What Happens When a Horse Breaks its Leg: From Treatment to Recovery

If you own horses, broken limbs are a common issue that you should prepare for. A broken leg in horses is one of the most common injuries, and it can be fatal. The condition might compromise the horse’s ability to walk or stand, and it can be painful. If you’re wondering what happens when a horse breaks its leg, this article will provide you with insights on treatment to recovery.

What Causes Horse Leg Bones to Break?

The horse’s leg bones are fragile and can break easily, especially during a race, jump, or other strenuous physical activity. The most common cause of leg fractures in horses is overuse, high-speed races, and sudden turns or stops. However, horses can also break their legs due to accidents or other reasons.

How to Identify If Your Horse Has Broken Its Leg

A broken leg in a horse is a serious and painful injury that requires immediate attention. However, how do you know if your horse’s leg is broken? Here are some signs of a broken leg in horses.

  • Severe lameness or inability to stand or walk
  • Swollen or deformed leg
  • Visible bone displacement or protrusion
  • Tenderness to the touch on the affected leg

Treatment Options for Horses with Broken Legs

The treatment for a broken leg in a horse depends on the severity and the location of the injury. The following are common treatment options.

1. Immobilization/ Casting

In some cases, bones can heal naturally, especially if they are not displaced. Immobilization or casting the affected leg provides support and stability, which will allow the bones to heal.

2. Surgery

When a horse breaks its leg, surgery may be necessary, depending on the severity of the fracture. The surgery aims to stabilize and realign the broken bones until they heal.

3. Euthanization

In some extreme cases, euthanasia may be the only option. Some horse breeds have weaker bones that may not heal after a fracture. In other cases, the cost of surgery may be too high to justify.

Challenges in Recovery

It is essential to understand that even with the right treatment, recovery might not be easy for the injured horse. The severity of the fracture and the horse’s response to the treatment can dictate the speed and extent of healing. As the horse owner, you need to ensure that the horse doesn’t move a lot, get enough rest, and avoid vigorous activity to minimize the risk of reinjuring the leg.

The Recovery Process

The recovery process varies from horse to horse. It is usually a gradual process where bones take time to heal naturally. In most cases, the horse will require assistance to move around or may be forced to remain immobilized for some time until they recover fully.

Nutrition During Recovery

Proper nutrition is essential for a horse to recover successfully from leg injuries. You need to ensure that your horse feeds on high-quality hay and grains that provide the required nutrients. Additionally, consider consulting your veterinarian for nutritional supplements that can speed up the horse’s healing process.

The Importance of Prevention

Prevention measures are crucial to reducing the risk of horse leg injuries. Here are some ways horse owners can prevent harmful leg injuries.

1. Monitor Physical Activity

It is essential to monitor your horse’s physical activity and check for any signs of stress or strain. Avoid pushing the horse too hard, too fast, or too soon, especially if they are inexperienced or untrained.

2. Provide Quality Feeds

Ensure that your horse feeds on quality feeds that provide the necessary nutrients to keep the bones healthy and strong.

3. Regular Check-Ups

Regular check-ups by a qualified veterinarian will help detect fractures early, especially in ageing horses or those with weaker bones.

4. Proper Hoof Care

Good hoof care is essential to prevent leg injuries in horses. Ensure your horse’s hooves are regularly trimmed and maintained to improve stability and reduce the risk of tripping or stumbling.


A horse with a broken leg is a heartbreaking and stressful experience for riders and owners. However, understanding the signs, treatment, and recovery process can minimize the pain and increase the chances of healing. Remember, prevention is better than cure, and the best way to protect your horse from leg fractures is to observe preventive measures.

Most Common Questions and Their Answers Related to the Topic

  • What are the symptoms of a broken leg in horses?
    • The most common symptoms of a broken leg in horses include severe lameness or inability to stand or walk, a swollen or deformed leg, visible bone displacement or protrusion and tenderness to the touch on the affected leg.
  • How can you tell if a horse’s leg is broken?
    • If a horse has a broken leg, it will display symptoms of severe lameness or the inability to stand or walk, or a swollen or deformed leg, visibly displaced bone or protrusion and tenderness to the touch on the affected leg.
  • What is the best treatment for a horse with a broken leg?
    • The best treatment for a horse with a broken leg largely depends on the severity and location of the injury. Immobilization, surgery, or euthanasia may be applicable options, as outlined in the article.
  • Can horses recover from leg injuries and fractures?
    • Yes, horses can recover from leg injuries and fractures, but the process is gradual, and the recovery speed depends on the severity of the injury and the horse’s response to treatment.


  • Anderson, L. and Schneider, R. (2010) Understanding Basic Horse Care. The Horseman’s Guide Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Clayton, H.M. and Stubbs, N. (2019) “Fractures in Thoroughbred Racehorses.” The Veterinary Journal, 247, pp.16-24.
  • Wayman, B. and Oakley, M.E. (2017) “Surgical Treatment of Equine Long Bone Fractures.” Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice, 33(2), pp.395-410.

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