hands on_legsLUMPS, BUMPS AND SWELLINGS - What are they and what can be done!

Every horse owner knows that they should run their hands over their horse every day, so that they can detect any changes ie any lumps that might have appeared, any wounds, strange growths or any discharges.

So, what if you do find a strange lump or swelling? What should you do?

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Firstly, don't panic! Not every lump on your horse's body needs immediate attention from your vet, but if you do call your vet, having the following information to hand will help:
  1. Where is the lump?
  2. How big is it?
  3. What kind of texture does it have?
  4. Is it fluctuating in size?
  5. Are there any other signs such as heat, pain or lameness?
  6. Is there any discharge from the lump? Is it bleeding?

 Some of the more common lumps you may come across are:


These can occur anywhere on the body and usually require lancing and drainage by a vet. Foot abscesses can be alarming as the horse can sometimes find it very difficult to move.

Capped elbows

Swelling occurs at the point of elbow and may initially be hot and painful. They may be caused when the horse lies down and catches himself with the shoe on his front foot or by the hind shoe on the same side kicking the elbow.
Capped hocks

Swelling occurs at the point of the hock and can vary in size. They are usually the result of direct trauma but are difficult to treat. Mild cases may benefit from cold applications and ultrasound.


These are swellings below the hock, which appear suddenly, and are firm and painful, with pain increasing when the hock is flexed. Call your vet.


It's not uncommon for horses to have painless lumps in the saddle area, neck and shoulders.

Skin growths

These can take various forms such as melanomas, which are pigmented tumours, often seen in grey horses. These can become malignant. Sarcoids come in various shapes and sizes and there are various treatments for these. It is advisable to seek your vet's advice if your horse develops any growths.


These are swellings or abnormal growth in or on the hock joint - there are two main types, the bog spavin and the bone spavin. Bog spavins are soft swellings around the hock with the largest swelling usually inside the hock joint. There may also be smaller swellings on the outside of the hock and above and inside the point of hock.
Bone spavin is a hard bony swelling on the inner hock. Horses are often presented to vets with problems such as a loss of performance, going unlevel, being awkward on diagonals and often the cause is found before any bony changes happen to the hock.


These are swellings found on the splint bones on either side of the cannon bone.
In the early stages splints can be soft, warm, painful swellings and there may also be lameness. Horses should be rested and the splints should then settle down to leave a painless, harmless bony lump. If horses with splints are not rested, long -term problems may result.

A-Z of Horse Ailments - advice and tips on things that affect your horse's health and well being