Leg low-down: Check ligament injuries

Check ligament injuries are characterised by sudden onset swelling on the inside and outside of the forelimb behind the cannon bone, close to the knee. These injuries are relatively common. The swelling generally feels firm to the touch, and in recent injuries there will be pain and heat on palpation. Most horses will also show sudden onset lameness. The injuries tend to occur in the front legs of older sport horses and older pleasure horses, as check ligament injuries are often associated with degenerative changes in the ligament that occur with aging. These degenerative changes lead to weakening of the ligament, which makes them predisposed to tearing.


Your vet will need to confirm the injury with an ultrasound scan. The scan will also provide information on the severity and extent of the injury.


Box rest and controlled exercise tend to be the mainstay of treatment initially, for at least the first three months. Other treatments which can be used alongside this include laser and stem cell therapy. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be used initially for pain relief.