Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Rope Burn, Uncomplicated Pastern Abrasion

Rope burns are common injuries to the rear of the pastern area. Due to the mechanics of the limb, a rope around the limb usually ends up sliding down into this area.

If a horse struggles against a rope, the friction abrades and burns the skin. This causes wounds that are usually fairly superficial and usually only cause short term pain and swelling. Hobbles can also injure this area if a horse struggles against them.

Rope burns occasionally involve the flexor tendons or the tendon sheath right under the skin in this location (digital flexor tendon sheath). This completely changes the approach to treatment and the prognosis.

If a horse with this type of wound suddenly develops severe lameness, an important structure could be involved and immediate veterinary assessment is necessary.

Rope burns can be mistaken for bacterial or fungal conditions of the pastern (scratches or greasy heel).

For the typical injury: Over several days, the outer layers of skin will peel off, leaving raw skin underneath. This is painful for several days but then usually dries out, and swelling decreases.

An examination of the injury usually reveals whether or not the skin is penetrated and other structures injured. In severe wounds, a vet may use ultrasound to assess the flexor tendons.

Treatment of uncomplicated rope burn can involve topical application of antibiotic or steroid containing ointments, or a variety of herbal preparations. NSAIDS may give the horse pain relief and relieve swelling over a few days.


  • Are important structures involved in this injury?

    Teach horses to yield to pressure, and to hobble, so that they do not struggle when their limbs are trapped. Good management and husbandry. Tie horses properly so that the limbs do not become entrapped. Generally, do not leave horses dragging a lead rope.

    Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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