The inferior check ligament is located at the back of front and rear cannon in all horses and ponies.

It originates at the back of the knee and runs down the back of the lower limb and combines with the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) half way down the cannon. The check ligament is also known as the accessory ligament of the deep digital flexor tendon (ALDDFT). It is situated behind the suspensory ligament.

Strains of the check ligament occur most frequently in the forelimb and in older animals (over 10). Usually they are performing in some form of athletic work such as show jumping or eventing.

It has been suggested that there is an age-related degeneration of the check ligament as alterations in collagen affect the overall tensile strength of the structure.

Injuries to the check ligament are often acute and present as a sudden onset lameness, and not always during or shortly after exercise. There is usually heat, pain and swelling around the tendons in the lower limb.

Chronic cases can also occur and typically present as repeated strains to the ligament over a period of time. Some chronic cases can remain permanently lame and develop postural changes to the limb.

Veterinary attention should be sought in both cases and an ultrasound is recommended to determine the degree and extend of ligament damage.

Treatment in the acute stages aims to reduce inflammation and include cold water hydrotherapy and/or ice packs which should be applied to the area at least twice a day. Between treatments a supportive bandage should placed on the lower limb.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication should be provided to alleviate pain and reduce swelling. The horse should be placed on complete box rest for a minimum of a week before a controlled exercise programme is introduced.

Ligaments are slow to heal and a full recovery can take six months or longer. Repeated ultrasound scans throughout the recovery period can help gauge the healing process and provide prognosis for any return to work.

A return to full athletic work is guarded in check ligament strains with a high percentage of cases suffering repeat injuries.