I'm new here and actually joined on account of my mare being diagnosed with DSLD.  


About four weeks ago I noticed my mare was favoring her back left foot and that her fetlock was swollen, so I called my vet out to have x-rays as well as an ultrasound.  Turns out she broke a chip off of a bone in her back left foot and as a result she has developed moderate DSLD.  

After crying (I swear, I thought I was going to lose it because this horse is basically my baby and simply a trail horse.  I actually rescued her when she was about six years old; she's about twelve now), I called my farrier to come out since he specializes in lame and foundered horses and I figured if anyone could calm me down, he could.  Thankfully, my farrier sees this sort of thing in other breeds all the time and has decided that once the bone ruptures he wants to cushion her feet and put special shoes on and is basically going to do anything he can to support her tendons and ligaments.  I am all for this.  

We're also working with our local University since one of the vets specializes in DSLD in Peruvians and he's feeding my vet information and thinking about taking my mare on as a case study for his students.  I actually asked about surgery and/or stem cell therapy, but that's a no go.  


Right now she's taking all of this in stride (in fact, I'm convinced she's doing better than I am since she's being pampered in a super cushioned stall).  She's on bute, MSM, Remission (to prevent founder), and Safe Choice (although I'm thinking about looking into another feed) and we're going to start her on glucosamine and I've been looking at ligament/tendon supplements.  

Also, she has started favoring and I noticed a hole on the bottom of her hoof (I was told to look for these signs, although we thought it would rupture out of the coronary band); my vet thinks the bone may be trying to rupture out of the sole of the foot now, which is good, so I've been soaking her foot in epsom salts.  


Basically, any advice?  I've been told that exercise is the best thing for them.  Has anyone dealt with DSLD?  Any advice about shoes?  What about other supplements?  I probably sound like an overbearing, concerned "mom," but this has really been awful and I want to make my mare as comfortable as possible and give her the fullest life as possible.  


Thanks so much!

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I do feel there is a dietary link to DSLD.   Safe choice does have molasses I believe?  Also, what type of hay does she eat? 

I want to say she either gets Bermuda or Timothy.  It's difficult because of where we live there isn't much of an option.  Also, we used to have one pasture that was strictly rye grass, but we only would allow the horses to be on it for about an hour every other day.  And she's never been allowed to have alfalfa because it made her "hot."  


I'll be sure to check on the Safe Choice.  She used to be on Compete Ten ages ago, but we switched to Safe Choice because it's supposed to prevent/help with founder.  Granted, most feeds have some form of carbs (I believe Safe Choice and another brand have the lowest amount?  I could be wrong), but I'll check to see if there is something better.  

She might have SLD (suspensory ligament desmitis), but there is no reason to think her suspensories are spontaneously degenerating (which happens in DSLD).  She's got a bone chip floating around, for goodness sakes.


My advice would be to get the bone out and then treat her suspensories like any other injured suspensory.  Standing wraps, stall rest, frequent ultrasounds to track healing, and then gentle rehab by hand walking.  UC Davis has a very good protocol on their vet school website.  My CTR/endurance Peruvians have occasionally torn their suspensories on nasty trails and have returned to competitive soundness following the Davis protocol (my vet is a Davis grad).  But it will take 2-3 months:  let the ultrasounds tell you and your vet when healing is complete enough for light riding.

Good luck!

Really?  This is wonderful news, to be honest, especially because today was a rough day (I'm just getting frustrated with the bone chip not rupturing and I'm worried my mare is in pain, although she's as perky and bright eyed and bushy tailed as ever).  


We have a vet at LSU who has been doing research, but is there a vet at UC Davis that I could email about information?  The ultrasound showed a slight tear in her tendon as well as some lesions.  Initially my new vet (one vet from LSU moved; the other vet from LSU retired; I loved them both) said she would never be rideable again, but then changed her tune when she contacted LSU.  I'm not sure I like her, to be honest, but she was the quickest I could get out to the barn.  


She was swelling up due to stall rest so I've been letting her graze (hand walking her) and doing hydrotherapy, which has taken the swelling down.  However, she recently started holding her foot funny again.  We thought the bone fragment was about to rupture, but suddenly there is no sign of it.  I'm so frustrated and I'm so worried she's in pain (she's not lying down in her stall though and she seems really chipper, like I said), so I haven't been hand grazing her and just doing hydrotherapy, although she hasn't swelled up again.  


Thanks so much for the info!  This really helps because I'm getting mixed signals.  My farrier has seen this before and he has a very positive attitude about it, whereas my vet, who has never seen this, basically said "if this were a gelding, I would put it down."  I have contacted LSU about another vet to come check her out, the one who has been doing research on this particular ailment.  

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/DSLD-equine/ group for information, discussion, and support



Lots of information

Thank you so much!  Both links have been life savers.  :)

Wow!  I'm sorry to hear about this!  It almost sounds like my story with my mare as well.


For my mare who has just been diagnoised with DSLD and a bone chip, I hand walk her 1-2 times a day for 5 minutes.  I do keep her out of her stall since I board her and it's nice for her to get out.  I will not lunge her at all or allow her to run or make sharp moves as it causes the swelling to increase and for her to go lame again.


I too believe that any soft tissue injury can be caused by food.  For example (my reasoning is...) if I was eating food that didn't help my soft tissue, the food most likely is pulling away from all soft tissue (cartlige, ligaments, muscles, etc) so giving yourself the best food possible and supplements to aid in regenerating the growth of tissue is the best.  The same would be with your mare.


There is a lot of different reasons to either keep your horse out in pasture 24/7 or stall bound with hand walking...that would have to be up to you and what you can do.


My horse is on bute and a joint supplement as well as additional minerals that I will be adding to her diet to make it a more natural feed rather than a peleted complete feed.


I'm in the same boat as you, my horse is like my baby, she's my very first horse and it's so sad to see them in such pain and not able to live a life they are supposed to.  The best advise out of it all is...patience, patience, patience.  This is a long injury recovery...6 months - 1 year with possible re-injury during her life.


I'm sorry she is experiencing this, please go online and research all that you can possibly research to educate yourself about the DSLD and there is also a DSLD support group from Yahoo too.


Good luck.



How do you prevent her from making sharp turns out in the pasture?  Reffy's problem is she acts like a little Lipizzaner out in the pasture and thinks she can do "airs above the ground."  I hand walk her for about a half hour to an hour a day and I let her walk around the foaling stall as well (she will often roll in it as well, ha) since I spend several hours out at the barn.  


I completely agree about food and I'm getting advice on the yahoo group about feed.  I also ordered Dr. Kellon's supplement so now I'm waiting for that to come in.  


I'm also going to be taking her into LSU for a biopsy and pain test since the vet I spoke with is curious as to why it's only in one leg and not the others.  He's pretty positive it's DSLD, however, he thinks we caught it early and that perhaps the pain is not from the suspensory ligaments, but rather from the bone chip in her foot.  LSU also conducted some research on a herd of Paso Finos that all came down with DSLD and discovered that they got better with exercise (LSU still does know why, but they assume it had do with being fit, weight loss, and strengthening of the suspensory ligaments).  Anyhow, he's going to start from ground zero with her and then we're going to work out a plan.  


Aw, it's hard isn't it?  I had horses growing up and my first pony had to be put down on account of a brain tumor.  It's really tough because they're so honest and they open their hearts and trust you.  She's my heart through and through.  Thank you for the advice because I am not patient about this, mainly I don't want her to be in pain, and I'm trying everything possible.  Thanks so much.  

Hello Amanda,

Our understanding of DSLD and NOT DSLD has come a long way over the years. I have had a horse that actually had DSLD and 2 horses that were misdiagnosed with DSLD. My first experience was nearly 15 years ago with my now 23 year old gelding. A vet told me he had DSLD. The vet was familiar with the issue because of years of race track work. He told me to put my horse down. I just couldn't do it. A friend of mine that used to be a farrier in Texas trimming over 400 Peruvian Horses told me he did NOT think it was DSLD. He felt it was a trimming problem.


Sure enough, I took him to another vet and he said if my gelding wasn't a riding horse in a month, he would give up his vet practice. He was correct and my gelding started his show career in his teens. Too often, Peruvians are left with a very long toe and underslung or no heal. What is a hoof/mechanical problem is misdiagnosed as a suspensory problem. I'm sure you've heard the saying "No hoof, no horse". Coco Fernandez has some great videos on his website. You might want to check him out. www.cococaballo.com  I don't agree with everything he has to say... but he's right on the money when it comes to the mechanics of the horse and hoof.


Just because of the age of some of my Peruvians, I have found a great supplement for tendons and joints. It is called SmartFlex Repair. It is a pellet and they really seem to like the taste.  http://www.smartpakequine.com/landingpgs/smartsuppellets/17399-smar... 


As far as Safe Choice goes... it really isn't as "Safe" as you would think. One of the base ingredients is alfalfa. I have 3 horses with metabolic issues, so I try to stay clear of alfalfa - just my personal preference.


Although I am not a vet and don’t play one on TV, I would wonder about her being lame on one leg and not the other. If something has happened to breakdown the tissue, wouldn’t you expect it to happen in all tissue? Not just the tissue in one leg? Your horse could have an injury and not DSLD. Exercise might be the worst thing you could do with her.


A few years back, one of my mares came up REALLY lame. Both her hind fetlocks were swollen and  down in the back. Most vets would have automatically said DSLD just based on her breed. But that was not her problem. She had fallen on the ice and fractured her pelvis. Swelling and fluids fall to the lowest point on the body. Looked like DSLD. But NOT DSLD. She required about 8 months of stall rest. No unnecessary movement. To look at her now, you would never know. Her legs are clean and tight. Her fracture healed perfectly.


I know what you mean about your horse being your baby. All mine are the same way. Good luck with your mare!


Warmest Regards,


The way she has been trimmed has been short toe with quite a bit of heel, however, I do know a lot of farriers are stumped by Peruvians (I've been thankful that my farrier specializes in lame/foundered horses and gaited horses.  And if he doesn't know, he is man enough to call around, ha!  I love my farrier).  I think he also does a mustang roll?  I do know my vet told him to leave even more heel on so the last time he trimmed her he barely touched her heel.  He's currently talking with LSU and checking around about shoes (for comfort for her) and/or cushioning to alleviate any pain, but that's still up in the air.  He's doing a lot of research before he does anything and since there is still a bone chip, he said he would never, ever pound on a horse in pain.  In fact, the last time he trimmed her, he was extra gentle with her and took time with her so she could relax in between each foot and get her bearings.  He's also the one who suggested I switch vets when my vet told me to euthanize my mare.  He knows me and knows I'm sensitive (I've been crying every day for about two weeks, no lie).  


I called LSU today, and although he suspects it's DSLD, he's going to rerun tests starting with a biopsy and NOT a radiograph because he said people jump to conclusions about things.  He said there are sure signs that it is DSLD (the tear, the lesions, the conformation, her breed, the calcification in the suspensory ligaments), however, he said a biopsy will show more.  He said he does find it odd that it only showed up in one leg and not other legs (or elsewhere) since DSLD is systemic and he is going to run a pain test because he thinks she is having pain NOT from the DSLD, but because of the bone chip in her hoof.  

I don't exercise her right now.  I hand walk/graze her for a half hour/hour each day just to get her out (it's primarily her grazing with little walking).  We started doing this because she swelled up when she was stalled and the day I started doing that she swelling went down over night (and her leg was back to normal).  I also do hydrotherapy every day, DMSO for three days (and then off for about a week or so), and I wrap her legs (but not all the time).  She did get ouchie and I found out she kicked the stall because my friend's gelding got to close to her and she was in heat.  She's fine now; she never even swelled up.  As far as pain goes, the most pain she was ever in was the day I got the vet out which was in May.  I hope I didn't say June because I realized elsewhere I wrote June and I meant May (it's been a rough past few weeks and I'm going on no sleep and when you have epilepsy that's the worst combination).  Otherwise she will knuckle her fetlock over sometimes, but most of the time she lays her foot normal but doesn't put full weight on it.  


Thank you so much for your stories!!  I really appreciate hearing them and even talking with LSU today, one of the things I appreciated was hearing that there is so little research (okay, that sounds weird, but let me explain).  The vet said that most horses are not diagnosed until it's too late so people just put them down.  He said it's only until recent that people are even starting to do research and it's slow and arduous.  He told me to stay positive.  I guess what I'm saying is that, like what you wrote above, people misdiagnose or they make assumptions and then when you find a vet that says, "it's okay, let's take this slow and look at it differently" it helps calm you down and give you a better angle on things.  I feel like I can finally breathe a little bit better.  


By the way, I'm so confused about feed right now because I'm hearing all sorts of different opinions and things.  She gets about a quarter of a scoop and she really only gets feed to get her supplements (she actually used to not get feed and only hay.  She gets fat really easily).  We're trying to keep her trim since I've been told to keep weight off of her right now.  Thoughts about feed?  


Even if it is DSLD, I'm going to take things slow and take care of her and I think she knows that.  For being a goofy horse (and she is goofy.  For the longest time I didn't think we would be a good match because I had no confidence and she was a nutcase, but one day, about four years ago we just jelled and now we're glued together... at the brain, ha) she has been a little dream pony about this.  I had never wrapped legs before (and she had never had her legs wrapped like this) and my best friend used to wrap legs at the vet school so one day she taught me and I had to wrap Reffy's legs (it took me eight tries on each leg to get it right!).  And she just stood there like a little pro, watching.  She even put her leg out, as if trying to help me and now when she sees me coming with the wraps she automatically sticks her leg out and puts her foot flat (I was nervous by this stance, but I think it's okay because when I'm done she puts it normal again).  I joke her she likes her 80's leg warmers.  ;)  

Amanda, Please also consider the information on the following link.


I know of very few people who consider that report valid. It's been discredited by those who are most knowledgeable about DSLD/ESPA.

The following discussion about that article is from  http://marimbatlb.blogspot.com/search/label/Peruvian.

The comments about the "Research" section you have a link to are in the second part of the essay, after the "History" section comments. All material after the following quotation marks is from the link, above:


“The comments below are observations made by Gordon DeWolf, PhD, and are published here with his consent.


Guest Post

Recently I was referred to site called Friends of the Peruvian Horse. This site purports to provide the general public with accurate information about Peruvian Horses.

I do not claim to be knowledgeable about Peruvian Horses ¬ but two sections of the site disturb me greatly. The section entitled History seems to be not as carefully researched as it should have been and the site entitled Research Articles seems to be somewhat misleading.

It would seem to me that a website purporting to promote the Peruvian Horse breed should be scrupulously accurate.

My comments on those two sections follow:

The history of the Peruvian Paso Horse, its ancestry and relationship to the Paso Fino Horse.

The horses sent to the West Indies for breeding after 1493 came, for the most part, from the districts of Spain called Andalusia and Estremadura.

Both the modern Andalusian of European and all horses of Spanish extraction in the New World are descendants of the sixteenth-century Spanish jennet, the type of horse then bred in the provinces of Estremadura and Andulacia.² Deb Bennett, Conquerors, p. 159).

The Barb did enter into the ancestry of the Jennet. However the jennet was the product of Barbs crossed onto native Spanish horses, beginning about about 800 AD. (the time of the conquest of Spain by the Moors) The jennet, which was imported to the New World, was what we would, today, call a grade horse of mixed Barb and native Spanish horse ancestry (Deb Bennett, Conquerors, p.130) In general the jennet could both pace and trot. (Deb Bennett, Conquerors, pp. 195-196)

(The Andalusian (as we know it today) dates from well after the takeover of the Spanish throne by Charles 1 of the Netherlands.)

Starting in 1493, horse breeding farms were established in all of the new Spanish colonies in the West Indies and Central and South America.

Nicaragua was settled around 1524-5. Horse breeding began with horses from the farms in the West Indies. These were the horses, raised on the breeding farms in Nicaragua, and Panama that were imported into Peru, beginning with Pizarro in 1531. They represent the same base stock which subsequently became, in Central America, the West Indies, and northern South America, what we now call Paso Fino. Most subsequent importations of horses into Peru were from these same Central American and West Indian sources.

In 1536 Argentina was settled and Spanish horses established there. In 1539, 40 horses from the Nicaraguan ranches were exported to Argentina (Deb Bennett, Conquerors, p 186). By 1830 Argentinean mules (and presumably horses) were driven across the Andes and sold in the horse market in Lima.

In about 1560 it is recorded that there were about 4,000 mares in Peru. Presumably there was then no pressing need to import more horses.

What we, today, call Paso Finos and Peruvian Pasos have developed from the same basic stock. In the West Indies the original Spanish stock was interbred with horses brought, during the colonial Period, from New England and the other British Colonies. In Colombia and the rest of Spanish America, the original Spanish stock was apparently relatively undiluted. Most differences in appearance between Paso Finos and Peruvians are due to difference in climate and hence animal survival up until the early 1800s, and to stylistic selection since that time. As a note, what the Peruvians call termino is a characteristic inherited from the jennet. In Colombia, it is regarded as a fault (Deb Bennett, Conquerors, p 218). In Spain there are (or were) a few lines of Andalusian where it was perpetuated (Sylvia Loch, The Royal Horse of Europe, P. 118).

Friends of the Peruvian Horse, Research Articles

Any meaningful scientific investigation must, to begin with, determine what single thing it is going to investigate. And any meaningful critique of a scientific investigation must critique the particular investigation and not something else.

(1) The phenomenon which has been called DSLD is a degenerative breakdown of the suspensory ligaments and tendons in two or four legs that is not the result of trauma. It is clearly shown in ultrasound scans, and does not "heal" with time (as shown by further ultrasound scans). In early stages it may appear to go into remission (sometimes for periods of months or years), but it always recurs. It is likely that most or all of the so-called cures of DSLD (cases which have been originally verified by ultrasound examination) represent these periods of quiescence which are simply normal in the development of the disease. Use of special supplements or therapeutic hoof trimming has no effect on the progression of the disease, whether or not they have a palliative effect. True cure can only be determined by a change in subsequent ultrasound exams.

DSLD appears to be the end result of physical and physiological changes in an animal, brought about by over production of proteoglycans in the whole body. Depending on the individual animal, the course of the bodily changes may be rapid (the animal showing classic DSLD at an early age) or slow (the animal showing DSLD at an advanced age ¬ 18-20 years or even later). Biopsy of the nuchal ligament is the best way of confirming the diagnosis before classic lameness symptoms appear.

(2) DSLD is to be distinguished from suspensory desmitis which usually occurs in one limb as a result of trauma or excessive stress, which does heal with time and may well not recur under normal use of the horse.

(3) A third phenomenon, related to the first is the determination that all horses with bilateral or quadrilateral DSLD (upright or dropped form) have a hypo production of proteoglycans which, among other things, interfere with normal healing or repair of suspensory tissues.

(4) Horses with bi- or quadri-lateral DSLD may not express the symptoms until the suspensories are stressed. It can, however by detected, in asymptomatic animals, by the use of an ultrasound examination.

Horses which are developing the disease but which do not show symptoms (asymptomatic) will fail a flexion test either on a pair of legs or on all four legs. Horses failing the flexion test on at least two legs should be given an ultrasound test on both legs following the protocol of Dr Mero.

(5) Bi- or quadri-lateral DSLD may first be expressed with an episode of slight, ill-defined lameness which responds to a month or more of rest. The period of normalcy which follows the rest period may continue for many months, until the ligaments are stressed again. This period of apparent normalcy may give the impression that the problem has been cured. Subsequently, lameness may appear in the other pair of legs.

(6) During the periods of normalcy, between episodes of lameness, the horse may be conditioned to perform normally. For example, my horse (for at least two years) could be conditioned to do 5-6 miles per day, 5 or 6 days per week, at about 5 mph for months on end. One day of 8-10 miles, however, would produce a bout of lameness. That amount of condition would be quite enough to allow a horse to compete successfully under show ring conditions. In other words, asymptomatic horses are perfectly capable of performing in the show ring. To put it another way, just because a horse performs well in the show ring does not mean that it does not have the beginnings of DSLD.

Sometimes this period of normalcy may be prolonged by medication which masks the pain, but does not slow the progression of the disease.

It appears that none of the "cures" instanced in either paper were confirmed by ultrasound analysis.

(7) The phenomenon called DSLD seems to be an inherited problem, and inherited in a manner that strongly suggests that it is caused by a single recessive gene.

With regard to the FRIENDS OF THE PERUVIAN HORSE RESEARCH ARTICLES the proposition is made that what has been called DSLD ¬ or what might properly described as bilateral degeneration of the suspensory ligaments - has been used by some people to give the Peruvian Paso breed a bad name.

Four points need to be made. (1) DSLD is not the only physical problem in the Peruvian Paso breed. Over the past 11 years I have had full pre-purchase exams done on 6 Peruvian Pasos, who were apparently sound at the time of the exam. Only 1 of the six proved to be truly sound. I must explain that I was seeking a horse able to compete in competitive trail trials. This requires a horse that is physically and mentally sound. The first horse quickly developed episodes of ill-defined lameness. Subsequent ultrasound exams showed deterioration of the top portions of the suspensory ligaments in both front legs. Over a period of 5 years the lameness increased until, eventually, it was not possible to keep the horse comfortable with drugs, and he had to be put down. The second horse failed the flexion test on three legs. Whatever the nature of his problem, he was not sound. The third horse had OCD in one front leg. The fourth horse had deterioration of the latissimus dorsi muscle on both side of the spine. He also had some sort of physiological problem than made it impossible for him to put on weight. The fifth horse had multiple bone spurs in two hooves. The sixth horse vetted sound and has remained sound for four years.

So, in my experience, 16 % of the horses examined had DSLD, 83% of the horses examined were unsound in one way or another, and only 16% proved to be sound. 16% of horses turning out to be sound on a thorough examination does not speak well for the soundness of the breed. Let me reiterate that all of the horses examined appeared to be sound to the naked eye, and when ridden, at the time of the exam.

(2) Sweeping serious physical bred problems under the carpet will not make the breed more attractive to potential buyers. Selling supposedly sound horses, but horses which are actually unsound, to people new to the breed tells new buyers and prospective new buyers that the people who sell (breed) Peruvian Pasos are either ignorant of their breed, ignorant about horses in general, or are not reliable people with whom to do business. Such people do the reputation of the breed far more harm than those people who acknowledge the breed problems, continue to own and use truly sound Peruvian Pasos and extol the virtues of truly sound horses.

(3) Most, if not all, technical journals expect that the papers submitted for publication will be written by be people knowledgeable in the particular field being discussed, ¬ and those papers are submitted for review to other persons knowledgeable in that particular area of the field for review of facts and conclusions. Snide comments and innuendos about other students in the field are not tolerated. It is expected that an author or a reviewer will provide full and complete data (verifiable facts and figures to substantiate his/her conclusions.

It does not appear that any of the authors of these two papers have expertise in matters veterinary ¬ nor does it appear that people knowledgeable in veterinary medicine have reviewed these papers. Further, it does not appear that the authors have differentiated DSLD from other causes of lameness.

(4) No figures are given as to the number of horses diagnosed with DSLD by verifiable ultrasound examination. No figures are given as to how many horses recover from verifiably diagnosed DSLD ¬ and this recovery verified by ultrasound examination and /or biopsy. No data is presented as to the subsequent use of the allegedly recovered horses. No data is given as to the length of time the verifiably, or allegedly, recovered horses remained sound. No figures are given as to how many horses showing DSLD as verified by ultrasound exams, had developed that condition by poor nutrition, poor farrier care, poor training, poor riding, or any of the other alleged causes of DSLD. Neither are figures given as to the ultrasound verified recovery of these horses.

Lacking ultrasound verified figures, the speculations detailed in these two papers are merely unverified conjectures which serve no useful purpose." 


End of Guest Post from http://marimbatlb.blogspot.com/search/label/Peruvian


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