Rehabilitating Equine Suspensory Ligament Injuries with Wedge Support
by Wendy Karolczyk
Located between the flexor tendon and the cannon bone, the suspensory ligament supports the lower limb of a horse and is vital to the horse’s soundness and performance. An injury to this ligament can end an equine career and devastate owners. Several factors can contribute to the breakdown of this ligament, including conformational defects, conditioning, and simply when a horse exerts too much force during a performing or workout.
Recognize the Signs:
If your horse is not performing or moving well — take the time stop, look and evaluate. Look for abnormalities such as a little swelling, heat, and perhaps a slight lameness. Consult a licensed veterinary as soon as an abnormality is noticed. An ultrasound exam can detect evidence of tendon or ligament damage and will help dictate treatment and the likely hood of success.
Tendons and ligaments are more difficult to heal than other parts of the horse’s body but can be treated successfully, depending on the severity of the damage and treatment.
After the injury, place your horse in a stall to prevent further injury. Hydro therapy, hand-walking, and anti-inflammatory medications are among the typical non-surgical treatments recommended by veterinarians.
There are numerous obstacles to overcome when attempting to return a horse to competition after this type of injury. There is a high potential of tissue scarring that inhibits elasticity. Ultimately, the tissue will repair itself in a cross-hatch pattern, but the inferior scar tissue will become the weakest point in the ligament going forward. Adding support in this area will help reduce scaring and increase the chances of a full recovery. Until 2009, there was very little that could be done to effectively add the support needed for the suspensory ligament during rehabilitation process.
In 2006, Ward Heid, a fourth generation rancher and avid horseman, had grown increasing frustrated with the suspensory injuries of his own horses. Three of Heid’s cutting horses injured their suspensory ligaments — all within 30 days and were pulled from competition. After multiple trips to the vet, Heid was no closer to a solution than when he started. While consulting with Chris Ray of Equine Sport Medicine and Surgery, Heid asked, “Suspensory injuries are common and can be career ending. Why isn’t there something more?” Chris Ray had a theory — he explained, “If you can come up with something that can strengthen this region of the horse by way of a wedge, and support it, then we can give that horse a better chance of full recovery.”
Ray’s theory sent Heid on a mission to discover a solution. After years of trial and error, and conferring with Ray and other veterinarians, Heid developed a rehabilitative boot that utilizes an EVA foam wedge to support the suspensory ligament. Rehabilitating with the wedge helps reduce the scar tissue and provides a smoother, more comprehensive recovery. The boot Heid developed, now called the Iconoclast Rehabilitation Boot, has proved to be an extremely successful tool for the rehabilitation of horses with suspensory ligament injuries. When the boot is properly placed on the horse’s leg, the Iconoclast Orthopedic Wedge will be located under the distal pastern and provide the needed support.
Be sure to ask your veterinarian about utilizing the Iconoclast Boot during rehabilitation to help increase your horse’s chance for a full recovery. Perform a recheck of the injury using an ultrasound exam to evaluate healing.
You can learn more about suspensory ligament injuries and the Iconoclast Boot by visiting http://www.westernlegacysales.com.
I have trained and shown horses in western pleasure, reining, cutting, barrel racing, western riding, jumping and working hunter. My father, a lifelong trainer and breeder, was my mentor and greatest supporter. Our family has raised great champions through the years and sharing my knowledge is now a passion!