By: Dr. Lydia Gray

What is it?

When a horse "pops" a splint, it means the splint bone and surrounding tissue have become inflamed or swollen. The splint bones are the small bones on the inside and outside of the cannon bone, beginning just below the knee and ending just above the ankle, where they taper to a "button." Causes of "popped" splints which are more common in younger horses--include a direct blow, concussion, poor conformation and improper shoeing. Trainers often protect horses' legs with boots or bandages to help prevent "popped" splints.

What can be done about it?

Sometimes enlarged splint bones are found on a horse long after they "popped," and once they are cold, hard and "set," nothing may need to be done. However, if a horse becomes acutely lame during or after a workout and pain, heat and swelling are detected in the splint area, a veterinarian should be contacted right away to assist in the diagnosis and treatment. Early management of a "popped" splint may include rest, cold therapy, bandaging and anti-inflammatories.

What else do I need to know?

A "popped" splint that causes significant lameness, is larger than usual or has quite a bit of swelling around it may indicate a more serious problem such as a fractured splint bone or involvement of the suspensory ligament. Ultrasound or other advanced imaging beyond X-rays may be required to confirm the diagnosis. Surgery, injection therapy or other techniques are among the possible treatments for these conditions.

About Dr. Lydia Gray

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