From  "Your Horse"  -  Jan. 2015

How to cope with SPLITS

Painful and unsightly, splints can cause problems but these need not be long-term, as one reader explains

Problems can occur when the ligament attaching the splint bones to the cannon bone is damaged, leading to inflammation and lameness. As this heals it leads to the formation of new bone, resulting in a hard, non-painful lump - this is called a true splint. A 'false' splint occurs through direct trauma to the splint bone, again leading to a bony lump, and the splint bone can also be fractured - a common injury in racehorses and young eventers.

'Surgery resolved Dan's splint'

Tracey Robottom, 45. of Blidworth, Nottinghamshire, and her ex-racehorse Silidan, aka Dan. were sidelined at the end of 2011 while Dan recovered from a splint

"I'd never owned a horse before I got Dan nearly four years ago. He'd had a few wins in his time as a seven-furlong sprinter, but my intention was simply to have fun and be a happy hacker, enjoying the surrounds of nearby Sherwood Forest.

But in September 2011, Dan began to show intermittent lameness. Investigation showed he had a splint in his nearside foreleg - we can only assume he caught himself out in the field. Luckily he's insured, and so that October he went to Oakham vets for a resection of the affected splint bone.

His recovery was a long and slow process with lots of checks, and it wasn't until the end of December 2011 that he could be ridden, gradually building up from very short periods towards our normal riding time. But in June 2012 Dan's lameness re-occurred, as did the splint. The vet said he'd never seen anything like this before as it looked as though he'd caught his leg again in exactly the same manner as before. Dan underwent a further operation and this time the vets took out the whole of the splint bone. It was a really upsetting and worrying time, and again his post-op recovery and bringing him back into work took a very long time.

Two years on, Dan has made a full recovery. We're now taking jumping lessons, which Dan excels at, have tried cross-country, and have begun a showing career, including retired racehorse classes - we came third on our first outing, a very proud moment. I've bought a trailer and my aim now is to get out to more local shows and fun rides. I love Dan to bits - he's my forever horse!"

Coping with a splint

The severity of splints can vary, as can treatment options. Here's Tracey's advice for dealing with one:

* If you suspect a splint bone injury ask your vet to x-ray it to confirm the extent. Some splints can heal on their own but if a fracture is interfering with the suspensory ligament then an operation may be required. If you have insurance, contact them straight away and keep them updated throughout.

* Box rest is vital for recovery. I kept Dan comfortable with a big bed over rubber matting, and his stable overlooked the yard so he could see other horses. He also had a large garlic lick and a boredom breaker toy to keep him entertained without having to move too much. I spent a lot of time with him, grooming and chatting to him, which really helped our bond.

* Above all, have lots of patience. Don't rush your horse back into work, even if he seems OK - time really is a great healer. It can be frustrating being unable to ride, but dealing with lameness or injury is worse. Take full vet advice and stick to it. Good vets will give you an outline timescale on bringing your horse back into work.