Suspensory ligament injuries can limit or even end horses’ careers. But what if a little diagnostic imaging could help veterinarians spot predisposion to these injuries, so owners could manage horses appropriately?

Sarah Plevin, BVMS, MRCVS, CVA, Dipl. ABVP, ACVSMR, a practitioner at Florida Equine Veterinary Associates, in Ocala, wondered if early detection of significant sesamoiditis and suspensory ligament branch changes (any deviation from a normal suspensory branch)—two conditions that affect horses’ lower limbs—could give them any indication of future likelihood of suspensory ligament injury. She shared what she and colleagues learned at the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas.

The sesamoid bones are located at the back of the horse’s fetlock, and their inflammation—sesamoiditis—is a common finding in Thoroughbred yearlings, Plevin said. The suspensory ligament attaches at the top back of the cannon bone, runs down the cannon bone, and splits into two branches—one attaching to each sesamoid. Researchers know that severe sesamoiditis can predispose a horse to future suspensory ligament injuries.

“It seemed logical that a horse with significant sesamoiditis would have some kind of change in the corresponding branch,” she said. But the prevalence of subclinical (not resulting in any outward signs of injury) suspensory branch changes in yearlings with sesamoiditis hadn’t been investigated.

In a prospective study, Plevin and the team conducted radiographic and ultrasonographic exams on 50 yearlings—all homebre