The fetlock is a key part of the horse’s anatomy. Located in the lower legs, it is a hinge joint that allows the flexion and extension of the joint. This guide provides an overview of fetlock anatomy and outlines some of the injuries that can affect the joint.
Fetlock Joint Anatomy
The fetlock joint connects the long pastern (the first phalanx) to the cannon bone (the third metacarpal / metatarsal in the fore / hindlimb respectively). The joint also includes the sesamoid bones, which are found at the back of the joint.
The fetlock is supported by the suspensory ligament, sesamoid bones and sesamoidean ligaments, which together make up the suspensory apparatus. This is what takes most of the load in the stance phase, when the joint extends as the foot is placed on the ground. The superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) and deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) also have a role in supporting the fetlock joint.
Due to the high load placed on the fetlock joint, and the degree to which it must extend, injuries are common. High speeds, tight turns, jumping and uneven ground can all increase the risk of injury.
Fast work, jumping and quick, sudden turns place even more strain on the joint as these activities demand an even higher range of motion and place a greater load on the joint. It is also possible for a horse to over-extend the fetlock, which can cause injury to the soft tissues that support it.
Uneven, rutted ground can also present a higher risk of injury. Because the fetlock is a hinge joint, it has only minimal range of motion from side to side. This is enough to cope with undulations and changes in ground conditions at a slower pace, but travelling at speed over uneven ground may force the joint to move side to side more than it is usually capable of.
Furthermore, fetlocks can be vulnerable to strikes from the opposite hoof, as well as obstacles and flying stones during exercise. Fractures, bone chips and bruising can all occur as a result of an impact to the fetlock area.
Fetlock injuries can affect the soft tissues, the bones within the joint or the joint itself. Whilst some injuries are the result of a single incident, they can also be the result of long-term wear, overuse or repetitive strain. Horses can recover from fetlock injuries and return to work. However, a period of box rest and rehabilitation will be required. Some conditions, such as osteoarthritis, are degenerative and cannot be cured. However, they can be managed in order to slow the progression and keep the horse comfortable.
The Exoskeleton Fetlock Boots by Cryochaps
The Exoskeleton Fetlock Boots by Cryochaps have been designed to provide excellent protection to the fetlock joint during exercise. FEI and BSJA legal for young horse competitions, our fetlock boots are super lightweight, fast-drying and easy to clean. There are no hooks, clips or buckles, and the fastener does not double back on itself, making these boots super easy to apply and remove. The Exoskeleton fetlock boots are available in black and tan to match our tendon boots.
Cryochaps Ice Boots for Horses
Our ice boots for horses are designed to help kickstart the recovery process after exercise and manage inflammation after injury. Our Cryochaps K2F equine ice boots provide full knee-to-fetlock coverage of the soft tissues, making them ideal for post-exercise recovery. The Cryochaps Absolute Wrap is a handy, super versatile ice wrap for horses. It can be used on fetlocks, knees and hocks, making it handy in the event of an injury. Our ice wraps can also be used as part of the rehabilitation process (under the guidance of your vet). Purchase your Cryochaps K2F equine ice boots or Cryochaps Absolute ice wraps for horses now via our online shop.