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Splint Bone Fractures in Horses

Date Published: 12/06/2010

If you have horses, you have probably heard of the splint bone or splints but may not know where the bones are located or what problems can develop with them.  The splint bones are on the inside and outside of the horse’s front and rear legs.  These small, long and thin bones begin at the bottom of the knees and hocks and extend almost to the fetlocks.  One problem that can happen with these bones usually occurs in young horses when they begin training.  Sometimes hard training can cause the bones to develop inflammation at the sites of attachment to the large bones between the knee and fetlock. This is the condition called splints.  Inflammation at these attachment areas can cause swelling, lameness, and pain and most of the time rest is a successful treatment. 

The other common problem with these bones is fractures that are usually caused by traumatic injuries such as kicks from other horses.  Some of these fractures can be mild and heal without any treatment while others require major surgery.  A recent paper out of Switzerland in Equine Veterinary Education indicated that for the top portion of the splint bone, the bone on the outside of the leg was mostly involved and generally these fractures were open and contaminated.  Surprisingly, most of the horses in this study were treated without surgery.  However, if the bone is unstable, a steel plate may be required on the bone to allow healing.  Fractures of the middle and lower portion of the bone that are displaced must be treated surgically or removed.  A common problem with these injuries is the suspensory ligament is adjacent to these bones and injury to this structure can also occur.     

Hear the audio of this program at the Texas Farm Bureau Network.