Long Pastern Bone Damage in Sport Horses

MRI is allowing vets to identify lameness conditions that were harder to evaluate in the past. One such ailment, most frequently found in sport horses, is osseous trauma of the long pastern bone’s sagittal groove. Here’s what they’ve learned so far about this condition.

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long pastern bone damage in sport horses
Osseous trauma—which can include subchondral bone damage, articular cartilage damage, and fracture—is either a repetitive stress injury or a one-off incidence of acute overload with excessive twisting. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Ellen Singer

With the rise of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in equine medicine, veterinarians have picked up on a variety of lameness conditions that were harder to identify and/or evaluate in the past. One that appears to occur most frequently in sport horses such as eventers, show jumpers, and dressage horses is osseous trauma (bone damage) of the sagittal groove of the long pastern bone (proximal phalanx), which lies beneath the ridge in the bottom of the cannon bone at the base of the fetlock.

Ellen Singer, BA, DVM, DVSc, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, MRCVS, formerly a senior lecturer in equine orthopedics at the University of Liverpool and now a private consultant, described the pathophysiology behind this finding and how to diagnose and treat it at the 2018 British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Sept. 12-15, in Birmingham, U.K.

What Is It?

Osseous trauma to this region can include subchondral bone (below the joint cartilage) damage, articular cartilage damage, and fracture. Singer said it’s either a repetitive stress injury or a one-off incidence of acute overload with excessive twisting

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Written by:

Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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