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Splints

splintThe splint bones are small tapering bones than run along each side of the cannon bones in both the front and back legs. In horses up to 5-7 years of age the splint bones are attached to the cannon bone by a fibrous ligament.  With hard work or a direct knock this ligament can be sprained or torn leading to inflammation and a bony reaction known as a “splint”. In older horses this ligament becomes calcified, making it hard and less flexible, so horses over 8 years of age rarely develop fresh “splints”. 

Initially, a fresh splint is seen as a swollen and sore area on the inside of the cannon region below the knee or hock. The horse may or may not be lame. Over time the injury will develop into a hard bony swelling that usually causes no lameness but does create a blemish on the horse’s leg.

First aid for a fresh splint consists of stable rest and cold therapy. Apply an ice pack as soon as possible under an adhesive pressure bandage for 15-20 minutes 2 or 3 times daily for 5-7 days. This will help to minimise movement and further ligament tearing and the inflammation should resolve within a week. You can also apply a topical anti-inflammatory preparation twice daily for 7-10 days, to help reduce the swelling and pain. 

Alternatively the area can be massaged with a warming liniment starting 2 days after the injury has occurred, to promote blood flow and healing. A poultice can be applied each evening during the first week after the injury. 

If the splint remains enlarged and painful for longer than 7 days consult your vet for advice. Occasionally the splint bone can be fractured if the horse receives a hard knock and your vet may need to X-ray the limb and if necessary remove the fractured fragment.

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