Injured check ligament sidelines Curly

Curly hunting this spring
Curly out hunting this spring. She looks good for a 20 year old!

Poor Curly — it was a good news/bad news situation.

The good news was that the vet was scheduled to come to give her an overall soundness check. The bad news was she came out of the barn noticeably lame, after staying sound for the whole spring hunt season.

The good news was that for a 20 year old horse, she is in very good shape overall. The bad news was that sometime between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning she injured her check ligament.

The good news was that it was caught right away, when it was more like a sprained ankle than a tear. The bad news is that she is out of commission for the next six weeks or so.

So, what is an inferior check ligament?

I must admit that although I’ve certainly heard of a check ligament, I didn’t know exactly where it was or how it could be injured. I only knew that it had the potential to be a very serious injury.

The Check ligament runs on the back of the cannon bone behind the knee.
The Check ligament runs on the back of the cannon bone behind the knee. When I saw the injury there wasn’t much swelling. It would have been very hard to see before the area was shaved. I heard, though, that she was very reactive when it was touched.

Ligaments join bone to bone. They are stabilizing structures that hold bones together and stop them from overextending, over-flexing or over-rotating.  The inferior check ligament helps to stabilize the leg during weight bearing and injuries generally are associated with a twisting or turning. They most often occur in front legs, since the horse carries the majority of its weight on its forehand. The good news here is that check ligaments are generally one of the least severe types of injuries to a ligament or tendon.  Check ligament injuries are one of the least severe of the tendon or ligament

Check ligament injuries are typically caused when a horse takes a bad step, twisting the ligament (like a sprained ankle). Ironically, Curly most likely did it out in the field, rather than galloping cross country. She is the low horse in the pecking order and she will sometimes get chased by the other horses in the field.

When I saw the injury, a day or so after it happened, it didn’t look like much. There was some slight swelling an inch or two down from the knee on the back of the cannon bone. It was visible only because it was shaved; before that I think it would have been very difficult to see. There was no heat, but she was obviously lame.

Treatment and Recovery

To reduce inflamation, her ligament is treated daily with a DMSO/Furazone/Steroid concoction.
To reduce inflammation, her ligament is treated daily with a DMSO/Furazone/Steroid concoction. DMSO is highly carcinogenic — you really need to wear gloves to apply it. Anything that’s quite that fluorescent color can’t be good for you.

To reduce the inflammation, we are applying a DMSO/Furazone/Steroid mixture to Curly’s check ligament every morning (it is washed off in the eventing to prevent blistering). She is allowed to be out with the other horses provided she doesn’t run, and she has six weeks off before she is re-evaluated. The vet was optimistic that she would make a full recovery.

Has anyone else’s horse had a check ligament injury? Did they make a full recovery?

9 thoughts on “Injured check ligament sidelines Curly

  1. Hi Liz,
    First I love your blog! My name is Nikki Smith, We own and operate Smith Horse Company. We do Boarding, training and integrative medical board. Let me give you a brief description,( so I can actually tell you about our success with ligaments, the whole reason I am leaving a rather lengthy comment) We receive horses that need some sort of medical attenion. They come from Universities, veterinarians, and people seeking help for their horse. We integrate regular conventional medicine with alternative therapies. That means that we follow the veterinarian’s instructions and we also apply alternative therapies in addition to conventional medicine. Some of the alternative therapies that we use include, aromatherapy, homeopathic, herbal therapy, photonic red light therapy, nutrition (which I think is soooo important) acupressure, and massage just to name a few!

    So hopefully I have the introduction out of the way! Now finally to the ligaments!!!
    We have had tremendous success with a homeopathic called Ruta Graveolens. (Homeopathic is a natural system of medicine of specially prepared remedies that stimulates ones own immune system. I’m trying to spare you my lengthy explanation of homeopathics! Are you still with me? LOL!!
    Homeopathics offer no side effects and can be taken in conjunction with other medication.)
    We use Bioron homeopathics. Any good health food store should carry them. We use the strength 30X. We put about 4-6 ampules ( The little white pill shape they come in) in the water EVERYDAY!!! It is fairly inexpensive and works wonders!

    Please feel free to check out our website

    Hope this helps and Speedy healing to Curly!!!
    Nikki Smith

  2. I had a horse a few years back that tore his check ligament . He was in his stall at the time so I have no idea how he did it. Sheesh! Anyway, it was a tear not a sprain so his recovery took six months. We treated similar to you with the DMSO initially, stall rest, then hand walking. He made a complete recovery and is currently successfully competing at third level dressage. You are fortunate that Curly doesn’t have a tear.

  3. I have had two horses with holes in thier check ligaments. Unfortunately, they were both career ending injuries. MayLady, the first, never recovered and was put down about a year later due to arthritis made worse by the injury. Her injury was quite severe though, she had a legitimate hole in the middle of her ligament. Sparkle, the second, was pasture sound for the rest of her life.
    They both had injuries worse than Curly’s. I wish her a speedy recovery!

  4. hi my horse just done check ligament, but has swelling in her knee too has any one else had this or do you think its something else. thanks

  5. Hi, my horse just had an ultrasound due to acute lameness on his off fore. It showed a slight black line on the inferior check ligament. He was initially very lame, and now after 2 weeks of box rest he is sound. Right from the start there was no swelling or heat near the check ligament, thus a suspected strained fetlock. There was only a slight bit of fluid near the tendon sheath. (the vet said it was just gravity taking it’s course from the fluid going down from the check ligament and ending up by the sheath). Not sure if that is a good sign that his recovery will be speedy? And similar injury advise would be appreciated.

    1. If you check my blog, you’ll see that Freedom suffered a check ligament injury this spring ( He was never lame but there was quite a lot of swelling. My vet prescribed a four month rehab — one month off and then starting back with handwalking for 5 minutes. Each week we were allowed to increase the walking by 2 minutes. In Freedom’s case we did most of the walking under saddle as it was safer for both of us :). Month three we started with trotting, first for just very short (less than a minute) and slow times (think the long side of a ring), then gradually increasing. I was warned that if his leg started to get warm or stock up, to back off. By the middle of month four we were doing some canter work.

      Thankfully, this regime worked well. He came off his rehab sound and fit. I’ve taken it easy with him this fall but he shows no adverse consequences.

      Good luck!

  6. My horse damaged his suspensory ligament but made a full recovery and is now competing at Elementary level dressage. It was a full year until I could compete him again. I have put the full story of his recovery on my blog

    I know check and suspensory ligaments are different but I think that the key thing I learnt was that you need to be patient and give ligaments lots of time and rest to recover properly.

    I have just made this video with a vet describing the anatomy of a horses leg. I learnt a lot making the video. You may find it interesting ..

  7. My horse, Maggie, is currently recovering from a 2/3 tear of her check ligament as seen on ultrasound. She has had 3 shockwave therapies 10 days apart and will have another ultrasound in 2 weeks. The vet has said at least 4 months of stall rest and maybe I can ride next year.

    1. I hope your horse makes a full recovery! Curly has been fine since she recovered and my own horse, Freedom, also made a full recovery from his check ligament injury. Neither Curly’s owner nor I did shockwave, but it’s possible our horses’ injuries were less severe. Both horses got limited turn out and a long, slow re-introduction to work. Good luck!

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