A windpuff is a soft and squishy blemish found on a horse’s lower leg. Generally speaking, windpuffs are just a blemish. Occasionally, a windpuff will cause pain and lameness. You will typically find them around the back of the fetlock joint. This is the point of your horse’s anatomy that the digital flexor tendons wrap under the fetlock on their way to the hoof. The tendons themselves are covered with a tendon sheath. Between the tendon and the tendon sheath is a layer of fluid.
If the tendon sheath is damaged, the amount of fluid may increase. This creates a swelling, or windpuff. The amount of fluid in the windpuff will vary, generally going up and down with your horse’s movement patterns. Most windpuffs are chronic, and never truly go away.
There’s another scenario where the windpuff is caught in the annular ligament, which goes around the fetlock. This ligament is flat and thin, and causes a pinching. In this case, your horse will be uncomfortable. This may be treated with injections.
Your horse might also develop adhesions between the tendon and the tendon sheath. In cases like this, arthroscopy surgery inside the sheath can cut the adhesions, or in some cases, ligaments that are interfering.
As a horse owner, look for new things on your horse. Look for swelling, feel for heat. Notice differences in your horse’s legs, and investigate lamenesses right away. Windpuffs are generally old and cold. They usually develop over time and don’t interfere with your horse’s comfort and movement. You might also have a case in which the windpuff which is usually cold and small, has quickly become large. This is another reason to investigate.
Daily attention to your horse’s legs is critical! You can catch lots of things early, and keep your horse safe and sound.