Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Fracture of Femur & 3rd Trochanter Fracture

The femur is the upper hind limb bone, between the stifle joint and the hip joint. Fracture of this bone is rare because of the massive amount of muscle covering that protects this area. This fracture tends to occur when a horse falls on its side, and is more commonly seen in foals.

The third trochanter is a bony outgrowth of the femur, upon which gluteal muscles insert. It too, can be fractured off in a fall or major impact. This particular fracture carries a much better prognosis than a fracture of the whole femur.

Radiography is a limited diagnostic tool due to the massive musculature in this area in adult horses. Ultrasound can be used to identify a fracture in some cases.

Prognosis & Relevant Factors

Prognosis depends upon the specific nature of the fracture, and the degree of displacement once healed.

Foals with non-displaced fractures may do well either with box stall rest or surgery.

Fractures of the third trochanter have a good prognosis with time and rest.

For full fractures of the femur, the prognosis is poor for return to athletic soundness. Generally, the larger the horse, the poorer the prospects for repair.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


Bertoni L, Seignour M, de Mira MC, Fractures of the third trochanter in horses: 8 cases (2000-2012) J Am Vet Med Assoc 2013: 243(2):261-66.Higgins AJ, Snyder JR eds. The Equine Manual. 2nd Ed. Edinburgh: Elsevier Saunders 2006.


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