The suspensory ligament (SL) functions with the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT). This function helps to prevent the fetlock from extending to the ground during the stance phase.
Suspensory ligament desmitis is frequently seen in horses that trot and or load for long periods of time, such as event horses, trotters and dressage horses.
Pain, heat, swelling and lameness are often observed 1 to 3 days post intense work or competition. In this case, the thermograms located unusual thermal patterns in the plantar, medial and lateral views of the distal hindlimbs of this 5-year-old eventer. These thermograms were taken prior to evidence of clinical lameness and therefore referred immediately to the treating vet, this allowed swift intervention.
The treating vet performed diagnostic ultrasonography which revealed an enlargement of the SL, loss of echogenicity and deterioration fibre pattern. The treating vet went on to evaluate the entire SL from its origins on the palmer carpus/plantar tarsus and proximal MC3/MT3 to its insertions on the sesamoid bones.
As the injury had been identified early, there was an early resolution by using NSAID twice daily for three weeks, cold therapy twice daily, stable rest and walking in hand & the limbs were monitored every week with thermography supported by ultrasonography to access healing.
The same horse had previously had treatment for forelimb upper suspensory ligament desmitis – he had undergone shockwave x 3. This was shown to still be a problem and caudal heel support was provided and egg bar shoes were applied through the rehabilitation phase.