• horse;
  • ligament;
  • digit;
  • pastern;
  • joint;
  • loading


The distal forelimb of the horse has a complex array of ligaments that play a critical role in determining function of the digit and are often associated with the initiation of foot pathologies. The collateral ligaments of the distal sesamoid bone (CLDS) play an important role in digit stabilization near the end of foot contact and there is also limited evidence to suggest that the CLDS stabilize the proximal interphalangeal joint (PIPJ) during weight bearing. By virtue of their anatomical attachments where the ligaments pass dorsal to the axis of rotation of the PIPJ, it is reasonable to assume that the CLDS prevent flexion of the PIPJ during weight bearing or midstance in a moving horse. To test this functional hypothesis, forelimb specimens from three mixed-breed horses were loaded in compression in a materials testing frame. Limb loading was applied with the CLDS intact and following transection. Average PIPJ angle and metacarpophalangeal joint (MCPJ) angle at maximum load (∼3000 N) were calculated from angular changes of proximal and middle phalanges and the third metacarpal, which were compared between intact and transected trials. PIPJ angles were found to be the same (175°) at maximum load for intact and transected trials. The proximal and middle phalanges rotated together remaining aligned, regardless of the CLDS condition. Contrary to expectation, however, the combined proximal and middle phalanges unit rotates less relative to the third metacarpal under load after transection, indicating less digit extension at the metacarpophalangeal (fetlock) joint without the influence of CLDS. Since the mechanical properties of the fetlock joint are unchanged by CLDS transection, observed proximal and middle phalanx motion is dependent on increased rotation of the distal phalanx after transection. The original hypothesis was not supported and the results suggest that at midstance the CLDS function primarily to stabilize the articulation of the middle phalanx about the distal phalanx to limit distal interphalangeal joint extension during weight bearing. Establishing the functional role of the CLDS may help to better understand the biomechanical consequences of ligament injuries and diseases of the pastern. J. Morphol. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.