What is a ligament?

The musculoskeletal system consists of ligaments, tendons, bones, joints, muscles, and more. Everything in this system is responsible for either giving the body structure or for movement. The topic today: What is a ligament?

We hear the word ligament all the time with horses, but, do we really know what our trainers and vets are referring to? Because this structure is so important to the equine athlete’s body, below are a couple of helpful pieces of information to know.

Ligaments connect bones or cartilage to strengthen joints.

Don’t rush a horse’s fitness and conditioning program. If the horse does not have enough time to develop to his full athletic capacity, it will be more prone to injury. 

Ligaments stabilize joints and protect them from overextending, over-flexing, or twisting.

The strength of a horse’s ligaments and tendons lags behind that of other soft tissues. Due to their importance in the horse’s leg during exercise, these structures take several months to strengthen. Additionally, they need to have a reconditioning period.

Unlike tendons, ligaments are not elastic and can stretch and tear more easily. (Read more about tendons in our article “What is a tendon?”

Ligaments are not as elastic as tendons, making them more prone to injury spots. When one taxes a ligament beyond its limits, the ligament sustains damage that results in lameness, poor performance, and diminished athletic ability.

Injured ligaments are prone to reinjury. The elasticity of the ligament is almost always compromised after injury.

While they are slow to strengthen, ligaments are even slower to heal from injury. Damage due to rushed training or improper conditioning can lead to irreparable harm such as high suspensory ligament injuries.

*All information has been sourced from the USHJA Trainer Certification Manual and Study Guide– IF you have any serious inquiries about your horse’s health and wellness please content your veterinarian immediately. *

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