All About Suspensory Ligament Horse Injuries

March 04, 2023 2 min read

Suspensory ligament horse injuries—often referred to as a suspensory sprain or suspensory desmitis—are caused by an [overextension of the suspensory ligament] and can be debilitating, as they’re a crucial part of how your horse moves. 

What is the Suspensory Ligament in Horses?

A ligament plays the role of attaching two or more bones in the horse’s body. The suspensory ligament in horses is an important connective ligament between the cannon bone and the sesamoid bones at either side of the back of the horse’s fetlock and the pastern. The suspensory ligament is fibrous and strong, but it is not very elastic. Therefore, it is prone to be injured not only by a one-time overextension but also by the buildup of mild overextension over time. 

What is Suspensory Desmitis? 

Suspensory desmitis in horses is essentially the spraining—or overextension to the point of injury—of the equine suspensory ligament. The sprain can include inflammation of the ligament and micro tears, and even more pronounced tears where the ligament meets the bones. However, complete rupture is uncommon and often seen in older broodmares (due to deterioration, not athletic injury). 

If your horse is in regular training or competition, you’ll want to learn the signs of a suspensory ligament injury to intervene with healing protocol as soon as possible. 

Recognizing a Suspensory Ligament Horse Injury

Suspensory ligament injuries often build as slowly increasing lameness, and they’re often bilateral (meaning that both of the front legs or both of the hind legs) will sustain injuries around the same time. In the rare case of a complete suspensory ligament rupture, you’ll notice the fetlock completely sink. 

Depending on where the injury is located on the length of the ligament, there may be heat or swelling. However, this type of sprain doesn’t always manifest with typical inflammation symptoms but rather slowly increasing lameness and sometimes a thickness at the site of the sprain. Remember that the sprain can be located on the top, middle, or bottom of the ligament, spanning much of your horse’s lower leg.  

Suspensory Ligament Injury Treatment + Recovery

If you suspect sensory ligament injury in your horse, the best thing to do is allow them to rest and call the vet immediately. The veterinarian can diagnose the injury and its location with ultrasound and, from there, determine a prognosis and treatment. 

Depending on where the injury is located and its severity, the treatment may vary from simple rest to cold water or shockwave therapy. In some cases, injectable therapies like PRP (platelet-rich plasma) or stem cells have proven effective for healing (though not for pain). Surgery is sometimes helpful in more extreme cases. Regardless of the treatment, easing back into regular work is a must. 

To aid in your horse’s recovery, the Benefab Therapeutic Smart QuickWraps can be beneficial, as the far-infrared-emitting-minerals in the fabric, combined with the medical-grade magnets that cause their blood to recirculate over targeted acupuncture points, can help decrease the inflammation, improve circulation, and stimulate a faster recovery. The Benefab Therapeutic Polo Wraps can also provide additional healing and support when your horse returns to regular exercise.

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