Shoe Boil: Elbow Swelling in Horses

Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price

Horsemen may occasionally come across a pony or horse with a firm, unusual swelling at the elbow. This swelling, also called a shoe boil or olecranon-bursitis, is more common than you might think. It is an inflammation of the joint that supports the elbow. Repeated trauma to a bursa can cause swelling and other signs and symptoms of inflammation, such as tenderness and heat.

A shoe boil, as the name implies, is caused by the horseshoe’s heel constantly rubbing against the elbow while the horse lies down. A shoe boil can also be caused by repeated exposure to hard surfaces, particularly in stalls. However, the most common cause is a large heel-to elbow contact.

Elbow Swelling in Horses

Lameness is not common in cases of shoe boil. However, the hardened capsule of fluid that forms over the joint may eventually cause it. Minor cases of shoe boil can be resolved if the cause is addressed quickly. However, infection can occur if the bursa becomes inflamed or the joint caps are punctured.

Shoe boil is most commonly treated with a doughnut-shaped boot. This wraps around the pastern and stops the heel from touching the upper limb. This protective wear, when combined with well-bedded stables, will often prevent further problems from occurring. Corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce swelling in more severe cases. However, the results are generally disappointing.

Although shoe boil is typically a cosmetic issue, more severe cases may require daily attention.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!