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To race or not to race...That is the question

I have a six year old QH mare that I do dressage with and also barrel race. While warming up at a race last November, she incurred a slight tear in the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT). Rehab took almost ten months and she is now sound and back to regular work. The vet said she could go back to doing whatever she was doing before the injury. We didn’t race a lot - maybe once a month or so, but now the problem is, I am afraid of reinjuring her. I have been focusing on dressage, but she and I both LOVE to go fast. I know no one has a crystal ball, but I’m just curious - would you race again?

Could you live with yourself if you raced and she injured herself again? It might not happen or it might. Are there other disciplines that have speed but fewer tight turns?


That’s my concern. There’s nothing without the tight turns. Odd thing is, she injured herself warming up (big circles at walk and trot). The ground was deep, so I don’t really know what happened. What makes me crazy is there are so many people out there who don’t warm up and don’t prep their horses and they don’t get injured.


Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought more soft tissue injuries occur on deep footing. Bone issues on hard.


That’s my understanding as well - ground too deep = soft tissue injury. Unfortunately, when running and turning, you need deep ground to keep from falling.



And I have. Twice. One of my horses had an injury to the DDFT, strangley above the ankle (but not below it). We figured he slipped on the ice during the winter out in the pasture. Took about 2 years to fully heal and vet and I thought he would never return to the barrel pen ever again. He did. And never took a lame step on it. However, I will say that he didn’t get run every single weekend and I chose to enter him in races where he liked the pen and did well. Unrelated, his body went to pot this year (he is 17 and has a lifelong battle with lots of issues) but that tendon is still solid and not the cause of his issues. It’s bulgy looking externally and ugly but it doesn’t bother him.

The other horse had a minor injury to the SDFT that we actually caught really early on a preventative lameness exam. He was 4 years old at the time. Don’t know how he did it. It took a solid 6-8 months to fully heal but he ended up having almost 2 years off, because I had a baby. Again, came back totally sound and the tendon never bothered him. He couldn’t see his externally like my other horse but you could see scar tissue via ultrasound. And unrelated with him, he’s now retired from barrel racing because we discovered (at age 10) that he was born with crooked vertebrae in his neck that was pinching his spinal cord. Not exactly safe to be barrel racing on a horse like that.

Your horse is young. Any other thing could knock her out of the game. If you are too afraid to run her again, fine, it’s your horse and your decision. But something else, totally unrelated, could take her out of the game, so I figure if you want to barrel race, then do it without fear.

Performance horses ALWAYS come up with something along their career. Always. There is no such thing as a perfectly sound horse that never needs “maintenance” for something at some point.


This is what I was considering as well. Only running occasionally and only at places where I know the ground is good. Of course, anything can happen anywhere, but that’s true of dressage as well.

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