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


Wound to Upper Limb or Leg, Generally


Wounds to the equine upper limbs are common, often resulting from fence (wire) related injuries and kicks from other horses. Compared to lower limb injuries, there is less chance that joints or tendon sheaths are involved, so in most cases these wounds are generally less of a concern.

Exceptions to this general rule include wounds to the rear of the limb (hamstring) area may cause injury to the muscle here, resulting in a gait deficit called a fibrotic myopathy. The inside (medial part) of the upper limb is not protected by heavy muscle mass. Injuries to this area can damage major nerves and vessels and can potentially cause severe bleeding and lameness. The stifle joint can be penetrated by a wound, leading to life-threatening infection. In the forelimbs, wounds involving the carpus (knee) are fairly common and can be very serious.

Wounds to the upper limb usually heal well left open with little intervention and with few long-term complications. Mostly, the upper limb has a good blood supply, and plenty of tissue that contracts down in healing to close the wound. Still for the best cosmetic outcome, and to decrease healing time, you may choose to have your vet repair the wound.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you want the wound repaired cosmetically, no matter the cost.
    • If you are concerned by the size and severity of the wound.
    • If severe and obvious lameness is visible at the walk.
    • 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

If an upper limb wound is bleeding heavily, use direct pressure to stop or control the bleeding. In cases in which a horse is very lame, a wound to the upper limb may be accompanied by a fracture.

It is best to contact your vet if your horse sustains a wound to this area. Be very cautious of wounds that are near joints. Take a photo and send it to your vet for discussion.

What Not To Do

Do not apply antibiotic products to the injury, unless advised to do so by your vet.

your vet's role

Your vet will help you decide whether or not to leave an upper limb wound open or have it repaired, and determine whether any other special treatment is indicated.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How long ago do you think this happened?
  • Is the horse limping or lame?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?
  • Is there a flap of skin loose?
  • Does there appear to be muscle involved?
  • Can you send me a photo?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP