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How to inspect your horse's legs!

Your horse’s legs are a vital part of his health, and it can take only a few minutes a day to make sure everything is normal and good. If you find something during a leg inspection, it’s often in the very early stages and you can nip it in the bud. All you need is your hands, eyes, and a few minutes.  Leg inspections are best done first thing in the morning during the first chores.  As you toss hay, feed buckets, fill water buckets, you can do a visual exam of the legs.  For horses that tend to stock up at night, remove the standing wraps (if you use them) at this point and see how the legs look.




Use both hands and your eyes...and sometimes even your nose. 


If all looks well on the visual exam, don’t skip feeling the legs. A great time to touch and feel the legs is when you are first picking out hooves. This gives you a chance to make sure the shoes are where they are supposed to be.  If your horse is barefoot, it gives you a chance to check for chips or snags along the hoof edge.  This also your chance to make sure there is no discernible heat in the hoof.  Heat in the hoof could be nothing, or it could be an abscess, or it could be life threatening laminitis. Finding these things early lets you intervene early and increases the chance of a positive outcome. 


Picking the hooves also gives you the chance to do a quick run down of the legs and tendons.  In the cross ties, you can go over the legs once again more thoroughly in proper light.  Inspect your horse’ss legs from the elbow and stifle down, as you can find shoe boils in the elbows that way.  Use both hands on each leg and look for the following:

  • Heat


  • Swelling


  • Possible windpuffs or a change in existing windpuffs


  • Cuts and scrapes


  • Bugs (like ticks)


  • Warm or hot hooves (a sign of laminitis)

Don't skip the hooves - look for heat, swelling, tweaked shoes, stones, etc. 


  • Areas of tenderness


  • Dry/flaky skin


  • Anything new


  • Scratches or pastern dermatitis


  • Splints

For the most part, the everyday stuff like scrapes or bugs can be taken care of easily. You will need to decide if swelling, heat, or tenderness warrants a call to your Veterinarian.  These are often signs of soft tissue injuries, which can be as simple as a tiny cut that gets swollen or a major tendon tear.