Harness the Power of the Sun to Treat Horse Injury Pain: A Guide For Veterinarians

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You’ve tried shoeing changes. And, you’ve tried a modified exercise program.

You’ve even tried hot and cold therapy.

As a matter of fact, you’ve tried everything you know how to do – and the horse is better, much improved – yet not fixed.

You are frustrated and so is the owner. Unfortunately, this scenario happens every day in equine practice.

Yet, after treating hundreds of these bowed tendons, you know this horse will likely improve with time, but, “give it time” is not what the horse owner wants to hear.

After spending $4,000 on a variety of treatments, general upkeep, and upcoming entry fees, the owner wants the horse fixed and fixed now. The owner begs you to do something. They want to ride.

As I’m sure you know, it’s not always easy to handle clients’ pressure, especially if there are not many options left to try. But, if the owner is your best client, then it can be nerve-racking, as they could always go to another vet. Horse clients want solutions, and they will go to extremes to get answers. Or at least try to get answers.

Telling a client you have no other options or tricks in your bag can be quite discouraging to the horse’s owner, especially a serious horse owner. Again, they want solutions.

While regular veterinarians run out of options; proactive, integrative, progressive veterinarians select therapies available in the environment and redirect them to suit the animal’s physiology.

Are you sure you’ve tried everything under the sun?

An Unmaintained Tendon is an Endangered Tendon

“Many owners and trainers of performance horses have regarded injuries to tendons and ligaments as being potentially more threatening to an equine athlete’s future career than fractures.”  – Carol L. Gillis, DVM, Ph.D., “Rehabilitation of Tendon and Ligament Injuries”

Dr. Gillis sums up every horse owner’s worst nightmare. Horse owners dread hearing “bowed tendon, suspensory pull” or anything related to tendon and ligament injury. The reason why is fear of the unknown. Furthermore, you will most likely use the word “rest” when recommending a course of treatment.

A lot of horse owners don’t know what “rest” means.

Unfortunately, we don’t know how tendon and ligament injuries will respond to treatment.

In other words, you don’t have the “right” answer to remedy the problem. You can give a prognosis but horse owners don’t care. Again, they want the horse fixed – and fast!

For example, owners ask the following questions:

  • What’s the best way to treat horse injury?
  • How long will it take to heal?
  • Can we prevent another injury? How?
  • When can he be ridden again?
  • And obviously, how much is the cost?

Do you feel secure and confident when answering these questions? I sure don’t.

Unfortunately, no one knows the answers to all of these questions because they don’t exist.

Additionally, tendon horse injury can either be short-lived, debilitate the horse for 6-12 months, or wreck a horse’s career. They can take a long time to heal. They can cause intermittent, nagging lameness causing owners and veterinarians increasing frustration.

So, you must treat the horse, the owner, and the trainer.

Sounds distressing, doesn’t it?

However, another option exists! It’s called laser therapy.

Veterinarians need to think outside the box. Like food, light is medicine!

The sun provides us with energy and nourishment – laser therapy harnesses this power. But, lasers focus healing power to a small radius compared to the sun’s rays.

All life depends on the sun. Lasers improve upon the sun’s healing power.

Lasers provide location-specific healing, rather than radiated light waves, expanding upon the basic power of sunlight to grow cells.

Laser Therapy Safely Aids Tendons When Used Correctly

First of all, what is laser therapy? LASER stands for light amplification by stimulated emission rays.

Lasers direct highly concentrated light at a specific wavelength to muscles, tissues, organs, and connective tissue.

The second point of significance is that all lasers are not created equal in the way they perform the intended function.

Some lasers cost more than others. Actually, the cost of lasers ranges from $7,500 to $25,000. Some are technically easier to operate while others are more cumbersome. Some work faster than others and deliver more efficient energy. And some have settings that allow you to simply push a few buttons and the laser does the rest.

Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, lasers can cause damage. I have heard of laymen using lasers and burning the skin.

But, virtually all lasers work their magic through the same mechanism.

Lasers don’t use the type of white light we get from lightbulbs. White light, which is all wavelengths in the visible spectrum combined, won’t cure your horse.

Like the way food is medicine – as borrowed from Eastern Food Therapy – certain wavelengths of light, at a specific intensity, for a calculated amount of time can aid the treatment of lame horses.

Laser Treatment Requires Proper Dosing to Exert Therapeutic Effects

Lasers emit light of a very specific wavelength to facilitate the horse’s innate ability to heal himself.

We all know how important the sun’s light is for the overall maintenance of life.

But specific wavelengths, directed at specific areas of disease for a defined time, exert powerful healing effects. You could call this phenomenon focused on healing.

Light from a laser induces specific biological changes in the tissue including:

  • The altered electrical activity of the cells
  • Better circulation to affected tissues
  • More lymphatic drainage
  • Higher supply of oxygen and other nutrients to diseased tissue
  • Improved micro-circulation for healing

All of these biological changes occur every time you scan a horse’s injured leg.

Therefore, the laser adds another tool to your bag of tricks and gives you another way to alleviate owners’ frustration.

Veterinarians Who Treat Tendon Horse Injury With Lasers Can Be Divided

First of all, veterinarians are either reactive or proactive in treating and preventing tendon injury.

We all practice according to our own philosophy. Whichever way you choose makes no difference. Yet, it’s important to realize laser therapy for tendon injuries can be approached in two different ways – reactively or proactively.


Reactive veterinarians respond to the problem. A client calls with a problem, and your motor out with a solution. Simple.

With regard to tendon issues, the reactive veterinarian employs methods such as NSAIDs, hot and cold therapy, and a change in shoeing.

If you really get out of the box, some veterinarians may use intralesional injections such as stem cells, platelet-rich plasma, or some other novel technique.

Monitoring is accomplished with your trusty ultrasound.

Scanning the injury every 3-4 weeks to evaluate the size of the lesion, tissue remodeling, and healing guide you in choosing future treatment.

Ultimately though, you are left only to guess at the best time for this horse to go back to work.

In this situation, using laser therapy on at least a weekly basis can facilitate healing and help this horse recover. Most importantly, you are doing something on an ongoing basis to facilitate the healing process, to make the horse feel better, and to make the horse owner feel better.

Conversely, let’s examine the situation from a proactive point of view.


The majority of tendon injuries are from overuse. So, have you ever considered using a laser proactively to prevent tendon injuries?

Using a laser proactively on tendons and ligaments is the best use of laser in equine practice.

You benefit because you get to examine the horses on a regular basis. The owner benefits by staying ahead of the game as you keep their horse sound. And, the trainer benefits by retaining a reputation for keeping horses sound and serviceable.

Everybody wins.

Let’s pretend your best client has ten jumpers in the barn. The trainer calls you anytime something seems wrong. The horses are worth a lot of money. Plus, the owners spend a lot of money on these horses, and they view these horses as not only friends but also as their most important hobby. These owners don’t want their horses laid up. They want to show, compete and have fun. These animals are important to the trainer and the owner. And it’s your job to keep them sound.

Horses can benefit from laser treatments every few weeks. In fact, you could laser all four limbs on each horse. Since a significant amount of horses suffer from bilateral tendon disease and hind leg suspensory issues, lasering multiple limbs makes perfect sense.

In fact, 43% of horses with one tendon injury have bilateral disease. 

A tendon injury can occur even before pain, swelling, or detectable lameness. The gradual nature of tendon injury strengthens arguments for proactive laser therapy. You can stay ahead of the game and so can the horses.

Why Harness the Power of the Sun?

Think of photosynthesis, the means by which light energy from the sun is gathered and reacts with chemicals in plant material.

Laser light therapy works by affecting the horse at a cellular level. Additionally, as cells heal, proper organ function will reduce symptoms of the disease process.

Like food, light is medicine. By harnessing the natural power of the sun, you can safely and effectively provide horse owners with another safe option for the treatment of injuries.

Talk to your clients to determine their interest in this safe and effective therapy at the first sign of injury- or before!

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