Windgalls occur when the tendon sheath (non-articular windgall) or joint capsule (articular windgall) fills with fluid in the fetlock region. The swellings commonly occur in both limbs, and the swelling tends to be squishy and relatively mild, with no associated heat. Non-articular windgalls occur on the back of the fetlock on the sides of the leg, in front of the flexor tendons. Articular windgall swellings are further forward, between the suspensory ligament branches and the back of the cannon bone.
Windgalls are most commonly diagnosed clinically (on examination) by a vet, but they may want to X-Ray or ultrasound to rule out other causes. Generally speaking, windgalls are of little concern. However, if there is heat present, asymmetrical swelling of one limb more than the other or if swelling occurs with lameness this points to a more serious issue. In these instances the swelling could be the result of a sprain of the joint or tendon sheath. If swelling like this occurs alongside rapid onset severe lameness, this may be due to a penetrating injury and infection – this constitutes a medical emergency.
The swellings often reduce with work and tend to be smaller in cold weather. Therefore, working your horse regularly and cold therapy are commonly of benefit in horses with windgalls.