The suspensory ligament (also known as the interosseus muscle) runs down the back of the cannon bone between the splint bones. It splits into two branches, which insert into the sesamoid bones behind the fetlock joint. This blog article outlines what the suspensory ligament is, how injuries occur and how you can care for your horse’s suspensory ligament.
What Does the Suspensory Ligament Do?
The suspensory ligament forms part of the suspensory apparatus. It helps to prevent overextension of the fetlock joint, with the branches of the suspensory ligament also contributing to joint stability. It also helps to propel the horse forwards during the flight phase. The three main parts of the suspensory ligament are the proximal, middle and branches.
Suspensory Ligament Injury in Horses
Any horse can injure a suspensory ligament. However, dressage and jumping horses tend to be more prone to this kind of injury. Injury can occur as a result of acute overloading, or due to longer term wear and tear.
The symptoms of a suspensory ligament injury are similar to those of other soft tissue injuries. There may be heat and / or swelling in the affected area and the horse may be lame. Poor performance – e.g. lacking impulsion, refusing jumps or behavioural issues when being ridden – can also be a sign of a suspensory ligament injury. If there is an injury to the branches of the suspensory ligament, there may be filling of the tendon sheath (also known as windgalls).
Diagnosing a suspensory ligament injury will require clinical examination by your vet. They will probably also use diagnostic imaging such as x-ray or ultrasound. Treatments for suspensory ligament injuries vary, but may include box rest, controlled exercise, surgery, platelet rich plasma, and shockwave therapy.
The severity of the injury, which limb and which part of the suspensory ligament are affected and whether surgery is required all affect the prognosis. Due to the poor blood supply to the suspensory ligament, healing can take a long time and the horse is likely to be more prone to a repeat injury.
Cryochaps: Portable Equine Cryotherapy Boots
Soft tissue injuries, including those to the suspensory ligament, are common. Whilst it is not always possible to prevent these injuries, we can try to reduce the risk of soft tissue injuries by effective training to prodcue a horse that is fit for the job, as well as the after care of the horse after exercise.
Exercise can lead to tiny tears in the soft tissues, known as micro trauma. Over time, this may contribute to soft tissue injury. Using ice and compression after exercise is known to improve recovery and reduce inflammation*. Cryochaps are designed to provide equine cryotherapy in the form of a portable, hassle-free ice boot for horses. Keep your Cryochaps in the freezer, then simply wet the horse’s leg, wrap, strap and leave to work for 10-15 minutes. Shop our equine cryotherapy boots today.
Always seek advice from your vet.