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By: Dr. Lydia Gray, SmartPak Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian
When a horse "pops" a splint, it means the splint bone and surrounding tissue have become inflamed or swollen. The splint bones are the small bones on the inside and outside of the cannon bone, beginning just below the knee and ending just above the ankle, where they taper to a "button." Causes of "popped" splints which are more common in younger horses--include a direct blow, concussion, poor conformation and improper shoeing. Trainers often protect horses' legs with boots or bandages to help prevent "popped" splints.
Sometimes enlarged splint bones are found on a horse long after they "popped," and once they are cold, hard and "set," nothing may need to be done. However, if a horse becomes acutely lame during or after a workout and pain, heat and swelling are detected in the splint area, a veterinarian should be contacted right away to assist in the diagnosis and treatment. Early management of a "popped" splint may include rest, cold therapy, bandaging and anti-inflammatories.
A "popped" splint that causes significant lameness, is larger than usual or has quite a bit of swelling around it may indicate a more serious problem such as a fractured splint bone or involvement of the suspensory ligament. Ultrasound or other advanced imaging beyond X-rays may be required to confirm the diagnosis. Surgery, injection therapy or other techniques are among the possible treatments for these conditions.
SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse's health. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational.