Swollen Legs (Stocking Up)

Every summer, Tofino has an issue with swelling on his hind legs, without causing lameness. This mostly happens to older sport horses, or those on stable rest.

In general, I would say with any swelling, always contact the vet or stable manager to make sure it is nothing serious. They will most likely check for heat and tenderness in the area, to rule out any injury.


Even though it looks pretty bad, he moves without pain or discomfort. I did get him checked, confirming that it is stocking up.


If there is no heat or pain with the swelling, it is most likely what they call “stocking up” which means excess fluid accumulation due to an impairment of  lymphatic system. This happens mostly to inactive or older horses where fluids naturally tend to accumulate in the lower hind legs where the body fails to pump fluid efficiently back to the heart the same way a pregnant woman would have swollen ankles.

In most parts of the horse’s body, the lymphatic system’s job is literally an uphill battle. To push the fluids against the force of gravity, the system relies primarily on the pumping motions of the digital cushion in the hooves, and secondarily on the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints in the legs. When confined to a stall, though, a horse doesn’t move as much, leading to the impairment of the lymphatic system pumping mechanism. 

– Steve Soule, VMD

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Even though the leg is swollen, movement is not compromised and therefore, it is crucial to keep your horse exercising and moving to aid in the drainage of the fluid. By staying consistently active throughout the day and night, a horse maintains a healthy equilibrium between fluids entering and exiting the body tissues.

Prevention/Treatment:

  • Exercising
  • Turn out
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage 
  • Icing
  • Magnetic Therapy
  • Acupuncture 

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Hope this helps 🙂

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