Over the last two weeks at our practice, we have seen four horses with lacerations of the pastern area. The pastern is the area between the hoof and the fetlock joint. The most common area that is lacerated is the back side of the pastern. Unfortunately, none of these horses were presented immediately as the owners tried to treat them without veterinary advice. This is a difficult area to heal because every time the horse takes a step, the laceration on the back of the pastern opens and closes. Instability of a wound makes healing very difficult, so it is important to stabilize these wounds for healing to occur.
Obviously, any wound in this area must be examined carefully by a vet to make sure a joint or tendon sheath is not involved as these structures are commonly injured in this area. Sedation and local anesthesia is usually required to thoroughly examine these wounds. If none of these structures are involved, all of these wounds must be wrapped with a pressure bandage. It is not possible, in my opinion, to heal a wound in this area correctly without at least a pressure bandage. Topical antibiotics are applied to the wound and the bandage is changed every day for several days. The best method of treating a wound in this area is by using a cast to prevent movement. Although a cast is more expensive, these wounds heal much quicker under a cast and actually may cost less long term. If the wound is fresh and can be sutured, a cast should be applied to stabilize the wound or the sutures will likely not hold. If your horse gets cut in the pastern, wrap the wound initially and contact your vet to examine the wound.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.