Performance horses may require extra maintenance to
keep their hocks healthy.
THE HOCK is a hind limb joint that is
fundamental to your horse’s movement.
Read on for the five most important things
you need to know about this complex joint.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL
Your horse’s hocks, anatomically
called the tarsus, are the
equivalent of our ankles. One of the
most complex joints in the body, the
hock works to extend and flex the hind
limb and acts as a major shock absorber.
The hock is made up of four smaller joints that
work as a unit. It contains six bones, a host of
extensor and flexor tendons, collateral ligaments,
and an Achilles tendon.
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
The most common problems
encountered with hocks are due
to two things: conformation and
stress from use. Horses with poor
hind-limb conformation, such as
those with sickle hocks or those that
are post-legged, naturally place undue stress on the
Horses that are put into demanding work without
proper conditioning and adequate recovery during
training likely will face hock issues. Sometimes it’s a
combination of these two factors.
The two most common hock problems in the horse
are bone spavin, also called distal tarsal osteoarthritis,
and bog spavin, also called tarsocrural e;usion. The
degenerative joint changes seen with bone spavin
can be seen on X-rays, and horses with this chronic
condition are usually lame to some extent.
Bog spavin is a result of long-term, low-grade
inflammation within the joint, causing increased
production of joint fluid. Horses aren’t always lame as
a result of bog spavin, but the hock will appear swollen.
A veterinarian can drain the swelling, but it is likely to
return if the underlying reason is not addressed.
HOW CAN YOU
HOCKS IN YOUR HORSE?
Reducing concussive injury and
battling inflammation are the two
primary ways to help your horse’s
hocks stay healthy. Maintaining
T O P 5HORSEHOCKF A C T S
HORSE HEALTH » BY ANNA O’BRIEN, DVM