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AskHQ: Swollen legs

Q: My horse’s legs swell overnight in the stable but reduce to normal size after a bit of turnout or exercise. Why does this happen? Do I need to worry?

A: Your horse’s lower limbs can become swollen overnight due to a lack of movement. Horses circulate blood around their bodies through movement, such as when their frogs hit the ground and pump blood back up their legs. Therefore, reduced movement affects the circulation and lymphatic drainage of the lower limb, causing an accumulation of fluid within the tissues making them appear swollen. Bandaging or increased turnout can help to reduce the build-up of fluid. If the swelling resolves with turnout, then this is likely nothing to worry about, and it is, in fact, very common in lots of healthy horses. However, if the swelling remains and doesn’t reduce completely, it may suggest a problem. In these cases, we advise that you contact your vet to discuss the situation.