Soft Tissue Injuries in the Equine Foot: Dancing in the Dark
You know he’s off. You can feel it. Your trainer says it’s easy to see. Your vet says, “Hmmmm…” as she looks at the expensive radiographs hanging on the viewer. “I didn’t think we’d see much,” she says sympathetically. “It’s probably just soft tissue. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Wait and see? Your horse means the world to you, and he’s lame. And you want to know when you can get back in training. What can you do?
“Soft tissue injury” sounds like a vague diagnosis, designed to frustrate the owner, but it is a legitimate set of sports injuries that can disable your horse. With new diagnostic tools, such as nuclear scintigraphy, you might be able to obtain a more accurate (and expensive) idea of the exact location of your horse’s injury…but you won’t necessarily be able to speed recovery.
What Are Soft Tissues?
Technically speaking, a soft tissue would be anything other than bone. In the horse’s foot, there are three bones (the distal–or lower end–of P2, the navicular bone, and P3 or the coffin bone). Traditionally, we have been taught that the foot bones, and therefore the horse’s weight, “hang” inside the hard hoof capsule, which is designed to protect the bones from being damaged and to support the weight. Tiny threads called “laminae” knit the bone to the hoof
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