Swollen limbs can be a sign of a condition known as equine lymphedema. In draft horses, this condition is known as chronic, progressive lymphedema (CPL), which is unique to them. These may lead to unproductive horses or early euthanization if not managed properly. Equine lymphedema (EL) is the accumulation of lymph fluid, resulting in the acute or chronic swelling of the extremities. In horses it is most commonly seen in the limbs.

Through online and hands-on training, HEAL provides the education for horse owners to manage equine lymphedema and for equine professionals to get continuing education credits.


A symptom of lymphedema is swelling, noticeably in the front or hind quarters. The swelling generally starts at the coronary band and moves up to the elbow in the front leg and up to the hock in the hind leg, often times up into the groin area. It can also appear in other parts of the body such as under the jaw and abdomen. The limb may display leaking of fluid, pus, or blood; hair loss, open sores, scabs or redness. Inflammation (swelling) is also known as "stocking up." Lymphedema often compromises the immune system, and severe, chronic cases can be life threatening. Symptoms of chronic, progressive lymphedema (CPL) in draft horses also have specific characteristics that include folds in the skin and/or nodules.

The solution to managing your horse's lymphedema includes a combination of protocols, including a special grooming technique, wrapping (the most important), massage, exercise, and the use of compression stockings. The protocol that seems to work best is a complete decongestive therapy.

To learn more about how we can help, click the appropriate link below.

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Equine lymphedema is a complex condition we don't fully understand. HEAL is seeking to collect and quantify the hidden impact of equine lymphedema in the industry. You will be part of a unique group of horse owners who will help shape the future...

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This is a poignant story about Tom, a draft horse who had chronic, progressive lymphedema, and the people who worked to save him. It’s about the legacy and the hoof prints he left behind to raise awareness concerning the plight of equine lymphedema. It is our dream that Tom will inspire hope in owners and promote a higher standard of living and functionality to the horse that has been inflicted with this chronic, progressive disease.

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"What’s all the hype about friendly bacteria? What does that even mean, and how can it help my horse?" We explain it here, along with an overview of your horse’s digestive system, how to choose a probiotic and what to look for on the label. This information can benefit any horse, not just those with lymphedema.