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Medical Index
First Posted: Apr 28, 2011
Mar 30, 2018

Wind Puffs, Wind Galls, Wind Galls Soft and Road Puffs

by Debora Johnson

Image: Wind Puffs, Wind Galls Soft or Road Puffs

Wind Puffs, Wind Galls, Wind Galls Soft and Road Puffs

What are wind puffs? Where are they located if your horse has them? Do they cause lameness or any other major problems? What causes wind puffs? Can they be treated?

Wind puffs is a term to describe any "puffiness" around your horse's ankle. They are distentions of a tendon sheath, bursa, or joint capsule on a horse's legs; usually on the fetlock. To treat wind puffs it must be determined what physiological problem is causing the problem. The treatment is different. Wind puffs are considered a blemish not an unsoundness in most cases. However, since they do indicate strain, this excess strain could develop into arthritis, tendinitis, or bursitis and synovitis if not treated. Call your vet.

Location of Wind Puffs

  • Ankles
  • Fetlock joint capsule - Fluid accumulates just behind the cannon bone and under the end of the splint bone. It presents about the size of a quarter. This is usually considered more serous.
  • Flexor tendon sheath - "Swellings in the flexor tendon sheath are located between the suspensory ligament and the back of the leg, above the sesamoid bones. Less discrete puffiness that can't be clearly localized to one area only may be related to swelling or thickening of the annular ligament of the fetlock, a band of tissue that encircles the ankle like a cuff."

What Causes Wind Puffs?

  • Age
  • Concussion in the joint
  • Conformation/Genetics - Horses with coarse, meaty legs, round bones, poorly defined joints and veins are more prone to wind puffs. Windpuffs are especially common in horses with short, upright pasterns
  • Short, upright pasterns

    "Short, upright pasterns are less than 1/2 the length of the cannon bone. They are beneficial in that they decrease the chance that the horse will suffer from soft-tissue injury. However, upright pasterns increase concussion by transmitting more of the shock of footfalls to the bones rather than the tendons. This not only makes the gaits uncomfortable due to the jarring, but also increases the chance of arthritis and may shorten the animal's career. A short, upright pastern also decreases the stride length of the gait, which again makes the gait more uncomfortable and decreases the efficiency of the horse's movement (since he must take more strides per meter than a longer-strided horse).

    Medical problems that may be caused by short, upright pasterns are usually a result of excess concussion. They include: ringbone, sidebone, splints, bucked shins or shin splints, knee injuries that result from concussion, including bucked knees, navicular disease and windpuffs.

    Short, upright pasterns are often seen in draft horses. This is because draft horses bred for pulling rather than riding (and so they were not selected for smooth gaits of a saddle horse), and because upright pasterns give more leverage to dig into the ground as the horse pulls a heavy load.

    Short, upright pasterns are also commonly seen in Quarter Horses, Warmbloods, and Paint Horses. However, riding horses are more likely to have problems with upright pasterns than draft horses because they tend to work at faster speeds. Due to the lack of shock absorption, horses that have upright pasterns should be kept off hard surfaces whenever possible." Pastern

  • Excessive exercise
  • Excessive load
  • Excessive work on hard surface
  • Fatigue
  • Hard work
  • Injury- Even in turnout!
  • Stress
  • Trailering a lot


Always call your vet. Below are possible protocols that are followed depending upon the severity of your horse's problem:

  • Stall rest
  • Light walking
  • Cold water hosing
  • Ice wraps
  • Possible ultrasound of the tendons, suspensory and annular ligament area.
  • Anti-inflammatory therapy with icing
  • Injectable or oral hyaluronic acid
  • Exercise recommendations in course of treatment

For More Information:

Windpuffs: Resolving a Common Swelling in Horses
Wind Puffs Are Swelling in Your Horse's Ankle
Resolving a Common Swelling

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