Now I Know How the Horses Feel | BioStar US

Now I Know How the Horses Feel

Tigger finds that treating herself like a horse is a great way to walk the road to injury recovery:

Recently, on a normal morning in the kitchen, I pivoted to get something from the counter and heard a pop. The pain was so intense I thought I might vomit. My knee was unbendable.

Strangely though, it was weight-bearing — just peg-leg style. I thanked my lucky stars that I could at least walk without crutches as I hobbled to the nearest couch, encircled by two Aussies saying, “What’s wrong with you?

A strained hamstring coupled with a strained lateral ligament was the diagnosis. Recovery time was labeled “weeks.”

Muscles and connective tissue

Hamstrings are muscles joined with connective tissue tendons.

Connective tissue is essentially tissue that supports, protects and gives structure to other tissues and organs. Tendons and ligaments are fibrous connective tissues. Ligaments attach bone to bone, while tendons attach muscle to bone.

Knee Anatomy | BioStar US

Credit: staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. – Own work

Treating myself like a horse

I started with ice and stall rest. Unlike a horse, I didn’t have to stand to get the ice applied. It gave me a new appreciation for how horses can stand on an injured limb while being iced.

The ice turned out to be problematic when the ice machine in the freezer stopped working. Instacart to the rescue. I ordered ice and comfort food: soup, oranges, and Haagen Dazs.

Stall rest too was challenging. By Day 3 I had seriously contemplated taking a spoonful of Thera Calm to deal with the anxiety and stress. I opted instead for some CBD drops I had for the dogs.

Connective tissue therapy

A common injury recovery treatment for horses with ligament or tendon strains is shock wave therapy, as it increases circulation, helping the body send more nutrients to the injured area. I didn’t have a shockwave machine, so I started gently massaging the area between icings.

Two days after the initial injury, I began alternating a heating pad with ice. Heat increases and drives circulation, while cold ice closes the capillaries. Alternating them encourages circulation and healing as blood vessels are alternately narrowed by cold and widened by heat.

I “hand-walked” myself peg-leg style to let the dogs out, feed them, and get more ice. I tried wrapping the knee, but it couldn’t take even the slightest pressure.

I kept reminding myself that healing connective tissue takes time.

Eating for recovery

One of the keys to helping the body heal connective tissue is found in protein, collagen and vitamin C. This is true for humans as well as horses.

One of the common misconceptions when dealing with horses in tendon or ligament injury recovery is that you should reduce the amount of feed they get while stall-bound.

While reducing feed to keep the horse from either gaining weight or going bonkers is a good idea, make sure you keep protein levels up. The body needs protein to heal. Without adequate protein, the body will cannibalize itself, pulling protein from other parts of the body. 

Teff hay pellets or alfalfa pellets are excellent choices for supplemental protein for horses. Alfalfa pellets don’t have as much protein as alfalfa hay, which is good in this case; some horses get a little high from too much protein, particularly if they are on stall rest. Alfalfa pellets offer a great alternative to alfalfa hay.

cheeseTo ramp up my protein, I had eggs every day and snacked on cheese (the dogs were thrilled, since they got to share in the cheese consumption).



I increased the amount of bovine colostrum I was taking to two servings a day. Colostrum isn’t just for immune regulation, but is also important for tissue repair.


chia seedsL-proline, an amino acid, is especially beneficial to maintain connective tissues. Chia is an excellent source of proline for us vegetarians. Luckily, I had chia on hand. Twice a day I ate applesauce or oatmeal with chia and collagen.


eggshellsCollagen provides protein and structural support to the extracellular space of connective tissues. It is a matrix for skin, tendons, bones, and ligaments, and is vitally important for regeneration of connective tissue. Because I already take collagen every day, I doubled my normal dose.


OrangesFor vitamin C, I snacked often on orange sections.



glass of water

I drank a lot of water. This became challenging, as it made me need the toilet more often. Using the toilet with a knee that doesn’t bend is awkward at best, and painful at worst. I used a bathroom wastebasket to prop my leg on. There were moments I wished I were a horse and could just pee where I stood.

Other inconveniences

Putting on or taking off pants is a seemingly mindless procedure, unless your knee doesn’t bend. Then it’s lie down on the bed and pull your pants up or down. Sprinkle swear words liberally.

Getting in and out of cars requires pushing the seat back to accommodate the peg leg, then pulling it back up – but not too far forward because the knee will bend. Being short, this meant that I literally had to drive with the toes of my right foot, and with my arms fully extended to reach the steering wheel. Let the good times roll. 🙄

Working the knee

Massage is a valuable tool for increased circulation. Several times a day I massaged my knee and the surrounding tissues. The lateral ligament was so tight it felt like a guitar string. The hamstring felt like a tight, angry rope.

I also worked at bending my knee, moving it slowly, and then stopping when I met any resistance. I would bend it a little, then straighten and relax. I know from having two major knee surgeries, not to let my leg develop a kind of rigor mortis from lack of movement.

In the first 48 hours, there was zero improvement in the bending department. After that, there was improvement each day — even if only in micrometers of flexibility.


Although I had resigned myself to several weeks of injury recovery, I woke up on Day 6 and could bend my knee. I couldn’t believe it. It was like my knee had never been angry, swollen, painful, and tight as a tick. The lateral ligament and the hamstring were pliable, just like my other leg.

And just like a horse who has been pronounced sound by the vet after a suspensory or tendon layup, I knew I had to “leg myself back up.”

Naturally, on Day 3 of my leg-up process, I overdid it, suffered the consequences, and was back on ice that night. Lesson learned: when recovering from an injury, less is more.

I continue to tack-walk myself with great restraint — even though I’d love to bust a move when I hear a song that makes me want to dance, or just be able to move from one place to another with a certain degree of speed and impulsion. I do know now how the horses feel when they are just tack-walking but want to jump out of their skin, or shy at the imaginary gremlin in the corner.

It will take time, but the human body and the equine body have a tremendous capacity for healing. I am so grateful for the reminder.

Products to support equine ligaments and tendons

Ligatend EQ for horses | BioStar USLigatend EQ includes chia for proline, vitamin C from freeze-dried oranges, and bovine colostrum
Circuvate EQ for horses | BioStar USCircuvate EQ for healthy circulation and normal healing during injury recovery

Coming soon: BioStar’s new Ligatend with eggshell membrane collagen!


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