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Curbs: Causes and Treatment In The Equine

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Curbs are inflammation of the plantar tarsal ligament. This is a cord that aids in holding the back part of the hock together. Horses with poor hock conformation ( sickle or cow hocked ) are prone to developing curbs. Also, violent exertion that causes extreme hock extension, or trauma from kicking walls may cause curb in horses with good conformation. The curb is very readily seen by examining the horse from the side. A definite swelling will be observed at the back of the hock accompanied by heat in the area.

The majority of curbs in performance horses are more of an eyesore than a source of lameness. When they do cause a lameness, the horse will demonstrate a typical hocky gait and hold the heel of the affected leg up when at rest. The majority can be controlled by painting the area with a hot paint, so that an abundance of blood is present to accelerate healing.

Curbs that are causing lameness, should be treated in the classical manner. They should be rested and the area should be cooled out first with cold water, ice or DMSO/Cortisone paint. After that, a hot paint or blister should be applied. Some veterinarians may choose to inject the area with a counter-irritant in order to speed up the healing process.

If the animal is sore, and there is no time for the long hot treatment, then the area around the curb could be injected with cortisone. This will allow the horse to continue performing. It is unlikely that this method of therapy would have any long-lasting effects. Therefore the treatment may be repeated when necessary.

Freeze-firing is also a treatment that many veterinarians use today for stubborn chronic curbs. This treatment should not be attempted until at least 10 days after the termination of the acute inflammation.

Shock-Wave treatments are also being used by veterinarians.

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