What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Wound at or near Carpus (Knee)


The carpus, commonly called the knee by horsemen, is really the horse's wrist. This area is complicated anatomically, and is made up of 3 separate joints, many small bones, and multiple tendon sheaths and tendons.

Wounds to this area are fairly common. Because there is little more than skin over tendon and bone, wounds often involve important structures. The risk of infected joint or tendon sheath is high in this area. A common scenario is a kick wound to the front face of the carpus. Even a small wound here is likely to penetrate the extensor tendon sheaths, causing a stubborn infection which can be difficult to treat.

The severity of wounds to the carpus depends on which, if any, of the structures are involved in the wound. Healing in this area is complicated by the very high motion of the area, very little free skin available for repair, and a generally poor blood supply.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If lameness is noticeable at the walk.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you are convinced that the injury is minor and you notice no lameness or other problem.

your role


What To Do

If your horse has suffered a wound at or near their carpus, promptly contact your vet. Take a photo of the injury and send it to your vet for discussion. For the reasons listed above, early diagnosis and treatment of wounds in this area provide the best prognosis for the horse.

your vet's role

Your vet's most important concern when dealing with wounds here is ensuring that the wound has not penetrated joint or tendon sheath. They do this through clinical exam, assessment of fluid from joints and tendon sheath, and pressurizing these structures by injecting sterile fluid into them, and looking for leakage from the wound.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When do you think the wound occurred?
  • When did you first notice the wound?
  • Is the horse limping or lame?
  • How severe do you think the lameness is?
  • Is the lameness noticeable to you at the walk?
  • Is there any swelling in the area?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP