The components of the thoracic sling in Figure 1a are the (a) Rhomboideus, (bl) Trapezius cervicis, (bll) Trapezius thoracis, (c) Latissimus, (d) Brachiocephalicus and (e) Pectorales muscles. In Figure 1b, they are (a) Rhomboideus, (b) Omontrans­versarius, (cl) Serratus ventralis, (cll) Serratus ventralis thoracis and (d) Subclavius muscle. Photo by: Dr. Jenny Hagen

What is the Horse’s Thoracic Sling?

Core stability and training strategies to prevent orthopedic injuries

Several studies state that lameness is the most prevalent health problem in horses and the main reason for retirement from their leisure use or competitive life (Clegg 2011; Ely et al. 2009; Dyson 2001). In this context, most pathologies appear in the structures of the equine distal limb at the forelimbs

Injuries and disorders of joints, tendons and ligaments occur frequently. In particular, degenerative bone diseases such as desmitis, osteoarthritis, osteoarthrosis and podotrochlosis are common diagnoses in the equine practice. Thereby, the occurrence of orthopedic disorders related to the distal limb is independent of the athletic level and use of horses. Elite, as well as non-elite, riding horses are affected by wear of the sensitive structures at the distal limb (Murray et al. 2010). The question is: Why are the structures of the equine distal limb in the forelimbs so prone to acute or degenerative disorders?


  • Large muscles with long fibers arranged parallel with the long axis of the muscle belly that insert with short tendons or aponeuroses to the bones in combination with strong, elastic fascia create the so-called “equine thoracic sling.”
  • Due to the high load affecting the forelimbs, a strong and efficient elastic and shock-absorbing system is necessary to protect components of the passive locomotor system, such as tendons, ligaments, bones and joints from wear and tear.
  • The musculotendinous units in the proximal locomotor system of the forelimbs are the main components for shock absorption and energy storage during the stance phase.
  • Horses suffering from arthrosis…
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Jennifer hagen 5

Jenny Hagen

Jenny Hagen, DVM, PhD, CF, is a veterinarian, re­searcher and certified farrier. She is in private practice for equine ortho­pedics and chiropractic. She is a mem­ber of the faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Leipzig University in Ger­many.

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