Understanding sore shins

Understanding sore shins
2 April 2020 | Kirsty McCann

Sore shins, also referred to as bucked shins in some countries, is a condition which commonly occurs in horses in their two year old year of training. Whilst it can occur in older horses, it is far more prominent in the early training period in a racehorse’s life. It is described as an inflammation of the periosteum covering the front of the cannon bone caused by micro-fractures to the cannon bone.

Those who are expected to race as a two year old  are broken in at the back end of their yearling year and are lightly ridden off, once they return to pre train for their two year old campaign they may look mature but skeletally they are still growing and their bones are not that of an older horse. Sore shins occurs due to the load bearing on the forelimbs, while it is possible to have shore shins behind, it is far less likely. This excessive compression causes tiny cracks in the cannon bone, the bone responds by laying down new layers of bone where it is most stressed (periosteal new bone formation). As a result the periosteum, the fibrous membrane of connective tissue which covers bone, becomes inflamed and painful. When this occurs it is vital to adapt the training plan to allow time for the remodelling and strengthening of the bone. To continue to train as previously will result in further reaction and formation of more layers, further inflammation and pain. Prolonged galloping in this state can lead to a catastrophic fracture of the cannon bone. Many people would blame a surface on a gallop solely for a horse developing sore shins and while it is a factor a two year old galloping on the best of surfaces can also develop a problem.


Early detection is key, palpation of the legs daily will reveal a problem early, they will be hot to touch and sore on palpation. Topical treatments and cold therapy can be beneficial at these times, I recommend cold hosing multiple times throughout the day, Ice Clay and Arnica and Aloe Vera gel depending on the individual. Backing off with workload is vital, continuing to work one with sore shins can result in more serious injury. Swimming is beneficial as it is non load bearing exercise. The use of a Spa is advised also. Sometimes just standing in a river with fresh flowing cold water or the sea is used as a management method. Some trainers will use exercise bandaging during work to help support the forelimb but this has limited success. The developing young horse requires a training programme of conditioning as well as fitness, new evidence suggests that short fast work is advised as opposed to slow steady work continually and then longer pieces of work at high speed.

When looking at nutritional support for young horse in training the inclusion of Osteo-Glycan in the diet can be extremely beneficial.


  • The majority of bone calcium, bone density and cartilage are laid down in the first two years of a horse’s life; Osteo-Glycan supplementation provides a balanced nutritional supply to support this growth. Young horses entering training undertake tough physical demands. Osteo-Glycan provides excellent support to bones and joints at this susceptible time.
  • Containing Di-Calcium Phosphate, Marine Collagen-a source of CalciumChondroitin Sulphate and Hyaluronic Acid. Also containing Copper and Zinc at adequate levels for correct bone development, Vitamin A which is essential for bone and maturation and Vitamin D an important regulator of calcium metabolism. The use of Osteo-Glycan would be advised as a nutritional support to encourage good quality bone formation, to advise after an episode of sore shins should be done with caution as a support and not as something to fix the issue as such.

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