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What Are Horse Pasterns?

June 09, 2023 2 min read

Long Pasterns vs. Short Pasterns

The pastern is made of two bones: the long pastern and the short pastern. The long pastern connects the fetlock joint to the pastern joint. Additionally, the short pastern connects the pastern joint to the hoof.

What Does a Pastern Do?

The pastern of the leg allows the hoof to flex as the horse walks. Furthermore, it will cushion the impact with each step. The pastern joint increases the range of motion of the fetlock joint but has limited range.

How To Recognize Pastern Problems

What Are Horse Pasterns?The pastern bears thousands of pounds from the weight of the horse. Issues in the pastern can be disastrous for your horse. Overall, pastern problems are rare compared to hoof or fetlock problems.

Most notably, you should watch for irregular bone alignment and inflammation. Early identification is vital to protect the health of your horse.

What Are the Causes of Pastern Problems?

There are many potential causes of pastern problems. The cause of your horse’s ailment could be:

  • Falls, impacts, or injuries
  • Working on hard surfaces
  • Genetics
  • Diet

Disorders of the Pastern


Fractures of the pastern can occur from falls, trips, or other injuries. Your horse will experience sudden lameness. The pastern region will swell and become sensitive to movement. Fractures are serious injuries that may require surgery to re-align or remove chips.


Ringbone is a disorder caused by hard work on hard surfaces. The swelling and lameness you see in your horse will appear suddenly. Young and athletic horses will often suffer ringbone. Bone spurs can form from this disorder.

Pastern Dermatitis

Pastern dermatitis affects the skin around the pastern. The skin itself will become inflamed along the back of the pastern. Trapped moisture can cause lesions, patchy skin, and ulcers.


Sidebone is a condition that destroys the cartilage of the foot. Over time, your horse can develop ossified cartilage. Your horse will lose range of motion and develop lameness.

How Long Does It Take to Heal a Pastern Injury?

The recovery time for a pastern injury depends on the severity of the damage.Therapeutic Pastern Wraps can shorten recovery time. It does so by improving circulation and oxygen flow.

Broken pasterns can take over three months to heal. Other ailments may be lifelong afflictions. Finally, ligament injuries will likely take several weeks of rest to recover.

Can My Horse Recover from a Broken Pastern?

Horses can often recover from a broken pastern. However, it is not a certainty. A broken pastern will usually require surgery. If not, a cast is necessary. Sometimes, the bones never heal, or the damage is too severe.

What causes dropped pasterns in horses?

Ligament and tendon damage along the fetlock will cause dropped pasterns. This condition can happen particularly from damage to the suspensory ligament. A full cut of the tendons and ligaments along the fetlock will cause severe damage to your horse's lower leg.

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