Spat - the "end" for your beloved riding horse?

As long as our horses are happily playing in the pasture and moving freely and contentedly under the rider, the world is fine for us.

But what happens when our beloved riding horse starts to go lame? And then it comes. The diagnosis from the vet: spavin. Ignorance and fears spread.

Where does it come from? Is my friend suffering a lot?

What can I do for him?

What are the chances that my horse with this equine disease will be rideable again?

These are all legitimate questions, which we will gladly try to answer for you.

Possible causes


- Overloading (bruising, spraining, twisting, straining)

- frequent tearing, pulling and twisting forces can cause spavin in horses

- Too much collection too quickly

- Injuries (kick)

- Bone cysts

- Mineral deficiency or overdosage of minerals as a young animal

- possibly genetically determined

- Positional defects (e.g. cow-hocked or sabre-legged stance)

Where does it hurt in the riding horse?


In spavin in horses, the joint (osteoarthritis), the bones (periostitis) and sometimes the periosteum become inflamed. Inflammation can spread to soft tissues (e.g. spat tendon, bursa). As a rule, smaller, movable joints in the horse's hock become inflamed. If the inflammation becomes chronic, the joint surfaces are destroyed. New bone material forms. Joint spaces can narrow, close and become stiff. However, the animal is then free of lameness.

In osteolytic spavin, on the other hand, no growths grow. In this case, the bones decalcify.

The pain of the disease is usually located in the joint bones between the tubular bone and the calcaneus in the hock joint in horses. This is where inflammation of the spavin most often occurs.

Recognising symptoms


- Tension in the back

- Outward turning hind legs

- Shortened strides

- Hooves are only given reluctantly (especially when held up for a long time)

- Lameness mostly from rest to movement (horse runs in)

- persistent lameness (advanced spavin)

- Affected leg is spared when standing

- Thickening or growths (spat bumps) mostly in the inner area of the hock joint

- Hind hooves dragging on the ground (often visible in the wear of the horseshoes or the bare hoof)

How does the vet diagnose this equine disease?


To begin with, your vet will carry out a so-called spat test. He will bend the hind leg (hock) up. Then he will have your horse trotted immediately. If lameness is noticeable during the first steps, this is an indication of spavin in the horse.

Joint anaesthesia is used as a definite proof. An anaesthetic is injected into the joint. If the lameness has disappeared, there is clearly a spavin disease.

Of course, you can also have your animal x-rayed. Bone scintigraphy reveals pathological changes in the bones.


What treatment for spat in in horses?


Unfortunately, this equine disease is incurable. Bone changes cannot be reversed.

It is therefore necessary to

- alleviate the horse's pain

- eliminate lameness

- to contain or, at best, stop the process in bones and joints.

Forms of therapy


As a rule, anti-inflammatory preparations and painkillers are injected into the joint at the beginning. Rubs that stimulate blood circulation are also used to boost the metabolism and thus promote the stiffening of the joint.

Shock wave therapy has often been successful. This also stimulates the blood circulation.

Furthermore, the animal's own body substances (taken from the blood) can be used. They are injected in concentrated form into the affected areas of the horse's hock and positively support the regeneration of the bone tissue.

In the case of osteolytic spavin, the horse may have to undergo surgery as a treatment. Bone formation is stimulated via arthrodesis (drilling into the bones). Goal: The joint stiffens.

A spat shoeing can be considered as a hoof correction. This is individually adapted to the riding horse by a farrier. Mostly, wide leg irons are used, which are supposed to relieve the inner joint space. The shoes are bent up at the toe. This facilitates rolling. In extreme cases, cushioning hoof plates are also needed between the iron and the hoof. A spat shoe (iron or synthetic) enables your horse to move more easily and in a more stable way.

Nevertheless, a spade horse can be barefoot on suitable ground. As natural as possible is often better anyway. So irons are not a must. If you use hoof shoes, you could also use shock pads. However, consultation with a reasonable hoof specialist is advisable in order to choose what is best for the affected little horse.

Alternative medicine e.g. homeopathy, herbology, leech therapy, acupuncture and magnetic field therapy can stimulate a lot in cell metabolism. It is advisable to look for a good animal healer. These methods are helpful in any case.

Exercise is a must! In fact, especially spade patients should not necessarily live in a box. The open or loose stall is exactly the right type of housing for these animals. A lot of walking is ideal and beneficial. As a light rider you can even continue to ride your horse. A lot of walking and, when it has run in, a careful trot is also allowed.

The amount of exercise should of course be discussed with the vet beforehand. Supplementary feeding of devil's claw, ginger or silver willow can be given.

Can you prevent this horse disease?


Yes, make sure that you feed your horse an optimal supply of minerals. Even for young horses! If in doubt, ask your vet or nutritionist.

Also pay attention to a correct and regular hoof treatment. Positional errors can be prevented already at foal age.

Train in a gymnastic and muscle-building way (a muscled hind leg relieves the horse's hock). Do not overtax your animal and always warm it up well.

Spavin in a horse does not mean the end. You will be relieved, won't you? Sure, it is a limitation. But your friend is worth taking care of. After all, he will still be the same loving cuddly cheek. Nothing really stands in the way of joint rides (adjust speed, avoid tarred or hard surfaces).