The primary mechanism involved in "suspending" the fetlock joint and maintaining the proper fetlock/pastern axis is the suspensory ligament (Figure 2). The suspensory ligament originates just below the hock (red arrow) and initially is one structure (body) that travels down the back of the lower limb (yellow arrow). Approximately half way down the canon bone the suspensory ligament splits into a medial (inside) and lateral (outside) branch. The suspensory branches attach to the sesamoid bones which are located just behind and below the fetlock joint. As such, the suspensory ligament helps "suspend" the fetlock joint and a proper fetlock/pastern axis.
When compared to the normal limb, the significant increase in the size of the proximal suspensory ligament is evident. In this case the affected suspensory ligament was 2x the "normal" size. These ultrasound findings confirm the diagnosis of proximal suspensory desmitis of the hind limb. The prognosis for this injury is poor for return to riding and guarded for return to pasture soundness. Once the fetlock has "dropped" the physical changes to the suspensory ligament CANNOT be reversed!! Treatment is aimed at slowing the progress of the condition and attempting to provide pain relief to the horse. In my experience, corrective shoeing is the MOST important aspect of managing this condition.