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Understanding Splints In Horses - Diagnosis & Treatment

a horse with splint boots on

Splints are certainly a common issue, particularly in performance horses such as showjumpers and eventers. However they can appear on horses of all disciplines, including pleasure horses and even brood mares.

You'll learn about the splint bone anatomy, different types of splints, and their causes.

You'll also recognize signs, treatment options, and prevention methods.

Let's ensure your horse keeps galloping healthily.

Ready to dive into this crucial part of equine health? Let's get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Splint bones are vestigial structures from the horses' prehistoric ancestors and have no apparent function.

  • Injuries to the splint bone area can be extremely painful for horses.

  • Treatment for splints usually involves anti-inflammatory therapy, resting the horse on a soft surface, and using cold therapies and pressure wraps to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

  • Splints can be prevented by gradually conditioning the horse on soft ground, implementing a warm-up and cool-down routine, and using splint boots for leg protection. Healing time for splints can vary depending on severity and may take weeks to months.


splints boots for horses

Understanding the Anatomy of the Splint Bone

You'll find the splint bones in a horse's legs, specifically located laterally and medially to the cannon bone. Though they seem to have no apparent function, they actually play a key role in supporting the carpal and tarsal bones and allowing for extensive freedom of movement.

The medial splint bone and the lateral splint bone are connected by the interosseous ligament to the cannon bone. This ligament is crucial as it contains nerve receptors that detect pain. Injuries to the splint bone area can result in severe discomfort for the horse.

Understanding the anatomy and function of these bones is essential to identify and treat conditions that might affect them, ensuring the horse's well-being and optimal performance.



splint bone diagram

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Common Types of Splints in Equines

In your equine care journey, you'll come across various forms of bone issues, including saucer fractures, true splints, and blind splints to name a few.

When diagnosing splints in horses, understanding the common types of splints in equines is crucial. Saucer fractures often result from overexertion or exposure to rough terrain. True splints, on the other hand, arise from trauma to the interosseous ligament, leading to abnormal bony growth. Blind splints are particularly tricky, as they're less visible yet cause significant discomfort.

Treating splints typically involves rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and sometimes surgery. Remember, splint injuries can severely impact a horse's quality of life, so it's critical to promptly address any signs of discomfort.

Also see more information in this video below:



Medical Treatments for Horse Splints

When it comes to addressing bone issues in your equine friend, a variety of medical treatments are often used, which can include anything from anti-inflammatory therapy to corticosteroid injections. These treatments are designed to manage pain, reduce inflammation, and promote the healing process.


Medical Treatments for Horse Splints Description
Anti-Inflammatory Therapy Used to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
Corticosteroid Injections Helps to lessen inflammation in severe cases.
Splint Boots Provide support and protection to your horse's legs, preventing further harm.
Rest and Rehabilitation Crucial for the healing process, allowing the affected bone to recover.

Home Remedies and Prognosis for Splints

Beyond professional medical treatments, there are also home remedies you can try to help manage your equine friend's condition and speed up recovery. Cold compresses and wrapping the leg can reduce inflammation and provide support for splints in horses. Gentle massage around the area, avoiding direct contact with the splint, can also promote blood flow and healing. Remember, it's important to consult your vet before starting any home remedy.

Prognosis for splints is generally good, especially if detected early. If your horse suffers a splint bone fracture, recovery may be longer but with proper care, a healed splint shouldn't affect their performance.

Keep in mind, prevention is key. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can keep your horse's bones strong and healthy.

Preventive Measures and Healing Duration for Splints

You'll find that careful management of your equine's exercise routine and attention to their diet can serve as effective preventive measures against these painful bone issues, such as splints. It's crucial to note the importance of:

  1. Proper foot trimming: Regular and accurate trimming can prevent undue strain on the ligaments, reducing the risk of splints.

  2. Balanced diet: Essential nutrients can boost overall health, promoting bone strength and reducing the likelihood of splints.

  3. Controlled exercise: Avoid overworking young horses. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of their workouts.

  4. Protective gear: Use splint boots to safeguard your horse's legs during rigorous activities.

Main Causes of Splints in Horses

Understanding the main triggers for these bone issues in your equine pals can help you take preventive measures and reduce their likelihood of occurrence.

Splints occur primarily in young horses due to the stressful demands of training. Poor conformation, such as unbalanced hooves or offset knees, can place undue stress on the interosseous ligament, leading to inflammation and eventually, bone growth. Direct trauma, like a kick or a fall, can also cause splints.

Regularly monitoring your horse's physical condition and promptly addressing any conformation issues can go a long way in preventing splints. Remember, a sudden increase in workout intensity or frequency can overwhelm your horse's adaptation capacity, increasing the risk of splints. So, always maintain a gradual and consistent training regimen.

Identifying the Signs of Splints

If your horse or ponies start to show signs of lameness, especially while trotting, it's a good idea to check for any telltale swelling or heat along the length of their leg bones. This could indicate the formation of splints, a common health issue in horses. Identifying the signs of splints early is key to preventing further damage.

Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Look for Swelling: An unusual bony swelling on your horse's leg could be a sign of a splint.

  2. Feel for Heat: Increased heat around the area where the splint bone forms may indicate soft tissue inflammation.

  3. Observe their Gait: Changes in your horse's gait, like limping, can be a sign of discomfort.

  4. Check for Pain: If your horse reacts when you touch the swelling, it could be a sign of a painful splint.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Splints

When dealing with this common leg issue, non-surgical treatments are often your first line of defense. Splints in horses are usually managed by reducing inflammation and managing pain.

You'll want to rest your horse immediately, limiting its movement to prevent further irritation to the splint area. Cold therapy, such as ice packs or boots, can be applied to reduce inflammation. Your veterinarian might also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs.

Wrapping the leg can help limit bony growth. In some cases, your vet might suggest shockwave therapy, which can stimulate healing without surgery.

It's essential to monitor your horse closely for signs of a fractured splint, as this could require more intensive treatment. Trust in veterinary medicine to guide you through the process.

Authors and Publication Details of 'Splints in Horses

You'll find that 'Splints in Horses' was originally penned by Robert C. McClure, Gerald R. Kirk, and Phillip D. Garrett, who were former faculty members in the Department of Veterinary Anatomy. This comprehensive guide discusses everything you need to know about splints in horses, from understanding the condition to exploring various treatment options.

Here are key takeaways from their work:

  1. Splints usually develop on the medial side of a horse's leg.

  2. Splint bones in older horses can undergo changes, leading to the condition.

  3. The formation of new bone is a common characteristic of splints.

  4. Early detection and appropriate treatment can minimize the impact of splints on a horse's performance.

Providing Feedback on the Blog Post

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Your insights are invaluable in our continued effort to provide comprehensive, up-to-date information on equine health topics such as splints in horses.

As you know, this condition can develop as a horse ages and may require treatments ranging from rest and medication to surgical removal in severe cases.

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Your feedback not only helps us improve, but also contributes to the wider community of horse owners and caretakers.

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Splint Bone: Terminology and Locations

Understanding the terminology and locations of the splint bone in your equine friend's legs is crucial for recognizing and addressing any potential health issues.

  1. Front Legs: Two small splint bones run alongside the cannon bone in a horse's front legs. They provide additional support and are prone to injury or inflammation, known as 'splints'.

  2. Hind Legs: Similarly, the hind legs also contain these small splint bones, but they're less developed than those in the front legs.

  3. Terminology: The splint bones are technically called the second and fourth metacarpal or metatarsal bones.

  4. Location: These bones begin below the knee (front legs) or hock (hind legs) and taper down towards the hoof.

Regular check-ups can ensure the health of your horse's legs, identifying any splint issues early.

Diagnosing Splints: Causes and Procedures

When it comes to diagnosing this particular equine health issue, it's essential to understand the various causes and the procedures involved.

Splints in horses can result from trauma, poor conformation, or even repetitive exercises.

As you're diagnosing splints, look for signs like swelling and heat on the metacarpals or metatarsals. Palpation often reveals pain in the affected area.

A true splint indicates trauma to the interosseous ligament, leading to bony growth. On the other hand, false splints aren't associated with the ligament but are nonetheless troublesome.

Radiographs and ultrasonography can confirm your diagnosis. Remember, early detection is crucial for effective treatment, so stay vigilant for any signs and consult a veterinarian promptly.

Link Between Splints and Lameness in Horses

In your exploration of equine health issues, it's crucial to examine the connection between the development of bony growths on the legs and lameness in our hoofed friends. Splints in horses often result from inflammation or trauma to the splint bone, leading to lameness.

A fresh splint is a bony growth that appears quickly, causing significant discomfort and lameness in horses.

The link between splints and lameness in horses is largely due to the inflammation and pressure this growth places on surrounding tissues, leading to further irritation.

While some horses may show no signs of lameness, a severe splint can cause a noticeable limp or change in gait.

Prompt treatment can reduce inflammation, pain, and the chance of a permanent limp. Always seek expert advice to ensure your horse's health.

Effective Healing Methods for Horse Splints

You'll find that effective healing methods for these bony growths on your equine friend's legs often include anti-inflammatory medication, rest, and sometimes even surgery. Recognizing a splint early in a young horse is crucial, as this can lead to a more successful treatment.

Most horses respond well to conservative treatment, which entails rest and medication to reduce inflammation. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone are commonly used, but all medication should be administered under the guidance of a veterinarian.

If the splint causes severe discomfort, or if there are multiple bony enlargements, surgery may be required. Remember, every horse is unique; therefore, what works for one may not work for another. Always consult with a vet to find the best treatment for your horse.

Recovery, Prognosis, and Prevention for Horses With Splints

Recovering from this type of injury can be a lengthy process, but with proper care and management, your equine friend can bounce back to its former glory. It's important to keep a close eye on younger horses as they're more susceptible to injuries, including damage to lateral splint bones.

Here are some steps you can take for recovery and prevention:

  1. Rest and Recuperation: Give your horse ample time to heal. It's crucial for recovery.

  2. Medication Management: Administer prescribed medications correctly to manage pain and inflammation.

  3. Regular Vet Check-ups: Regular vet visits are essential to monitor the prognosis and adjust treatment plans.

  4. Preventive Measures: Implement good practices like proper warming up and cooling down to prevent injuries in future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Certain Breeds of Horses More Prone to Developing Splints Than Others?

While breed doesn't necessarily increase a horse's risk of developing splints, factors like age, workload, and conformation do. Young, athletic horses with poor conformation are often more prone to this condition.

Can a Horse With Splints Still Participate in Competitive Events?

Yes, a horse with splints can still compete. However, it's crucial to ensure the splint isn't causing pain or discomfort. Regular vet check-ups and proper management techniques will help keep your horse competition ready.

Are There Any Dietary Changes That Can Help in Managing or Preventing Splints in Horses?

Yes, dietary changes can aid in managing and preventing horse splints. Incorporating a balanced diet rich in minerals like phosphorous and calcium can strengthen your horse's bones, reducing the risk of splints.

How Does the Weather or Climate Affect the Occurrence of Splints in Horses?

Cold, wet climates can exacerbate splints in horses as they may slip or strain their ligaments more. Conversely, hard, dry ground can also increase stress on your horse's legs, potentially leading to splints.

Can Splints in Horses Ever Fully Heal on Their Own Without Any Medical Intervention?

Yes, you'll find that some horse splints can heal on their own without medical intervention. However, it's crucial to closely monitor your horse's condition, as complications could hinder the natural healing process.


In conclusion, understanding splints in horses is vital for maintaining their health and performance.

By recognizing the signs, applying suitable treatments, and following effective prevention strategies, you can mitigate the risk and impact of this condition.

With appropriate care and patience, your horse's recovery prognosis is promising.

Keep educating yourself about equine health issues to ensure your horse's wellbeing.

Remember, your horse's health is directly linked to their happiness and performance.

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