Desmitis (aka Suspensory Problems)

The suspensory apparatus in the horse acts as a spring coil for the fetlock region when in hyperextension, this apparatus consists of the proximal suspensory, sesamoids and the associated sesamoidian ligaments. Desmitis of the proximal suspensory ligament is a very common ailment in the horse that is well recognized in the acupuncture work up. There are three regions or zones of the proximal suspensory which can be injured, they are the:


  • Origin which is where the proximal end of the suspensory ligament attaches to the back of the proximal metacarpus/tarsus.
  • Midbody which is the middle of the suspensory ligament and where the most strain is asserted on to the ligament.
  • Medial and Lateral branches which insert onto the proximal sesamoids.


Desmitis can occur in the fore and hind limbs, however it commonly manifests in the forelimbs. Forelimb suspensory problems occur in all types of performance horses, however thoroughbred horses place a massive amount of stress on the suspensory apparatus in exercise and injuries associated with this ligament are much worse than in a performance horse which spreads their weight and stress more evenly in the body. Hind limb suspensory desmitis is more commonly seen in harness racing horses and horses which are trained up hills where the stress manifests in the hind limb region.


Pain the forelimb suspensory causes associated neck, shoulder and back compensatory hypertonicity and pain, where as hind limb suspensory pain causes hamstring, pelvic and lower lumbar and lumbo-sacral hypertonicity and pain which limits proper movement and thus performance of the horse.


When pain is present in the suspensory ligament there is a varying degree of inflammation present in the ligament.

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