If you are a horse owner, especially in the showing world you will know that taking your horse out of his stable and seeing that he has capped one of his hocks is an area for disaster. Even as a horse owner that does not compete in any discipline, looking at a capped hock is not exactly great and kind of annoying. You are probably wondering why I am writing a post about ‘capped hocks’ but around 2 years ago my beloved gelding Buddy with immaculate legs at the time capped his hock.. Being the person that I am, I couldn’t just let it stay capped no matter what people were telling me. I wanted to find a way to get rid of this or at least reduce it as much as possible! Luckily, his cap wasn’t an extreme case and he had only capped it slightly.. After weeks of trying different ways to get rid of this weird ball looking thing, it basically went! You could hardly notice it, although it was still capped. In the showing world you would know that it was capped but to the everyday equestrian, it was just another hock.
What is a capped hock?
A capped hock is basically a bursitis of the hock. Bursitis is when the bursae (sack of fluid) of a joint becomes inflamed to protect the joint. In the case of the hock, this is usually due to an injury or trauma to the joint. A capped hock can be caused by rubbing against their stable wall, kicking, scuffling on the floor, laying down, getting up, being kicked – Any direct trauma to the joint. Usually, in most cases you cannot fully get rid of a capped hock, unless drained by a vet, but sometimes this can lead to infection or the hock can fill up with fluid again straight away.
This leads me on to talking through the different options you can try yourself to try and reduce the capped hock. I am in no way an expert on this, I have just picked up some tips and tricks along the way when experiencing this myself. The first 24 hours after the hock has been capped (had the direct trauma) is the most crucial. Most horses will not show lameness with a capped hock and can carry on with their usual routine depending on how badly they have actually capped it. The area might be sore to touch or feel warm and swollen but usually, a capped hock does not cause a horse discomfort or distress in any way.
When you initially notice that your horse has capped his hock, cold hosing is really effective to help reduce the initial swelling. The cold water helps to sooth the inflamed soft tissue which then reduces the swelling. If the hock has been capped longer than 24 hours, this process probably will not make any difference to the appearance of the hock as the fluid surrounding the hock will be harder to reduce.
Alternate Hot & Cold Treatments
Alternating hot and cold treatments to your horses capped hock within the first 24 hours helps to limit inflammation, stimulate circulation and reduce swelling.
To do this you will need the following:
- Hot Water
- Epsom Salt
- Crushed ice/Frozen peas
- Freezer bag
- Cloth x2
What you will now do is tie your horse up and clean the capped hock that you will be applying the hot and cold treatment to. You will then want to pour some salt in to the hot water and stir – Then place one of the cloths in to soak up the solution. Then, you will want to wrap your ice pack or frozen peas in a thin cloth, to take the edge off slightly. Make sure that you have both the hot cloth and the ice pack to hand easily.
You are now going to apply the hot salt solution that is on your cloth directly on to the hock and hold over it for 2 minutes. Once the 2 minutes is up you are going to swap on to the cold ice pack and hold that directly on the hock for 5 minutes. Keep rotating around 4 times and up to 3 times per day until you have arranged a veterinary appointment.
You can buy a ready made poultice from your local tack shop or you can create your own by combining 1/2 cup of Epsom salts with just enough water to make a paste. You can also use raw oatmeal ‘quick kind’ instead of the Epsom salts. When choosing a ready made poultice, try to avoid the ones designed to generate heat or cause blistering.
Poultice treatments are used to encourage the reabsorption of any edema (Fluid trapped within the skin and the deeper tissue) and to discourage any inflammation. The poultice will draw out the fluid to try and reduce the size of the cap fluid.
Once you have the poultice ready (whichever you choose), apply around 1/2-1 cup over the point of your horses affected hock. You can also spread this down any adjacent tissues that look swollen in result of the capping. You then want to loosely cover where you have spread the poultice with cling film and then cover the plastic with a polo wrap or bandage. You need to leave the hock exposed so you will need to apply the wrap or bandage in a figure of eight to leave it exposed. You will want to leave your horse in his stable while doing this and leave the poultice on for around 1 hour, then remove.
Call Your Vet Out
In some cases, you might want to call your vet out. You should usually call your vet within 24 hours of the capping to discuss treatment or if your vet needs to come out to assess the situation. Your vet can give you advice on how to prevent the capping in the stable, general tips on how to keep it at bay or they can usually insert a needle in to the bursa (fluid of the hock) and drain the fluid out. This doesn’t always work 100% however, sometimes the fluid will fill back up again to keep the joint protected. This can be an expensive treatment too. Depending on how badly your horse has capped his hock, this is the best solution to get rid of the capping completely. Vets will usually advise against draining the hock by needle due to risk of infection but if you are into showing this might be your only option.
Yes, you have read this correctly.. Piles cream has been known to help reduce the swelling of the capped hock. You may find it embarrassing going into the supermarket and asking for piles cream but this could be the little bottle of cream that is the difference between your horse having a capped hock or not. Apply this directly on to the hock daily until you notice change. If you feel that your horse is uncomfortable in any way, wash off immediately.
I hope these tips and tricks help you when you are in need of advice when you take your horse out of his stable and see the dreaded capped hock!
Thank you for reading, until next time..