Fractured cannon bone.

‘Lankara’, a bay mare owned by Stephen and Karen Hague was out drag hunting, cantering across a field when she suddenly went very lame on her left fore limb. She pulled herself up and was unable to put any weight at all on the leg. Luckily, the hunt had met at her home stables, Dean Valley in Woodford so she did not have to go far before she was back in her stable.

Vet Caroline was called and takes over the story. ‘Lankara’ was 10/10 lame on the left fore meaning she was non-weight bearing. No obvious swellings or wounds were present and flexion of the leg did not result in any pain. Due to the severity and sudden onset of the lameness a fracture was a strong possibility. You might think that when a horse is very sore it is easier to identify the cause of the lameness. This is often not the case however. Even in horses that are very lame it can be very difficult to elicit a pain reaction that helps you home in on an area.

In horses where a fracture is suspected we are also very reluctant to nerve block them or move them around too much as this may make the fracture worse. I felt ‘Lankaras’ leg very carefully and could feel a swelling in the inter-carpal joint, one of the joints in ‘Lankaras’ knee. In a sterile procedure I collected a sample of the joint fluid from the knee and found it to be full of blood. This immediately alerted me to the possibility of a fracture as just like other tissues if you crack a bone it bleeds. If the cracked bone is connected to a joint you get blood in that joint. As the practice has a mobile digital X ray system I was able to take x-rays on site and quickly identified a fracture in the cannon bone.

These hair line fractures are very serious as they can be very unstable. If a hairline fracture of the cannon becomes complete there is no option other than to put the horse down. To stop this from happening I had to immobilize and support the fracture. The leg was bandaged with a thick full limb bandage and ‘Lankara’ was cross tied. Cross tying stopped ‘Lankara’ from lying down which is really important as when horses get up they put an enormous stress on their leg, which could have been catastrophic for the fracture. ‘Lankara’ was cross tied next to her food and water, with a full limb bandage for 6 weeks! Luckily she tolerated it really well. We were able to monitor the healing of the fracture with repeat x-rays which showed the fracture was healing. Following a further period of box and paddock rest I am pleased to say ‘Lankara’ has made a full recovery. Stephen Hague said ‘It is great that ‘Lankara’ has done so well, she is a lovely mare and really deserves it. Her treatment has been a real team effort and the vets and yard staff worked really hard to get her right.’