Top Show Jumper Sapphire Injured

American show jumper McLain Ward's long-time partner Sapphire, a 16-year-old Belgian warmblood mare, strained her right front check ligament while training in Florida last week and will miss the remainder of the 2011 show season.

According to Duncan Peters, DVM, MS, co-director of the Sport Horse Program at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky., check ligament injuries aren't overly common.

"The check ligament is a portion of the deep digital flexor tendon apparatus, and injury usually occurs with overloading of those structures with a bad step," he explained. "Therapy (if the ligament is just sprained) is usually cold therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, poultice, and bandages."

He added that if the ligament is torn, treatment is typically more aggressive and can include platelet-rich plasma or stem cell treatment in addition to the aforementioned therapy.

Peters said that most check ligament injuries have a good prognosis, but they can become chronic if not treated carefully. He added that most horses will be left with cosmetic swelling.

"Rehabilitation can be as short as two to three weeks or may take as long as six to eight months if tearing has occurred," he explained. "Most take about four to six weeks."

Ward told the Chronicle of the Horse that he made the decision to give Sapphire the rest of the year off to give it time to heal properly. He added that he hopes to have her back in action, likely for a run at the 2012 Olympic Games in London; the mare would be competing in her third Olympic Games, having won Team Gold in both Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.


Additional Information on Ligaments and Tendons:

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, News Editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in three-day eventing with her OTTB, Dorado, and enjoys photography in her spare time.

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