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DSLD in young horses

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    DSLD in young horses

    We've had several heartbreaking threads on the subject, and yet it seems to not be all that well accepted that this can be a young horse's disease. Just wanted to share the following story.

    I was horse shopping last week and was shown a 4yo with an obviously dropped hind fetlock (one side) that you could see when it was being tacked up on the cross ties. Pretty straight hock conformation on the "good" leg also. I watched it go and didn't feel any better about it. To top things off, the horse's behavior was rank (related or not, I dunno). It kind of amazed me that the horse was working and showing and no one seemed to notice. All I could think was, wow. I don't know the exact breeding--I was sent there by an agent without a lot of information and could not leave the appointment fast enough, but it was a European WB. It jumped sort of like a young dressage bred horse, but I can't confirm bloodlines one way or the other.

    Now i know what it looks like, i feel like i can spot it a mile away. And yes, it's heartbreaking. There's a mare up the road that's so bad her hocks bend the wrong way.


      Yes it happens. I saw two people riding Peruvian Pasos and both horses had the disease. I was thinking "should i go tell them?" Knowing most people will deny it . Another person who breeds foxtrotters had a broodmare with it that she continued to breed, even when called out on it. She claimed it was due to an injury but I'm very skeptical of that.

      What we need is a genetic test, but no one wants to admit the problem.

      I've heard Mr. Prospector (racehorse) had the disease in later life and at least one of his colts had it by age 3 and was euthanized. So it's widespread in various breeds and obviously a much bigger problem than the industry wants to admit.


        I​​'m so glad you recognized the signs of a dropped fetlock and ran from that. The emotional and financial toll of DSLD is weighty.

        I never imagined my 4 y.o. QH mare would be diagnosed with DSLD; I was worried about navicular. I knew of DSLD but had no idea how common it is and how many breeds are affected. I thought of it as affecting older horses and the gaited breeds. Oh yes, I did have a PPE on my mare but the PPE vet may not have noticed the excessive fetlock drop during movement or didn't make the connection because ... young, 3y.o.

        At her last visit, my vet's opinion was that "connective tissue disorders" are becoming more common. Of course, the increase might also be due, in part, to better diagnostics but ...


          I have seen several stages and versions of DSDL over the years. And those have been in a variety of breeds.

          Most recently, I saw one in a middle-aged riding horse I was checking out of a client. He misbehaved on the lunge line, tried hard for his (clueless) owner at the walk and trot, and then really didn't want to canter when I rode him. He might canter one way, but said he was considering bucking me off if we went the other way. My client didn't want to get on, and we left with pictures. I think his bad behavior came from pain.

          Subsequent to that, I looked at an unstarted 3 year old for myself. One hind pastern was lower than the other and i asked if this was always so. The filly was sound. Owner/breeder said she hadn't ever noticed it. I STFU right there. Again, I left with pictures. I showed those to a buddy and asked if I was seeing things. But seeing things or not, I would not buy one if a low fetlock and horizontal-looking pastern catches my eye. Usually, I see the pastern looking weird first. Then, I look at the angle of both fetlocks. From there, I look up to see how straight the hocks are. In a young horse, you might not see straight hock to got with the weirdness below. But in a riding-age horse that has a dropped fetlock and a straight hock, I think you need to investigate it with a critical eye.

          Just my experience and opinion.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat


            Do you have any pics of young horses with it? I'd like to make myself more aware. I'm familiar with how it looks when it's advanced and the fetlock is significantly dropped but not as much in the earlier stages.


              Here are some cropped pictures of my mare's hind legs at rest, jog, and canter.


                I just googled this and those straight jocks are positively upsetting!


                  My Hanoverian gelding was diagnosed as a 5 year old. When I bought him as a 4yo he had beautiful legs with correct angles, albeit a little underdeveloped behind compared to his front, and passed an extremely thorough vetting.

                  I'm obviously now hyper sensitive to fetlock and hock anatomy but find most people who end up hearing his condition have no idea what it is unless they're long time professional. It's a horrible disease.


                    Then there are those that breed the mares they have that are lame with it UGH
                    Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                      Original Poster

                      Thanks for those who have contributed. I didn't want to post pics of the horse I saw because he's not mine, and European privacy laws and all that. I did spend the last couple of years helping to care for a teenage mare who went from distal suspensory injury and enlargement and slight dropping unilaterally to both hind pasterns pretty parallel to the ground. She had trouble getting up and down and would get bed sores that I would help take care of / try to heal / prevent from getting worse. She went from being able to be in light work to really really lame in the past months. Also has something going up in one of the front legs as well now. Couldn't even wrap the hind legs effectively for support at night the fetlocks were so dropped. It has been very sad, and so even though the one youngster had only a unilateral abnormality at this time, it was still quite apparent to me, especially when watching him walk... reminded me of shortly before they went to hind support bar shoes on the mare.