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


Wound to Lower Limb or Leg, Generally


Lower limb wounds (below the carpus or hock), are extremely common in horses. These wounds can be serious given the vital structures located just below the surface of the skin. The absence or presence of lameness is a helpful indicator of severity. Keep in mind, however, that lameness may not be immediately obvious, especially with joint and tendon sheath wounds in which infection takes time to develop.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If this is a wound of a critical structure and you feel the horse's life and health are at risk.
    • If you are concerned by the size and severity of the wound.
    • If lameness is noticeable at the walk.
    • If wounds appear serious or accompanied by swelling or drainage.
  • 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

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to rectal temperature, and the presence or absence of lameness. Lower limb wounds should almost always be evaluated by your vet.

If it will be long before your vet will arrive and your horse is not lame, talk to your vet about cleaning and bandaging the wound. Wound factors to consider are location, degree of swelling and drainage.

What Not To Do

Do not apply topical ointments to the injury, unless advised to do so by your vet. Do not treat wounds that are causing lameness without examination by a vet. Do not use harsh chemicals or antiseptics when cleaning the wound.

your vet's role

Your vet rules out involvement of important structures of the limb using physical exam, and examination of the wound and the nearby structures. Vets may test nearby joints and tendon sheaths by sampling fluid in these structures.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Where, exactly, is it located? Can you provide a photo?
  • Is the horse limping or lame?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?
  • When do you think the wound occurred?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Can you send a photo?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP