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BETA – Interview with a Tendon Expert.

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Boots in action. These are ECOGOLDs – very lightweight, breathable, padded, and with great tendon guards.

I was lucky enough to manage to see Dr David Marlin on the Trilanco stand in a quiet period at BETA, and he very kindly chatted to me about tendons (sdft and ddft), one of my areas of extreme nerdism! Seriously though, any event rider will probably already know that these tendons are pretty much the most vulnerable areas of the horse’s entire body.  In his words, “Lower forelimbs are the most likely sites of horse injury.” So, it behoves us all to pay a lot of attention to protecting them in the best way possible.

He has done excellent studies into the effects of different boots, into cooling tendons effectively, and much more (he spoke at length at the big USCTA conference a few years ago, and I viewed the videos online).

At BETA he divulged the following:

Walk is more effort for a horse than trot or canter. (Gallop requires the most energy expenditure of all.) At trot and canter, the tendons store and release energy (making the next stride less effort) but this does not happen at walk, hence the amount of effort expended. (The least energy is apparently expended at an easy canter.)

He advocates lots of walking.
A couple of minutes of trotting a day on the road is enough for bone strengthening, any more than that is more likely to cause concussion injuries.

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Booted up for SJing.

He has done extensive studies on boots.

They should:

Be as light as possible.

Allow as much heat as possible to escape

Be non-absorbent (so they don’t get heavier after going through water)

Not restrict at all (not fitted too tight, carefully contoured around the joints).

Be protective against concussion from impacts AND cut/penetration.
He recommended removing boots as soon as possible after work, to let the tendons start cooling (and so you can apply ice etc.)


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What it’s all really about… a clean tendon scan.

He believes there should be a definite Standard for horse boots, a Rating System (as there is for riding hats and body protectors for riders), since horse boots are Protective Wear.

The Rating should be for light or heavy work, depending on the intensity and risk of the discipline the boots are going to be used for, and the potential of a career/life threatening injury.

There is a welfare point of view here. Lower limb injuries are the most common for competition horses. Why is there no Rating system to protect them, and to guide buyers?

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  • Very interesting article thank you. I have a very tall event horse whose legs get very warm xc, I have tried air cooled xc boots but was concerned that a lot of manufacturers are making the strike pads from a carbon which can split if it is struck into. This has in rare cases gone into the tendon! Horse Health Wessex have manufactured their own Air Cooled XC boots which have a polycarbonate strike protection which does not split. I used them for most of last season & they are brilliant & kept his legs much cooler. My vet also said to me that keeping his legs as cool as possible when he is competing was really important. 🙂

  • Susannah, I agree, the strike pads made of carbonfibre are a real worry. Everything has a fail point, it’s what it does if it fails (split in 2, or shatter) that is of concern. I’ve seen a strike pad that had split and all stayed inside the boot, no damage to horse’s leg at all. And have heard of a carbonfibre pad shattering into the tendon, writing off the horse.
    I think the idea of a Standard for horse boots is a very valid one.