Equine Spa Therapy: Verifying Healing using Ultrasonic Scans.

Case Study: Treatment of Tendon Injury

In the early spring of 2003, Harry, a thoroughbred racehorse, sustained a severe superficial digital flexor tendon injury due to a fall in a race.

He was subsequently rescued from the slaughterhouse and found his way to the Raleagh Equine Rescue Centre where he was given box rest for five weeks prior to being brought to the Centre of Equine Therapy in Dromore, Co. Down on the 10th April.

His rehabilitation was filmed by BBC Bristol and was broadcast nationwide in July 2003.

The first scan, shown on the left below, with longitudinal and cross sectional views, was taken on 11th April 2003 prior to commencement of Equine Spa Hydrotherapy treatment. Despite 5 weeks of box rest the tendon is still showing over 90% damaged tissue i.e. virtually anechoic.

Scan of Foreleg Before Treatment (11/04/03)
Please click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge - Equine Spa Hydrotherapy

Scan of Foreleg After 20 Days (01/05/03)
Please click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge - Equine Spa Hydrotherapy

In the opinion of Bruce Steele, a specialist Equine Vet with over 20 years experience, it would take at least 2 months to show a relatively minor improvement.

After 2 weeks Equine Spa therapy the swelling and heat was considerably reduced so a second scan was booked. The scan on the right was taken on 1st May 2003 following 20 days of treatment and was filmed again by the BBC.

The right hand scan shows that the peri-tendinous fluid has dissipated and the tendon is showing good parallel alignment of healthy tissue i.e. much whiter in appearance. Also, on palpation there is no longer any pain. In Mr Steele's expert opinion this level of recovery was very much faster than normal.

Equine Spa treatment was continued for a further 2 weeks during which period Harry was gently exercised in hand and 1 week later he was being ridden and he quickly found a home as a general purpose riding horse with a 12 year old girl. A much better outcome than the original prognosis.

Below is the expanded longitudinal view of the same foreleg.

Scan before hydrotherapy treatment

The two "x's" show the superficial digital flexor (SDF) or tendon which is just below the skin. The SDF is black in colour showing over 90% tendon damage.
The right hand "+" is located just on the inside of the layer of skin i.e. there is a gap of approximately 2ml between the skin and the tendon which is filled with peri-tendinous fluid.

The following picture shows the same leg after just 20 days of hydrotherapy treatment.

Scan after hydrotherapy treatment

The scans were taken by leading Northern Ireland Equine Vet, Bruce Steele, of the Equine Veterinary Clinic in Hillsborough.

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Update on Harry

On June 2, 2005, we received an e-mail from Harry's new owner. We are pleased to share it with you:

I was very pleased to find your article on Harry the racehorse on the internet. I was especially pleased to find he had been rescued from a slaughter house. I was so pleased as I own Harry. His name is now Spike and he has recovered completely. He has been doing everything from show-jumping to galloping along the beach! He is great company and he is really funny. When he wants food he throughs his buckets out of the stable and just generally is a bit of an eejit! I don't know what i would of done without him! Here is a picture of him at a jumping league which he won although the jumps were not that height!
From Finola Young.

Click for a picture of Harry!

Harry with the new owner after the equine spa treatment

"Tendon injuries... resolve much faster than normal."

Bruce Steele MVB, MRCVS; Equine Veterinary Clinic of Hillsborough, Northern Ireland

CET Ltd. · Tullindoney Road · Dromore · Co Down · Northern Ireland · BT25 1PE
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