Friday, 6 January 2017

All About ... Suspensory Ligament Sprain.

What is it

The suspensory ligament begins at the back of the knee passing just behind the cannon bone it divides just above the fetlock.  Part of the ligament becomes part of the Annular Ligament and part attaches to each sesamoid bone, the remainder passes around the front of the long pastern and joins to the Common Digital Extensor Tendon.  Ligaments are strong and flexible and made up of bundles of parallel collagen fibres.  In a sprain these fibres are damaged . 


  • Swelling at back of cannon bone, between the flexor tendons and cannon bone 
  • Horse not always lame BUT will not stretch out 
  • Pain when ligament palpated 
  • Initially heat


  • Over extension of the fetlock joint 
  • Hooves left with long toes and/or low heels 
  • Long sloping pasterns

Call the Vet.  Nerve blocking and ultrasound scans will show any damage to the tendon fibres.  Whilst ligaments (and tendons) do heal the fibres will not reform in parallel bundles and so do not have the same strength as before the injury.


  • Cold hose or ice pack 
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs 
  • Rest (months) 
  • Support

Rest period will depend on the severity and precise site of the sprain.  Initially box rest is needed before some in hand grazing can be introduced.  The vet will advise on the time needed.  


Regular shoeing and foot trimming by an experienced farrier to ensure toes are not allowed to become too long and heels are supported.   Horses with long sloping pasterns naturally place more strain on their suspensory ligaments so consider this before expecting fast work!

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Until next time!

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