Importance of Positioning of the Elbow

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The elbow on a horse is at the top of the leg where it joins the body. It is the highest point in the front leg, not covered in muscle.  The elbow is the boney protrusion right in front of the girth area.

Diagram of the shoulder and elbow of a horseThe part of the ulna that protrudes back to form the elbow is known as the olecranon process.

Range of motion in the elbow should be  55-60 degrees. It should not turn out or in and should sit squarely on the forearm. The olecrannon process should be viewed in a vertical position from the rear.

Positioning of the Horse Elbow

The elbow should be in line with the front of the withers and not farther back than the peak of the withers. It should blend in smoothly with the muscles of the forearm, but this is not always the case.

Turned in/  Tied in Elbow

A turned in or tied in elbow is one that is too close to the body and twists the leg. This conformation will make the horse toe-out. They tend to wing in when the knee is flexed.

The feet may cross over, and they could stumble as a result. This placement also tends to be accompanied with a narrow chest. This results in restricted movement, which results in a shorter stride.

Out-Turned Elbow

An out-turned elbow is usually associated with base-narrow and pigeon-toed conformation. The legs are too wide at the chest and too close at the feet. This makes the horse paddle out when they flex the knee.

Fractures Involving the Elbow

Fractures of the bones of the elbow occur most often as a result of a kick or fall. The most frequent is fracture of the ulna. The onset of lameness is sudden, with pain and swelling of the elbow. The fractures typically affect the joint, causing the elbow to drop and be incapable of extension. The carpus and fetlock are bent, with the toe resting on the ground. The diagnosis is confirmed using x-rays.

Treatment may be nonsurgical or surgical. In fractures that are not displaced or that do not involve the joint, full-leg splinting and stall rest are sufficient. Otherwise, surgery is recommended. With proper treatment, the outlook for recovery is favorable.