Just like human athletes, horses that are trained are always at risk of getting injured. The risk of injury doesn’t just stem from the possibility of having an accident while training. The training program of horses itself may lead to some forms of injury including bucked shins.
Bucked Shins in Horses
Bucked Shins is also known as dorsal metacarpal disease. In layman’s words, this simply means that a horse’s cannon bones begin to swell because of microfractures. As the definition implies, the fractures are small but are more than one. They may not cause total immobility in the horse but the animal will truly feel some pain and may demonstrate lameness. Naturally, the lameness will persist and the bucked shins will not heal until proper veterinary intervention is applied.
Bone Remodeling in Horses
Young horses under heavy training are more prone to bucked shins. Older horses however may also suffer from the condition. Bucked shins are almost always the result of improper training. Proper training involves the gradual adjustment of the muscles and the bones. When a horse is exercised and trained, stress is applied in gradually increasing amounts to the muscles and bones. Eventually through time, the muscles and bones begin to adjust to the speed and intensity of training.
Bones in particular undergo bone remodeling. With gradual training, the bones slowly lose old bone cells and are replaced and strengthened by new ones. Bones however, are obviously different from muscles. Bones are harder and take longer to adjust and remodel itself. If a trainer is too eager to have a horse achieve training goals, he could push the horse too hard, resulting in the microfractures associated with bucked shins. Since older horses have more developed bones, they are less susceptible to bucked shins than young horses.
Treating Bucked Shins in Horses
If you suspect that your horse has bucked shins, you should immediately have a vet exam the horse. This is the only way you can determine the extent of bone damage and the proper kind of treatment. Depending on the extent of injury, the vet may simply recommend some anti-inflammatory drugs. You may also have to alternate hot and cold compresses. Although movement may be a bit painful, slow, daily exercise is good for most horses with bucked shins. The first few days or weeks may be reserved for walking until your horse is well enough to progress to a faster pace. If the damage is extensive, your horse may need surgery.
It goes without saying that it is laborious task to tend an injured horse. You also run the risk of missing out on a racing competition with a horse that is clearly unfit to race. Whenever possible, a trainer should avoid over exercising a young horse and having the horse develop bucked shins. An often cited mantra is that prolonged training at fast speeds is not in the best interest of your horse. If you want to prevent bucked shins, a horse should be trained systematically by slowly increasing speed and distance.
Horses are truly a lot like human athletes. They have their limits too. If you are serious about protecting your horse from injury, you should learn to recognize your horse’s training limits.