Cocoa, a 6-year-old Quarterhorse, had a soundness exam in January to try to pinpoint the cause of her mild, but persistent, lameness on her right front, ongoing since August 2006.

Here is an x-ray from her exam:

The x-ray showed a little bump on the front of her pastern. But that didn't seem consistent with her lameness and probably is not related. Next, the vet did an ultrasound. The ultrasound did show a slight tear to a small ligament on the inside (anterior) of her pastern. This type of injury is called soft tissue damage. The diagnosis was: "Right front desmitis in anterior medial collateral ligament."

Soft tissue damage can take a long time to completely heal. The tear will heal with scar tissue, which, if treated gently, should eventually regain the strength and flexibility of the original ligament.

Treatment included 5 days of Bute, ongoing daily MSM supplement, trimming her toe back and putting wide web shoes on her front feet. Cocoa is on extended stall rest with a long gradual reintroduction to exercise and walking. Full recovery could take into the fall of 2007.

This type of injury is kind of like twisting your ankle badly. It can happen to a horse from rough play, stumbling over rough terrain, or repeated sharp stopping and turning.