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


Clicking or Snapping of Hind Limbs at Walk


As you walk your horse forward, you notice snapping or clicking sounds that sound as though they are coming from the hind legs.

Equine joints can snap and click even when there is nothing wrong with the horse. These sounds are more common in older horses (and older people too). Their origin is incompletely understood but some may arise as tendons move through their tendon sheaths- possibly from compression of nitrogen bubbles in joints or tendon sheath fluid, or from ligaments and joints as they move in and out of weight bearing.

More of a "popping sound" could indicate that the horse's limbs or hooves are contacting (mostly forging) at the walk.

If your horse is otherwise healthy and shows no signs of lameness, there is probably no need to do anything to address mild clicking or snapping at the walk.

But there could also be an important cause. And it might not be something you can detect. For this reason, I believe that every horse should be evaluated (at least once per year) by your vet, to ensure that the horse is sound and able to do its job. This is the kind of observation that you could bring to your vet's attention at the time of the exam.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you notice any lameness or have any other concern.
    • If there seems to be pain, swelling or lameness.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and look at their limbs for swelling or other abnormality. Consider whether you notice lameness at walk or trot. Compare the two hind limbs carefully, looking for swelling or other abnormalities. Look carefully at the limbs from the side as the horse walks. Is there limb to limb contact?

If the horse seems lame, is at all reluctant to walk, the limbs are making contact (like forging or over-reaching) or there is heat or swelling anywhere on your horse's limb or limbs, your vet should examine the horse.

Many people put their horses on joint supplements, thinking they may help overall joint health. But there is a dizzying array of them to choose from and there is real debate about how well they work. Certainly they might not make a difference to your horse's creaky legs. If you want to try a joint supplement, talk to your vet first about which (if any) joint supplement they recommend.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that clicking limbs will benefit from the use of supplements. Do not assume that clicking limbs actually need to be treated.

your vet's role

Your vet will probably have you move the horse in a manner that causes the sounds to be produced. They will likely examine the limbs, looking for abnormalities that could be associated with the sounds. They will also probably want to perform a brief lameness exam.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Is the horse limping or lame?
  • Do you see any swelling or any other abnormality?
  • Have you recently changed how you manage or work the horse?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?
  • Have you tried any treatments?
  • How aggressive do you want to be in treating this?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • What treatments have you tried and how did they work?

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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP