When your veterinarian informs you that your 6-year-old gelding has sustained a suspensory ligament injury in his left foreleg, your heart sinks. Not only are you concerned about the amount of pain and suffering your horse will endure in the months to come, but you are also concerned about other conditions that could develop as a result of this injury.
One of the biggest fears of horse owners is a leg injury that ends the horse’s career, or sometimes threatens his life. However, while some injuries might be too severe to allow for a full recovery, today it is possible to rehabilitate many of the more common leg injuries. Many rehabilitated horses live long, comfortable lives, and a significant number are able to return to the same level of work.
Common Leg Injuries
“Depending on what they do for a living, horses are going to be predisposed to certain injuries,” notes Jim Lillich, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, an associate professor of equine surgery at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. “Racehorse-related injuries are far different than injuries sustained by working horses or pleasure horses.”
When you’re dealing with animals that weigh 1,000 pounds or more, and all of that weight is supported by four relatively small legs, the number of different types of injuries that can potentially occur is considerable. Many of these injuries fall under the following categories: Tendon and ligament injuries, joint injuries, and, as a further sub-division of joint injuries, soft-tissue injuries around the joint, joint capsule, cartilage, and bone.
Generally, a horse’s front legs are more susceptible to injury than the hind legs, Lillich explains. “The front legs take more of a beating, although there are certain horses who experience hind leg problems,” he says. “We have quite a few hunter/ jumpers in our area, so we get hind leg suspensory in