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Tina from Washington, writes:

Dear Dr. Dave,

My horse, who is prone to front suspensory injuries, has been sound for about two years and I'd like to keep him that way. I'm getting conflicting opinions on whether sports medicine boots (in this case SMB Elite) can help support and protect him and keep sound. Do you have an opinion on this? Thanks!

Dear Tina,

Thank you for your question regarding the use of sports medicine boots to help support and protect a horse with previous suspensory injuries.

It is my opinion based on both experience and research that the sports medicine boots do provide very good protection, however I am not convinced that they should be used to provide preventative support. Similar to a football player's knee brace, the medicine boot will help support the limb, but if a force is applied beyond its capability for support, it will fail. There has been some evidence that the boot will absorb some of the vibration which is encountered when the foot lands and the limb is loaded, and this is good. But the mere addition of a velcro attached sling beneath the fetlock does not guarantee the fetlock will not over-extend and damage the suspensory ligaments.

I would also consider proper shoeing to provide adequate posterior support to the foot, muscle fatigue, and the firmness of the ground. The deeper and softer the ground, the more it will challenge the internal supporting and suspending structures of the limb.

Your horse's conformation is also a consideration. The longer and more sloped the pastern, the more stress is applied to the fetlock and suspensories. I wonder what caused the initial injuries.

Thank you again for your question and I hope that I have helped you in your decision.

Happy trails and happy feet.

Dr. Dave