Understanding Soft Tissue Mechanics

New information on this topic indicates it may be time for farriers to change treatments for suspensory ligament desmitis

One of the most common veterinarian-diagnosed, soft-tissue problems in performance horses is suspensory ligament desmitis (SLD). 

According to Adams and Muller who describe “it as a sprain of the ligament, SLD diagnosis is generally made by a combination of clinical signs, pain on palpitation, nerve blocks and an ultrasound exam of the suspensory ligament body (SL). 

“Ultrasound may reveal a normal appearing suspensory ligament or lesions ranging from thickening of the body, separation of the ligament fibers or actual tears. Associated medical conditions or pain may be palpated in soft tissue that functions concurrently such as the superficial digital flexor (SDF) or the sesmoidian ligaments.”1, 11.

Two Treatments

Treatment protocol by veterinarians is usually either aggressive or conservative medically and often varies according to the type, site and severity of the injury. However, treatment will normally include stall rest and shoeing modifications. 

When it comes to mechanical failure of the soft tissue, the treatment options include providing additional mechanical support for the injury with the effective use of farriery techniques. The farrier techniques that have been taught and exist in teaching manuals for both farriers and veterinarians recommend that each practitioner shorten the hoof, raise the heel and lengthen the shoe for these types of injuries1, 3

Limited Information

Yet some textbooks offer little (if any) information in regards to this soft tissue’s mechanical function and its response to changing limb mechanics. More recent information offers insights that indicate past accepted practices may not have been…

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