13 Mar 2020

Elite Equine and Post-workout Leg Care: Part 1 – Learn His Legs


With the last day of Cheltenham upon us and Keysoe CDI Championship in full swing, it seems fitting to look at a few ways in which you could take care of your horse’s legs after an extensive workout.  Our friends at EQUUS Magazine shares this insight:

“The design of your horse’s legs helps make him an athlete. His bulkier muscles are on his upper body, so his limbs are streamlined and relatively lightweight. Yet this efficiency has a cost—there’s not much protecting the joints, tendons and ligaments from the knee down.

And many riding activities ask a lot of these vital structures. Studies have shown, for instance, that a galloping horse’s superficial digital flexor tendons are utilized to near their failure threshold. It’s no surprise that equine legs are so prone to injury.

But you can minimize your horse’s risk in a variety of ways, including being careful about footing, taking time to warm up properly and avoiding working him to exhaustion. And these efforts don’t have to stop when you dismount.

In fact, how you care for your horse’s legs after a workout can make a big difference in his short- and long-term soundness. Effective post-workout leg care combines action with attentiveness: taking specific measures while keeping an eye on particular things. Here’s what you need to do:


Before talking about liniments, hosing or wraps, we need to start at the foundation of leg care, which is establishing what is normal for your horse and noticing when things aren’t the way they should be. To recognize whether a bump discovered after a ride is new, you’ll need to know if it was there the day before.

A leg inspection is easy to do and doesn’t take long.

  • Stand your horse in an area with good light, with a helper if he isn’t likely to be patient.
  • Then, run your hand down the length of each of his limbs, from elbow to coronary band.
  • Take time to explore the contours of his knees, hocks and fetlocks, feeling the anatomy underneath the skin and familiarizing yourself with the bony knobs and bumps.
  • Pinch your fingers together slightly as you run them down the back of his leg. This will give you a good feel of the tendons.
  • Locate the thin splint bones sitting on either side of each cannon bone and feel their length until they taper off down the leg.
  • Don’t forget the coronary band: Walk your fingers around its circumference, feeling where the firmness of the hoof and softness of the limb merge.

As you go along, stop and investigate anything unusual like ruffled hair, softness on a joint, or a lump on what you’d expect to be a smooth surface. If your horse is sound, chances are these are normal for him, perhaps evidence of earlier, healed injuries. (Point them out the next time your veterinarian visits for a professional opinion.)

Make a mental note of each unique feature. If it helps, write an actual note or take a picture with your phone. By doing this check daily on each leg, as part of your grooming routine (or at another time when you aren’t distracted), soon you’ll have learned the unique landscape and quirks of your horse’s limbs.

You’ll also want to practice feeling your horse’s digital pulses. An artery runs down either side of the sesamoid bones, on the outside edge of the fetlock joint. You can feel it under your fingertips as a cord-like structure that “rolls” slightly as you drag your fingers across the skin. Apply slight pressure to feel the pulse through the artery, and practice on all four limbs.

Now that you know what normal is for your horse, you’re ready to tackle the most important part of post-workout leg care: The after-ride inspection.

More about this in Part 2 next week.” [1]

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To read more, or to place an order, please visit our website at


Image by Freepics4you from Pixabay