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


Wound to Back of Lower Limb or Leg

Fetlock Joint Wound & Infected Fetlock Joint Treated with Joint Flushing


The most vital structures in the equine limb are located in the back of the limb. These include the flexor tendons and flexor tendon sheaths, joint pouches and supporting ligaments. There are also large vessels here which may be damaged.

Wounds to the back of the lower limb, on either fore or hind limb, have the potential to be permanently crippling or life-threatening. Even less severe wounds here tend to take a long time to heal because of the high degree of tissue movement in the area. For these reasons, lower limb wounds are the MOST important wounds to handle correctly and aggressively from the beginning.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If lameness is noticeable at the walk.
    • If wounds appear serious or accompanied by swelling or drainage.
    • If the wound occurred within the last 24 hours.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.
    • If the wound occurred over 24 hours ago.

your role


What To Do

Perform the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the rectal temperature, degree of swelling and drainage, and especially degree of lameness at the walk.

You can safely flush most wounds with wound wash saline or dilute antiseptic solution. Dry the area with a dry paper towel, and apply a light dressing over the wound to protect it until your vet can see it. Assess lameness at the walk. Confine your horse to a clean box stall and call your vet immediately. If there is severe bleeding, apply a pressure bandage to control it until your vet arrives.

What Not To Do

Do not apply antibiotic products to the injury, unless advised to do so by your vet. Do not attempt to treat wounds in this area without veterinary involvement.

your vet's role

In almost every case, wounds in this area should be evaluated by your vet as soon as possible. A meticulous veterinary exam and all recommended diagnostics are strongly encouraged. While these diagnostics may add significant expense to your vet bill, this is preferable to missing a critical injury and delaying proper treatment.

The consequences of mismanaging or underestimating injuries in the lower limb include chronic lameness, loss of use or euthanasia. Common diagnostics are radiography, ultrasound and testing of joints and tendon sheaths to determine involvement in the wound.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Where, specifically, is the wound?
  • How old do you think the wound is?
  • Can you send a photo?
  • Is the horse limping or lame?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP