Identifying, Treating and Rehabbing Soft Tissue Injuries

Getting performance horses back on track after ligament and tendon injuries

The structures of the hoof capsule are the primary focus of a farrier’s job. Yet, there are other elements outside of the hoof capsule a farrier might have a role in supporting. Among them are soft tissue injuries.

Although there are a number of soft tissue injuries that performance horses might sustain, there are four that farriers most commonly face — injuries to the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT), superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT), suspensory ligament (SL) and collateral ligaments of the distal interphalangeal joint (CLDIP joint). When confronted with these injuries, a farrier might have a role at any stage from identification to rehabilitation.

Identifying Soft Tissue Injuries

The first indication of a soft tissue injury varies depending on the severity, but horses often will give subtle hints that something isn’t quite right.

“A horse that is uncomfortable on a limb will not bear as much weight on it,” says Eric Gilleland, a Social Circle, Ga., farrier. “This will result in the hoof being narrower. A horse might prefer one limb over the other, just as we might prefer our right hand to our left. Or, a horse that immediately shifts its weight off the opposite limb after the farrier puts down a foot also can be an indication.”

Although a horse might favor one limb, it’s important to examine the horse completely.

“Just because a horse is limping a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s always a specific problem,” says Dave Dawson, an Uxbridge, Ontario, farrier. “I don’t…

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Jeff cota 2023

Jeff Cota

Jeff Cota has been a writer, photographer and editor with newspapers and magazines for 30 years. A native of Maine, he is the editor of American Farriers Journal.

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