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Horse Splints

May 30, 2008
You know how important it is to check your horse's legs before and after you ride for heat and swelling. If you find hard swelling in the area of the horse's splint bones, your horse may be suffering from splints.

Splints are more common in young horses, and are most often found in the forelegs. Basically, splints are the injury and swelling of the interosseous ligament, which holds the splint bone to the cannon bone.

While overtraining is a common cause of splints, they can also be caused by concussion, direct trauma, poor shoeing, or conformation issues like bench knees. If your horse isn't getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals--if he is lacking in calcium, phosphorous, or vitamins A and D--he is also more prone to splints, especially if he is younger than two years old.

So what are the signs of splints? The two signs that generally show up first are heat and hard swelling along the side of the cannon bone. Your horse may or may not show signs of pain, and the degree of lameness--if any--usually correlates to the degree of inflammation. At some point the swelling will go down a bit in size, but will also become harder because of bone formation. As you notice the size of the splint going down this doesn't mean that the bone formation is getting smaller. As a matter of fact, once your horse has a calcified growth, it will not go down in size. When the growth appears to go down in size it is just because the swelling in the surrounding tissues has subsided. Once the bone calcifies the lameness usually disappears, unless the calcification is positioned so that it interferes with the suspensory ligament, flexor tendons, or carpal joint.

There are several different treatments for splints, so it's best to talk to your vet about what treatment will best work for your horse given his condition. Rest and cold therapy immediately following the tear of the interosseious ligament will help reduce inflammation and therefore bone growth. In addition, the vet may also recommend other treatments to manage inflammation including corticosteroid injections, topical nonsteroidal cream, or bandages over DMSO and Furacin or glycerin and alcohol. Plan on your horse being out for at least 30 days, and sometimes more.

When all is said and done, a case of the splints isn't the end of the world. While the appearance of the limb can be permanently affected, most splints don't cause permanent lameness. Treatment of inflammation as soon as possible can even prevent bone calcification. In cases where an ossification interferes with the suspensory ligament or carpal joint, surgery may be required. Only in relatively few cases, for example when the suspensory apparatus to the back of the cannon and knee is damaged, do splints cause permanent lameness.

Keeping your horse in moderate training and not overdoing it, especially if he is young, is the best prevention against splints. Be sure to check your horse's legs before and after every ride, and if you notice heat and swelling take immediate action. Remember, the sooner you act the less likely it is that splints will cause long-term damage.

Want to learn more about splints and other leg issues? Just visit our equine resource links below and add them to your favorites or bookmark them around the web!

Thanks
About the Author
Ron Petracek was raised in Southern Idaho with horses and the great outdoors. With this continued passion He now shares through a a vast equine network. Learn more by clicking the links below. Amazing Equine Network System - Buy Sell or trade anything equine related. Get More Horse Classified coverage and distribution with less cost and work. Award Winning Horse Forum.
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