Hock Injuries


“I have been soaking his hocks in ligament,“…

I recently started jumping my horse, which puts a lot of stress on his hocks. A few days ago I noticed that he would flinch when I rubbed the curry comb on his hips. So I got a friend and long time horse owner to look at him. She pushed on both sides on his hips (she said they were hock points). He immediately sucked his butt up under him. I’ve been soaking his hocks in ligament, and will give him Bute for a few days (I have a horse show I’m taking him to Sunday) along with gently massaging his back.

What I would like to ask is; should I take him to a chiropractor, a vet, or a hock specialist?

Dr. Kimberly Gryl’s Answer:


A licensed veterinarian should ALWAYS be your first choice when you are seeking any medical advice about your horse. And I urge you to use caution when seeking out a chiropractor – make sure that person is a licensed veterinarian, and NOT a human chiropractor who does horses “on the side”. The two species are not comparable.

As far as your horse’s back soreness, there are other reasons for it besides his hocks. A thorough lameness examination will narrow down the affected areas, and the diagnosing veterinarian will then work through a treatment plan. Jumping is hard on virtually every joint in the body, not just the hocks. It is easy to focus on those and overlook other areas which may be just as much or more painful than the hocks.


“My Vet advised me that the remaining swelling will probably permanent. It has been 9 months since the injury,”…

Background info: I have a 19 year old gray mare who was diagnosed last June with a Streptococcus infection in her right hock. The joint swelled and there was acute lameness. It was flushed with antibiotics. With the exception that she has to be coaxed (and not always successfully) to lift her right hoof for cleaning, there is now, no sign of lameness. She gallops when turned out and rolls with little problem bringing herself to her feet. The swelling went down but never completely even though subsequent x-rays appeared to show no major damage. My Vet advised me that the remaining swelling will probably permanent. It has been 9 months since the injury, and I’ve started riding her lightly once or twice a week for 45 min. (no galloping and only a very short trot). Although she shows no signs of pain while riding, She seems perfectly happy and one could never tell she was injured if not for the swollen hock. I’m worried that a sudden movement or shift in weight could be catastrophic. My Question: Should I continued to ride her or retire her?

Dr. Jack Sales’ Answer:

Hi Duncan,

You should’t worry about a possibility of any catastrophic occurrence from any sudden shift in weight or anything like that. At this stage, you should be able to ride her as you have been with no worry of untold effects. I would say that all healing is complete and any chance or a re-ocurrence of an infection or problem with the hock is unlikely. Her age is more of a concern as far as hard work is concerned. She does not have to be retired. Good luck and I hope this helps.


“Our vet said that my daughter’s 6 yo Warmblood had a hematoma in his rear hock..”…

The vet said it would improve w/in a couple weeks but it has now been almost a month and he still has swelling and periodic heat. I am questioning the diagnosis.

Dr. Kimberly Gryl’s Answer:


The hock is a large area (relative to the rest of the hind limb), and a complicated area, containing 4 joints. I am assuming that your veterinarian does not think it is involving the joint, or else there would likely have been joint flushes and heavy-duty antibiotics involved in the treatment. What treatment has been done thus far? The location of the hematoma is helpful to know, as its proximity to certain structures may be important. Has the lump been drained, tapped, or infiltrated in any way? Does the lump change in size? Did the lump appear in correlation to any event (hard ride, kick/trauma)? What about any other diagnostic tests? I am unsure of how to really answer this question for you. Perhaps you should seek a second opinion, or at least have your veterinarian re-evaluate it, possibly with an ultrasound or x-rays. Good luck. Please let me know what happens.


“She is a promising barrel racing prospect, although she suffered an unknown injury. “…

Currently I own a 1 year 9 month old filly. She is a promising barrel racing prospect, although she suffered an unknown injury. She has a severely swollen right hock. She been taken to the vet twice, first they said that her hock had been punctured and the second time they came to a conclusion that her hock has suffered from trauma. She’s had multiple antibiotics, fluid drained, dmso- cortizone- and etc.mixed together and applied yet nothing at all helps or makes a difference. Her barrel racing career is in jeopardy and we’re out of ideas. Any advice?

Dr. Jack Sales’ Answer:

Hi Marley,
I wish I could be more positive, but with that much involvement with the hock joint, it is highly unlikely that the horse will be able to compete at a high level in her future. You haven’t said if she is lame or how lame she is, but even if she shows no lameness at a walk, this area will affect her when she is performing. I wish I could be of more help.


” Towards the end of her 1st month of pregnancy she developed a bone spur on her hock. “…

I have a 12 year old QH mare that is 6 months pregnant. Towards the end of her 1st month of pregnancy she developed a bone spur on her hock. I am unsure how she initially injured her hock. I am watching her feed intake very carefully. I also have her on a mare vitamin supplement and a joint supplement that is safe for pregnant mares. Since the cold winter weather has hit, she has been more lame than usual. She is restricted to stall rest now, and is allowed out in the pasture on nice days for an hour a day. My vet has advised against the use of steroids. What else can I safely be doing to make her comfortable. How much exercise is good or bad?

Dr. Jack Sales’ Answer:

Hi Katie.
It sounds as if the pasture exercise that you are offering her is not too much. I would not add any more exercise to that plan. The supplement is helpful. Any other medication for soreness or lameness should be checked out with your regular Vet. If she is getting worse it may be worthwhile to have the hock x-rayed to determine the exact nature of the injury. Many topical and oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are available that can be used judiciously on pregnant mares and can be helpful. Good luck.


“I haven’t done a prepurchase yet …….. If I was to do one though, what would you suggest? “…


I am leasing (with the option to buy) a 6 yr. old TB gelding. I have had him for a few months now and ride/jump him consistently. He is super sound and his previous owners (who I know-they got him off the track as a 3yr old) have never had any lameness issues with him. That said, I recently had a chiropractor look at him (mostly because I figured “Hey, it can’t hurt”). She said that he is beyond chiropractic care and will need hock/stifle injections. I was taken aback by this because he has done a little of everything (jumpers, xc, etc) and is always sound and happy. Also, I was under the impression that hock fusing is a painful process and would cause him to be lame. He does seem to have a “hunter’s bump” though it is not sore and doesn’t seem to cause any problems right now. I haven’t done a prepurchase yet because I am not sure if or when I am going to buy. If I was to do one though, what would you suggest?


Dr. Kimberly Gryl’s Answer:


I can never recommend you use a chiropracter unless that person is a veterinarian. ONLY a veterinarian will truly understand all there is to understand about equine chiropractics, because chiropractic is only one portion of the whole horse’s treatment. That said, take your recommendation accordingly (about the hocks, etc.).


If the horse has been going well for you thus far, and you are considering buying him, a Pre-Purchase Examination will tell you about the horse in depth medically. A thorough physical examination, including lameness, will be done. After this, you will be offered additional testing, such as blood work, Coggins, x-rays, and maybe ultrasound; all dependent upon the findings of the physical exam. Of those, I recommend that you have him Coggins tested (or make sure he has one within the last year); also x-rays if indicated. Because he came off the racetrack, he is at risk to have more problems than the average backyard horse. Most people who have x-rays taken at least do the front feet and the hocks. The more sites you x-ray, the more information you have to make a good decision. Keep in mind that there may underlying problem(s) that you may not see now, but may develop down the road. The more you look, the more you will know.


“The vet put her out and tied a rope around her hind legs and pulled her out with a pick up truck. “…


I have a horse that is 12 years old and I had her bred. The vet went to check to see if she took and as they had her in the stalks to check her, she freaked out and tried to jump out of the stall and it tipped over with her in it and she tried to climb through the stall and she got stuck. The vet put her out and tied a rope around her hind legs and pulled her out with a pick up truck. Ever since then her hind legs have been swollen. One of her hind legs swelled up all the way up her leg to the top of her rump. That is better now, but she is still swollen up to her hock. What part of her anatomy seems to be affected? Is there anything I need to do to get it better?


Dr. Kimberly Gryl’s Answer:


I am so sorry to hear of your ill fortune. The scenario that happened to you is one of the worst nightmares for a veterinarian. Stocks are the safest way to preg-check a mare, and most mares do fine, but there are some that over-react, as yours did. Because of the horse’s large size, it is difficult to easily move them. It sounds like your veterinarian did what he determined to be the right thing at the time. Despite all the best care, a large amount of stress to the pregnant mare may cause her to abort.


That said, the swelling can be cold-hosed 3 times daily, for 15 minutes each time. Low-key, low-impact exercise (walking) will help to keep her from stiffening up too much and becoming more sore. Massage, if she will tolerate it, will help to drain the excess swelling (if it is fluid), and anti-inflammatories will aid in swelling and pain reduction. The leg below the hock is tendons and ligaments, and joint pouches. These may or may not reduce in size, depending on specific injuries to each one.


Regardless of these guidelines, make sure that you are following your veterinarian’s advice and instructions. He/she is the best one to make the call for your mare, and is the treating doctor. In the future, you may want to ask the veterinarian to sedate your mare before any procedures like this one.


“I have a retired STB pacer that had some bone chips removed as a youngster, now he’s having some soundness issues in the same area”

Had him scanned and he’s got a pretty decent bone spur on his lower hock in an area that is inoperable. I’m interesting in trying shockwave therapy on him as suggested by several people I have spoken w/ that have had OTTB’s w/ bone spurs and this helped remove the spur. Is this something that would help the problem? Also where do I find a vet in my area or state that provides this service? How does this therapy work? I want him to be as comfortable as possible and he has had both hock injected to temporarily relieve any inflammation. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Jack Sales’ Answer:

Hi Kelly,
Shock wave therapy has been helpful for a number of chronic joint conditions, such as bone spurs. It is not always a permanent cure, but can relieve the pain for an extended period sometimes. Most Veterinarians that would have a shock wave unit would be strictly equine Veterinarians, and your best bet to find one in your area would be to phone all the equine Vets in your area and ask them. Most lower joint hock bone spurs will respond to a fusion of the lower hock joints, and a surgeon would be the one to ask about your particular case.
I hope this helps and good luck. Dr. Sales


One Response to "Hock Injuries"
  1. E.Guard says:

    My 6 yr old has damaged his hock capsule – that’s what vet, physio and myself think at present. He was on 11 days box rest & Danilon, grdual turn out initially in small paddock, then backin his. Several weeks off work etc -swelling practically gone,no heat – ultrasoud done – only 2 small pockets of fluid either side of capsule. No injection given/needed. He has also been wearing a hock boot when in stable. Vet said to start ridden wrok again – approx 20-30 min on the flat in walk only. Ridden approx 4 times now – first 2 times with hock boot, 2nd two times without. Following the last 2 rides (Sun, mon off, tue ridden again) – we had heat and an increase in swelling again. This is now improving again. He still seems a little sore though. He was only lame for 2 days when it initially happended. No history of arthirtis, although concerned this could be developing???
    I never noticed any issues prior to this other than that e didn’t like going down a steep road straight – tried to walk side ways. Hock has never been swollen before the above incident.
    My question is -
    - how long does recovery take till hopefully back to proper ridden work?
    - during the healing process – does it flare up again an ddoes heat return?
    -should i be doing ridden work?

    Any info would be helpful

    Currently – cold hosing / cold wrap regulary and therapy hock boot when stabled. He also gets suplements for his joints and vit&min.

    Thank you


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