Suspensory Ligament Horse Rehabilitation Plan

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Last Updated on September 11, 2022

Suspensory ligament injuries in horses can be very problematic, and following a good suspensory ligament horse rehabilitation plan is the key to a full recovery. Let’s take a look at how suspensory ligament horse rehabilitation is carried out, and figure out the best option for your horse!

What Is A Suspensory Ligament Injury In Horses?

In horses, the suspensory ligament is a strong, rope-like tissue that supports the fetlock joint. It attaches at one end to the back of the cannon bone, just below the carpus (knee) or tarsus (hock). At the lower end, it divides into two branches, and these attach to the sesamoid bones at the back of the fetlock. The purpose of the suspensory ligament is to prevent the fetlock joint from overextending and dropping too low when the limb makes contact with the ground.

This means that the suspensory ligament is under considerable strain, particularly in high-level performance horses. It can be injured through degenerative changes that occur through general wear and tear, or from a sudden impact that tears the ligament tissue.

The most common forms of exercise that cause suspensory ligament injuries in horses are traveling at fast speeds or jumping. This puts the fetlock joint under considerable strain, and the suspensory ligament must absorb this.

When a horse sustains a suspensory ligament injury, the ligament itself may be painful to palpate, although swelling and heat are not always present. Lameness may be subtle, and the injury is often bilateral, meaning it affects both forelimbs and hindlimbs.

Unfortunately, when a horse injures a ligament this injury can take a long time to heal, and a full return to work may not be possible. Ligament tissue is slow to repair and may take even longer than skeletal fractures to heal.

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What Is A Suspensory Ligament Horse Rehabilitation Plan?

If your veterinarian suspects that your horse has sustained a suspensory ligament injury, they will carry out an ultrasound scan to assess the level of damage. This will help to determine the prognosis of a full return to soundness, as well as help to formulate a suspensory ligament horse rehabilitation plan.

A suspensory ligament horse rehabilitation plan incorporates a holistic approach to treating this complex and painful lameness problem in horses. This consists of a multi-faceted approach, normally made up of a combination of rest, controlled exercise, and therapeutic treatments. The response to treatment will be assessed at regular intervals through repeated ultrasound scans, and the rehabilitation program adapted accordingly.

The reason for this approach is that it gives the horse the best chance of making a full recovery and returning to normal activities. If a suspensory ligament problem is not treated appropriately, it will in all likelihood recur, and the horse may be lame and unable to work for the rest of its life.

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What Are The Best Suspensory Ligament Horse Rehabilitation Options?

The best suspensory ligament horse rehabilitation options include:

  • Rest

In the initial phase of treating a suspensory ligament injury in horses, strict rest is essential. Any sudden or uncontrolled movement may exacerbate the problem and make the injury worse. It is highly likely that the horse will need to be confined to a stall or stable for several months, even after controlled exercise has been started.

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  • Anti-inflammatory Medication

In the initial inflammatory phase after the horse has sustained a suspensory ligament injury, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce pain and swelling.

  • Controlled Exercise

Once the swelling has subsided and any lameness has resolved, a controlled exercise program will help to rebuild strong and effective ligament tissue. This normally starts with a period of walking in hand every day.

  • Therapeutic Treatments

Your veterinarian may suggest various therapeutic treatments for horses that sustain a suspensory ligament injury. These include steroid injections, shockwave therapy, cold hosing, and medication of the affected tissue under ultrasound guidance. The decision to use alternative therapeutic treatments should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, as they are not suitable for all types of suspensory ligament injuries.

Suspensory Ligament Horse Rehabilitation Options

Summary – Suspensory Ligament Horse Rehabilitation

So, as we have learned, a comprehensive suspensory ligament horse rehabilitation plan will incorporate a holistic approach, treating the injury itself and providing the right level of exercise to help build strong tissues and facilitate a full return to work. This consists of a multi-faceted approach, normally made up of a combination of rest, controlled exercise, and therapeutic treatments. If a suspensory ligament problem is not treated appropriately, it will in all likelihood recur, and the horse may be lame and unable to work for the rest of its life.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on horse suspensory ligament rehabilitation plans! Have you ever undergone a lengthy horse suspensory rehabilitation program to enable a horse to return to normal exercise? Or maybe you’ve got some questions about the best way to manage recurrent suspensory ligament problems in horses? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!


How long does it take for a horse suspensory to heal?

A mild horse suspensory ligament tear in horses can heal in six to eight weeks, but more severe injuries can take six months or more. The recovery period can be decreased by using therapeutic treatments alongside a period of rest and controlled exercise.

What is the usual amount of time required for a horse to heal sufficiently from suspensory ligament Desmitis?

The length of time it takes for suspensory ligament desmitis to fully heal in horses will depend on the severity of the injury. In a horse with severe degenerative changes, a full recovery is unlikely and it may be advisable to retire the horse from ridden work.

What is a high suspensory injury in a horse?

A high suspensory injury in a horse occurs when the suspensory ligament is damaged in the upper region, just below the hock or knee. These injuries can be difficult to diagnose, as swelling or heat of the ligament may not be visible.

What causes suspensory Desmitis in horses?

The suspensory ligament in horses is subjected to a large amount of pressure, as its function is to prevent the fetlock from overextending. This can cause the ligament tissue to degenerate over time, leading to weakness and pain in the ligament.

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