Lumpy, Bumpy Legs: Is It A Popped Splint?

by | 10.12.2019 | 8:28am

Small metacarpal and metatarsal bones on each side of the cannon bone that run from the knee to just above the fetlock, commonly called “splint bones,” are the remnants of prehistoric equine toes. Horses can damage their splint bones in multiple ways, including from poor conformation, repeated concussion, direct trauma and poor farriery. Damaged splints are called “popped” splints; where the split was damaged will heal with a bony growth, called exostosis. Old splints that are set cause no pain, but splints can be painful and potentially cause lameness when they are fresh, reports The Horse.

More common in young horses, splints can occur in horses of any age. Splints on the inside of the front legs are more common than splint bone injuries on the outside or hind legs. Splint bone injuries are divided into two categories: a popped splint and a fractured splint. Palpation and X-rays are used to determine what category the splint falls into.

Popped splints are more common and present as a fast-growing swelling on the side of the cannon bone. Caused by the tearing of the outer layer of the bone or the ligament next to it, a horse may be lame when he pops a splint, but splints often develop with no signs of pain or lameness.

Fractured splints generally result from direct trauma; some that are on the lower part of the splint bone may require surgery as the pieces move so much the bone cannot heal. Additionally, if the suspensory ligament branch is being damaged by the pieces of bone, removing them may be necessary.

If the splint bone is broken up high, toward the knee, a plate and screws may be used to retain the stability of the joint instead of completely removing the bone. Fractures in the middle of the splint bone generally heal well with a few weeks of rest.

Treatment of splint bone injuries generally involves rest, cold hosing or ice therapy and wraps. Topical or oral anti-inflammatory may also be recommended. If a splint does not respond well to treatment, remaining sore or becoming large, an injection of corticosteroids may be recommended.

Read more at The Horse.

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