Horses spend a huge part of their day standing, so whether you have a sports horse or a Shetland pony, promoting healthy limbs is essential to his well-being. In addition to daily checks, access to safe stabling with supportive flooring, good quality grazing and dietary supplements all play a significant part in equine leg care. Here we highlight how to check your horse in order to keep his limbs healthy and happy.
What to look for
When checking your horse’s legs you need to use the flat of your hand and run it down the front and back of the limb from the top of the shoulder down over the knee, finishing at the fetlock. Take your time as you follow the contour of the leg, checking for any cuts or grazes sustained and any lumps or bumps. Swellings are often accompanied by heat so ensure that you do not wear gloves when checking as this will reduce your sensitivity. Not all abnormalities require immediate box rest, but if you do spot something unusual, allowing your horse to rest in his stable initially may help speed up his long-term recovery.
What you might find
Cuts and grazes to the legs are common, especially in turned out horses who may have sustained a bite, a kick, or overreached whilst out in the field. Treating leg wounds will depend on the severity of the wound. Many will simply require bathing in a salt water solution and they will heal up on their own accord, whereas deeper wounds accompanied by lameness will require veterinary attention.
Lumps or bumps may be simple bruises, but monitor them closely, checking for growth, heat or lameness in the affected leg. Fast developing, firm bumps may be splints which are basically an inflamed area of bone following the tearing of the fibrous layer of the splint bone. They can be caused by injury, intensive training or poor confirmation, and may or may not present with lameness. Splints can have varying degrees of severity so always consult your vet.
What to do
Sadly, leg injury and lameness can be a frequent feature in life as a horse owner, but there are many way to aid a speedy recovery for your four-legged friend. First and foremost, he will need to rest his limbs, and so will require stabling for a period of time. A sturdy timber stable is ideal, with cushioned supportive flooring. The stable must have a deep bed with high banks for him to lay down in, and be large enough for him to move freely to prevent stiffness. For bruised or inflamed limbs where heat is present, cold hosing or ice packs can be very effective in helping to reduce inflammation and swelling. If symptoms persist or you have any concerns about your horse, then always consult your veterinarian for expert advice.