Injuries in any sport come with the territory and horse racing is no different.

Racehorses are pushed to tremendous speeds that require optimum conditioning and a good slice of luck to avoid injury.

Inevitably they will come, and the early detection of racehorse injuries, especially minor ones, is critical to prevent them becoming more serious and expensive ones.

Tendon, ligament and joint injuries tend to arise most often.

Here are some of the most common racehorse injuries likely to be suffered throughout their careers which can occur in both competition or training.

Flexor tendon injuries

These are caused by direct impact or overstraining of the tendon.

A horse’s lower limbs has two flexor tendons with the superficial digital flexor tendon (often known as the ‘bowed tendon’) more prone to injury than the deep digital flexor tendon.

Typically, swelling in the tendon will suggest injury which is confirmed with an ultrasound.

A course of anti-inflammatories and rehabilitation is the most common treatment.

Ligament injuries

The suspensory ligament is one of a racehorse’s most important but also most commonly injured ligaments.

It is a strong support ligament that runs from the back of the horse’s cannon bone immediately below their knees.

The ligament then splits into two before wrapping around behind the ankle and arriving at the pastern bone beneath it.

It works by helping cushion the load on a horse’s ankles.

But it is prone to both minor tears and major ruptures.

Jumps horses are especially vulnerable to these injuries which can lead to bone fractures.

Joint afflictions

Inflammation of joints and arthritis are common but thankfully minor racehorse injuries that can occur in both competition and training.

Signs of stiff and sore joints are the primary indicators among Thoroughbreds while racehorses may show an obvious decrease in performance.

Rest is usually the best remedy – initially up to 10 days without running for an inflamed joint.

This may need to be extended to a month in some cases.

Bone fractures

Sadly, bone breaks and fractures account for more horse fatalities than anything else.

Most in racehorses are the result of excessive speed or duress.

Depending on their location and severity, some are simply impossible to address.

But fractures to some long bones can now be repaired with surgery.

A condylar fracture is the most common which occurs on either side of the centre of the leg at the base of the cannon bone.

Sesamoid fractures at the back of the ankles can be more problematic and serious depending on their severity.

Osteochondral fragments or bone chips occur within or around joints, most commonly in the front fetlocks and knees.

Arthroscopic surgery is usually performed with around two-thirds of horses successfully resuming to a level of performance equal to that prior to injury.

Bone bruises

Not as serious as a fracture, bone bruising may still lead to hairline fractures as well as swelling and internal bleeding if undetected.

They tend to be more common among jumps and event horses that have been overworked or subjected to repeated hard landings.

Most horses required a minimum of three months rest to fully recover.

Bucked shins

These are tiny fractures in a new layer of bone that forms in front of the cannon bones as a result of the training stresses placed upon young horses.

They present most often in the forelimbs of young two-year-old Thoroughbreds and less often in Standardbreds and Quarter horses.

Pain and swelling in the area are usually the telltale signs and they may also make a horse lame.

Anti-inflammatories are normally prescribed along with a sustained period of rest.

Muscle soreness

Muscle soreness in another result of overwork that may trouble a horse.

It is most common in a horse’s hind legs, the ones which give them the most power and speed.

It tends to afflict dressage horses the most but can affect racehorses as well.

Again, anti-inflammatories and a period of rest are usually recommended.

Contact us today

Racehorses are susceptible to a variety of injuries – it’s part and parcel of the caper.

That’s why it is imperative you partner up with an accomplished and trusted equine veterinarian for regular check-ups and assessment to keep your horse in peak condition.

We can also help you identify minor racehorse injuries and health issues before they evolve into major ones which can potentially lead to tragic consequences.

Our team is experienced in all matters including quarantine procedures, reproduction and medicine.

We provide a dedicated service to the thoroughbred racing industry with the practice having a long and proud history based around the excellence of our work.

State-of-the-art treatment is provided including digital radiology, digital ultrasound, shock wave therapy, video endoscopy and IRAP processing. 


Contact us today to book an appointment.

The information contained on this article is general in nature and does not take into account your horse’s individual needs. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your horse’s needs, and seek professional advice from a qualified vet.

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