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How To Detect And Treat Hock Or Stifle Soreness

Any time your horse shows signs of pain or stiffness in their joints it can seem to come out of nowhere. Horses generally avoid showing signs of pain, so by the time you notice a change in their gait it may be difficult to link soreness to a specific event.

What’s more, it can be difficult to distinguish between pain in your horse’s hock or their stifle, making it harder for you to create an effective treatment plan. By closely observing your horse’s gait, you may be able to determine what’s causing them to slow down.

Signs of stifle pain in horses:
Your horse’s stifle joint is located on each of their rear legs, it’s similar to a human’s knee joint. When your horse has a sore stifle, you might notice that they:

  • May avoid putting their weight on affected leg
  • Stands with stifle joint rotated outwards
  • Drags toe while they walk
  • Struggles with going downhill
  • Seem weak, almost collapsing while riding

Signs of hock pain in horses:
Your horse’s hock joint is the equivalent of the human ankle. When your horse experiences soreness in their hock, you might notice that they:

  • May avoid putting their weight on affected leg
  • May point the affected leg
  • May pull the affected leg under their body
  • Seem to be stiff or have jarring movements while riding

Treating Hock And Stifle Soreness In Horses
Soreness or stiffness in your horse’s joints after exercise can be caused by arthritis, sprains, tendonitis, or bursitis. Giving your horse time to warm up before exercise, then cool down afterwards, can help minimize joint injuries and soreness. You can also give your horse a supplement like vet-recommend Cosequin ASU for Horses to help protect their joints.

Even so, it’s expected for most horses to experience joint soreness at some point with normal wear and tear.

You can cool down inflamed joints with ice packs or cold hosing therapy. Applying cold water or ice to the affected joint can reduce inflammation and help soothe pain. Only use ice or cold water for up to thirty minutes at a time, as overusing cold therapy can make inflammation worse.

If your horse's hock or stifle soreness persists, your veterinarian may need to run some x-rays or other tests to determine the underlying cause and the severity of the injury. They can prescribe NSAIDs to control inflammation and help promote healing so your horse can start to feel better.