours after exercise and is most severe about 24–48 hours after exercise. The muscle fibres recover from acute damage after 3–4 days, but may take up to 4–6 weeks to completely recover and become stronger. Accelerating muscle recovery means that the body can do hard work again sooner.