Capped hocks – what you can do!


A capped hock is basically bursitis of the hock. Bursitis is when the bursae (a sac of fluid) of a joint becomes inflamed. In the case of a hock, this is due to an injury or trauma. Likely horse scenarios that create this trauma include a bang to the hock (fence, trailer, other horse) or even a kick inside a stall.


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A capped hock is a hard swelling at the point of the hock.


  • It may look like your horse’s hock is trying to grow up and out. Often, the swelling can be the size of a small piece of fruit, like a plum. Capped hocks often recur, and the disfigurement becomes worse and worse with each bang.


  • Luckily, a capped hock or capped hock pair is typically only a blemish and won’t result in lameness. If lameness does occur, it’s usually mild.



similar to capped hocks

A somewhat capped hock on the left. It’s cosmetic for this horse after surgery – no issues here!


For fresh injuries


  • As usual, early intervention is best. Delayed treatment can lead to the swollen area developing a permanent thickness. This may not be a true emergency, but chatting with your veterinarian and setting an appointment is a good idea. If there is lameness, the situation could be a bit more serious.


  • You can, upon discovery, do your best to limit the inflammation. Cold or ice therapy is best, although your veterinarian may suggest alternating some heat therapy in there, too. A poultice can be applied, and for this area, an Epsom salt poultice may be your best bet.


hock ice boot on horse back leg

Ice, Ice, baby!


  • When your veterinarian arrives, he may inject the area directly with anti-inflammatory agents and can give you an idea of what sort of limited exercise your horse should have over the next days or weeks.


It’s important to also try and figure out why this injury happened.


  • It’s not uncommon for this injury to happen in a trailer, in which case you want your next trailer trips to have leg protection that covers the hock. Shipping boots may fit the bill for you.


  • If you have a stall kicker, it’s time to deal with this. I have known stall kickers that have kicked their way into surgery. Sometimes it’s that one kick that causes injury, or it’s the repetitive motion of kicking. There are plenty of things that you can do to squash a kicker’s tendency to kick here.


capped hock after surgery

This horse’s askew capped hock is from surgery. He’s totally pain-free, sound, and happy! It’s cosmetic at this point for this horse.


  • If you suspect the capped hock on your horse came from hard ground as he lays down and gets up, invest in some good bedding and really pad it up where he sleeps! For outside sleepers, there are some great all-weather beddings. I like the ones made from cedar that you can pile up for him.


What have you done for your horse’s capped hocks?


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Woof Wear Reflective Club Boot - Lime

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Whinny Wellies from Sox For Horses

Tough, weather-resistant covering for wraps and bandaging.

Durvet Epsom Salt Poultice - 20 oz.
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