Preven­tion and Main­te­nance of Sus­pen­sory In­juries

Spin to Win Rodeo - - Departments - By Ken­dra San­tos

Sus­pen­sory- lig­a­ment in­juries are pretty prom­i­nent in per­for­mance horses. Bil­lie Jack Saebens’ sig­na­ture black heel horse, Kevin, pro­vides a per­fect cow­boy case study in preven­tion and post-in­jury main­te­nance in this im­por­tant area on the four-footed part­ner side of rop­ing man­age­ment.

Kevin—whose reg­is­tered name is Domino Lena, and is owned by Dixon Flow­ers Quar­ter Horses, where Saebens is the head rope-horse trainer—is 13. The horse that helped Bil­lie Jack make the Wran­gler Na­tional Fi­nals Rodeo cut in 2016-17 has spent part of the last two sea­sons on the in­jured re­serve due to sus­pen­sory is­sues.

Bil­lie Jack has rid­den Kevin three years now, and be­sides the NFR, a cou­ple of their team high­lights in­clude a sec­ond-place fin­ish be­hind Cole­man Proc­tor at the 2017 BFI, where Kevin was named Top Heel Horse of the BFI. At the

2018 San An­to­nio Stock Show & Rodeo, Proc­tor and Saebens set the 3.7-sec­ond arena record in the semi­fi­nals be­fore their 3.9 in the fi­nals won the rodeo. That’s a whole lot of ver­sa­til­ity in the horse­power depart­ment.

“Kevin’s prob­a­bly more well-known than I am,” smiled Saebens, who lives in Nowata, Ok­la­homa. “Ev­ery­body loves Kevin. He’s black, he’s shiny, and he works good. He’s pretty fancy to watch. He’s only about 14.1 hands, and I bet he weighs close to 1,200 pounds. So he’s kind of a lit­tle bull­dog to look at.

“He never wants to do bad or wrong. He tries to help you, and wants to do good. There may be horses that do things bet­ter or faster, but want­ing to do right means a lot. Kevin’s just a good horse.”

The good ones are worth go­ing out of your way for. They’re al­ways look­ing to re­turn the fa­vor by help­ing you win, and when they’re down, they’re missed in a big way.

“In 2017, Kevin strained his back left sus­pen­sory in Fe­bru­ary, and the BFI was the first place I got to ride him again,” Bil­lie Jack said. “He was a lit­tle sore in Fe­bru­ary this year, so I rode a dif­fer­ent horse on our first three steers at San An­to­nio. When it came down to the end, I got on Kevin. This time, he hurt his right front sus­pen­sory, and he was out from Fe­bru­ary un­til Liv­ingston, Mon­tana, over the Fourth of July.”

An ul­tra­sound told the tale—heavy sus­pen­sory strains/slight sus­pen­sory tears—on the di­ag­noses both times. While Kevin was out the sec­ond time, friend and oc­ca­sional driver Tif­fany Wag­ner iced Kevin’s legs on a daily ba­sis. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) treat­ment and shock­wave ther­apy also were used ev­ery cou­ple of weeks dur­ing Kevin’s re­hab. He’s back now, but Bil­lie Jack is par­tic­u­lar about his care, and care­fully picks the places he rides him.

“If the ground’s re­ally deep, I won’t ride him,” he said. “They say that’s the hard­est thing on sus­pen­sories. I don’t take him to lit­tle jack­pots any­more, ei­ther. I ride him a lot. He gets loped 20-30 min­utes a day. I don’t make very many runs on him. I might make one run on him in the prac­tice pen, and put him up.

“I keep his shoe­ing up, and make sure he’s level and not too long. Good shoe­ing and ex­er­cise are key. The ic­ing af­ter use helps cool things back off and tighten things back up, to keep the in­flam­ma­tion

out. The ex­tra things I have to do to get to ride this horse are a small price to pay.”

Dr. Marty Tan­ner of Tan­ner Equine in Brock, Texas, spe­cial­izes in Equine Sports Medicine, and has helped Bil­lie Jack man­age Kevin’s stresses and strains.

“Cor­rec­tive shoe­ing and keep­ing the an­gles cor­rect—so you don’t have a lot of an­kle drop—is crit­i­cal in these types of cases,” Tan­ner said. “Some of these horses are a lit­tle long in the pastern, and when that’s the case, some peo­ple would put a wedge on that horse to el­e­vate the heel to get the cor­rect an­gle. But you have to be cau­tious when you do that, be­cause any­time you raise the heel of a horse, you cause the an­kle to lower, which puts more stress on the sus­pen­sories. That’s just one ex­am­ple, but it’s a pretty com­mon one.

“In­juries come with any sport, but fit­ness re­ally is a big deal for these horses, be­cause the sus­pen­sory is the only lig­a­ment in the body that has mus­cle fibers in it. It’s ac­tu­ally a blend of mus­cle and lig­a­ment. So you can ac­tu­ally strengthen a sus­pen­sory.”

Good con­di­tion­ing helps pre­vent sus­pen­sory prob­lems. “And it’s re­ally help­ful to warm these horses up re­ally well, to loosen up the sus­pen­sories and pre­vent tear­ing,” said Dr. Tan­ner, who was named the 2016 Pro­fes­sional Rodeo Cowboys As­so­ci­a­tion Vet­eri­nar­ian of the Year. “Ic­ing af­ter use con­stricts those ves­sels, and cuts down on post-ex­er­cise in­flam­ma­tion.

“Most sus­pen­sory in­juries are cu­mu­la­tive, and not caused by just one run. A sus­pen­sory lig­a­ment is like a rope made up of hun­dreds of thou­sands of fibers. You can tear a few of those fibers and be OK. It’s typ­i­cally a buildup of mi­cro in­juries that even­tu­ally creeps up and presents the prob­lem. Nat­u­rally, it’s best to try and pre­vent sus­pen­sory in­juries. But when it does hap­pen, tai­lor­ing a man­age­ment pro­gram to each par­tic­u­lar horse and his con­for­ma­tion is your best bet.”


Saebens, with the help of NFR-qual­i­fy­ing girl­friend Ivy Con­rado, ices Kevin’s legs with Soft Ride Equine Com­fort Boots’ Ice Spas (soft­ride­, avail­able in 21- and 28-inch heights.

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