Conditions or ailments that are the cause of a problem that you see - your observation.

Your vet may diagnose

Capped Hock

Synonyms: Calcaneal Bursitis


Capped hock refers to swelling of the calcaneal bursa, a synovial structure located at the point of the hock. Usually, it is a self-inflicted injury to the point of the hock due to repetitive trauma, such as kicking a stall wall, fence, or a trailer door. In rare cases, this swelling can appear as a result of an incorrectly placed or excessively tight hock bandage.

This structure becomes inflamed, swollen and filled with fluid in response to injury. Usually, lameness is mild considering the severity of the swelling. Left untreated, however, this condition tends to worsen as a subcutaneous or "false" bursa develops and grows, becoming thickened and painful.

In serious cases, particularly where the swelling has become so large that it causes mechanical lameness, a drain may be placed in the affected area to encourage drainage of the sac, or surgical excision of the fibrous tissue may be necessary. Infection of this area can be serious and hard to treat.

A capped elbow (olecranon bursitis) is a similar process, wherein the bursa of the elbow fills with fluid resulting in a lump. In this case, it usually develops from repetitive pressure on the forelimb from lying on hard ground or poorly bedded stall floors. Called a shoe boil, it also occurs from pressure from the heel of a shoe repetitively traumatizing the area when the horse beds down.

The appearance of capped elbow usually tells the story- there has been severe or repetitive trauma to the point of the hock. X-ray and ultrasound are used to better understand the severity of the problem.

Treatment first must involve prevention of further injury.

my vet's role


If treated early, some cases may resolve. However, it can be hard to get the swelling to disappear, and in many cases, the result in a chronically thickened point of hock and a permanent blemish.

my role

Questions To Ask Your Vet:
  • Is this swelling likely to reoccur?
  • Is this problem likely to cause ongoing lameness?

Consider the use of shipping boots for long trailer trips. If horses are kicking stall walls, change management or pad the walls.

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP