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Capped hocks

Text: Dr Luke Poore

Capped hocks are cold, non-painful swellings that develop at the point of the hock, and can be caused by accumulation of excessive synovial fluid in a membrane-lined cavity called a bursa. The bursa is present in the tissues between the superficial digital flexor tendon and the skin as the tendon runs over the point of the horse’s hock. In response to chronic low-grade inflammation, the lining of the bursa may become thickened, excess synovial fluid may be produced and fibrous tissue may form. This low-grade inflammation may be caused by repetitive trauma such as kicking out at a stable wall or a horsebox door.

Treatment of capped hocks initially involves removing the cause of the trauma, for instance using hock boots during transport or deep bedding in a horse’s stable environment. Cold hosing can often reduce the swelling to a degree and vets will often medicate the inflamed bursa with corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation further.