Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Fracture of Olecranon of Elbow

Synonyms: Ulnar Fracture

This is a particularly common injury in foals and young horses that fall on their side or are kicked in the elbow. The mechanics of weight bearing in the front limb involve contraction of the triceps muscle holding the elbow in extension. When the point of the elbow (olecranon or funny bone) breaks off, this function is lost and the horse cannot bear weight. These horses assume a “dropped elbow” stance. There is usually severe swelling of the upper limb and a non weight-bearing lameness.

Veterinary diagnosis is made through x-ray and to a lesser extent, ultrasound.

Treatment is usually surgical. Usually a bone plate is used to reattach the fractured off point of the elbow to the parent bone.

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • Does the configuration of the fracture involve the joint?
  • Is there likely to be long-term lameness or will the horse be sound enough for my intended use?
  • PREVENTION

    In halter training foals, the correct method should be quick, easy and effective and without a great deal of drama and no trauma. Certainly foals should be handled in a way that does not cause them to fall on their sides frequently.
    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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