Our Guide to Fetlock Injuries – and How to Protect Your Horse

Posted on February 20, 2023 by Categories: Cryochaps, Exoskeleton
tendon and fetlock boots

The fetlock is a hinge joint that allows the flexion and extension of the horse’s leg. It connects the long pastern to the cannon bone, and is supported by a network of tendons and ligaments. For more information on fetlock anatomy, take a look at our Guide to the Fetlock. This guide focuses on some common fetlock injuries, and outlines how our fetlock boots and ice boots can help protect your horse’s fetlocks. 

Fetlock Injuries in Horses

Due to the load placed on the fetlock, and the degree to which it must flex and extend as the horse moves, fetlock injuries are common. Travelling at speed, jumping, tight turns and uneven ground can all increase the likelihood of an injury. 

Injuries to the fetlock joint can affect the bones (i.e. fractures or arthritis) or the soft tissues (e.g. sprains and tears). These injuries can be caused by a single event, such as a strike or fall, but they are often the result of frequent wear, tear and damage that accumulates over time. Whilst horses can and do recover from fetlock injuries, their ability to return to full work or competition may be limited depending on the type and severity of the injury. Some conditions, such as arthritis, cannot be cured. However, they can be managed under the guidance of your vet.

Bone Chips and Fractures

Fractures to the pasterns or sesamoid bones are relatively common in racehorses and performance horses. These fractures are often caused by overextension of the fetlock joint, which is more likely to occur when the horse is travelling at speed. The prognosis differs depending on the type and severity of fracture.  

Digital Sheath Tenosynovitis (Windgalls and Windpuffs)

The digital sheath encases the digital flexor tendons as they run along the back of the fetlock joint. Windgalls and windpuffs do not necessarily indicate a problem as they are not usually accompanied by pain or heat. However, swelling of the tendon sheath itself can indicate a problem with either the tendon sheath or the tendons within it. You can find out more about windgalls in horses by reading our blog article.

Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)

Osteoarthritis or DJD is often caused by overuse and wear and tear. Whilst they cannot be cured, these conditions can be managed with medication and an appropriate exercise regime.  

Exoskeleton Fetlock Boots

Common fetlock injuries, including bone chips, fractures and bruising, are often caused by the horse striking the fetlock with the opposite hoof or hitting the fetlock on jumps or obstacles. Whilst these injuries can be serious, using well-fitting, lightweight fetlock boots can help provide protection. The Exoskeleton Fetlock Boots are FEI legal, even for young horse competitions, are super lightweight and provide excellent fetlock protection. The Exoskeleton Fetlock Boots are available in black and tan to match our existing tendon fetlock boots. 

Cryochaps Equine Ice Boots

Ice and compression is already used in human and equine sport and medicine to aid recovery after exercise or injury. Cryochaps ice boots and ice wraps for horses are designed to provide ice and compression in the form of easy-to-use wraps. The Cryochaps K2F ice boot provides excellent knee-to-fetlock coverage. Meanwhile, the Cryochaps Absolute Wrap is ideal for knees, hocks and fetlocks. Both models are quick to apply, allowing you to bring the power of ice bath therapy to your horse, wherever you go.