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Subclinical abnormalities of the suspensory ligament branches in National Hunt racehorses

A. J. Fairburn, E. Busschers, A. R. S. Barr

SUSPENSORY ligament branch (SLB) desmopathy is a common cause of lameness in horses of all athletic disciplines and an important cause of lost training days in the thoroughbred racing industry.

Studies have assessed the impact of insertional injuries of the SLB on the careers of flat racehorses but little work has investigated SLB injury in National Hunt (NH) racehorses. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of subclinical ultrasonographic SLB abnormalities in NH racehorses with no clinical signs or history of SLB injury and to establish the cross-sectional area (CSA) of SLBs in this population.

A standardised set of 10 images of the SLB were obtained for the forelimbs of 62 horses at a NH training yard. Anonymised images were assessed by three clinicians and each site was assigned a score from 0 to 3; with the highest scores from each site being used to formulate a ‘branch grade’. The CSA at each site was also measured and a mean area calculated.

Fifty-eight SLBs were graded as grade 0, 163 as grade 1 and 27 as grade 2. Of the 30 …

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