Horse Lameness
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Horse Lameness

August 13, 2019


Lameness is a very broad term and it’s just like
colic as a very broad term It just defines abdominal pain and then the causes
or myriad of reasons and lameness the same thing.
Horses can exhibit the lameness as a deficit in their gate but it could
be the result of any number of conditions ranging from
laminitis or arthritis or tendinitis and sometimes
neurological conditions that have nothing to do with the actual musculoskeletal system can cause
lameness so so it definitely is a broad term.
Probably the most common cause of lameness is arthritis obviously lameness can be a
result of an injury so we can have an acute lameness that
results from direct trauma to any area of the leg but probably the
more common type of lameness that we see in the performance horse would be a result of wear and tear that that
ensues after the horses activities have taken the toll on a
variety of tissues whether they be soft tissues or hard tissues or tendons or
bones but the joints seem to be the ones that
pay the price the most for the wear and tear process. as a result probably the most common
reason for us to ever evaluate horses for lameness is because they have arthritis So when we start our exam we we start by palpating the soft
tissues of the leg. We primarily palpate the ligaments that are present in a
cannon bone region of the horse Just very standard palpation. We compare always to the other side since the horses aren’t likely to tell us
where things hurt we kinda need to do different ways.
Arthritis can develop in horses at a relatively young age so even in the
midst of their career where you would expect them to still be able to perform
just fine the jobs that we ask courses to do can
oftentimes be extremely taxing on some joints and those joints eventually end up deteriorating enough to to have arthritis happen and then
lameness as a result. There’s a lot of factors that can
contribute to the onset of lameness probably the most important one would be
conformational defects that the horse my have so it’s
important that owners know how to recognize common
conformational defects such as a toed-in or a toed-out confirmation or in
the rear limb and upright limb versus a slope behind then so having the veterinarian advise them at the
time of the purchase with regards to those things is really
important. Other things clearly a that might play a role is the horse
being overweight. Obesity is a cause of lameness in
people and small animals and the same thing in the horse um but at the end of the day that the
main reason why horses become lame is because of the way we use them. A
lot of horses are high-end athletes and they’re prone to injuries and just like
in the human field if you’re a high-end athlete, you are more prone to developing
the wear and tear associated with your activity. Let’s go through back palpation. Back soreness is fairly common
in competitive horses and then palpation
of the rear limbs follows. This is the stifle region of the horse and
stifles are often a source of lameness in horses so we need to make sure that we’ve palpated both sides to ensure
that there’s not any joint swelling or any pain on palpation. Then we’ll pick up the rear limbs to palpate the
soft tissues and nose. Owners may not be able to recognize a
subtle lameness but things that they might want to look for
is that if the horses been used in a certain way for a period of time and then all of a
sudden changes occur in the way that the horse is able to
perform and that might be shown as reluctancy to go on the trail ride or
reluctancy to go over the fence or to maintain the
frame during dressage or depending on the activity of the horse, the horse may just demonstrate an
unwillingness to do its job essentially and and that might be totally
incidental or it might be worth a phone call to the
veterinarian to see if there’s something else going on. Horses usually don’t lie and so a keen
owner should obviously know their animal and should
recruit the help of the veterinarian as soon as possible to see if that change in behavior is related to a lameness issue.
Next thing is to put hoof testers on the horse. The horses’ lamenesses are seventy percent of the times originate
from originate from their hoof so it’s important to test that their
hoofs for any lameness issues since its kinda hard
to squeeze the hoof with your fingers you kinda have to use an instrument and the instrument is called the hoof
tester so we just kind of work our way around
the hoof while squeezing to make sure that he doesn’t have a painful response. This
horse is not reacting in any way to it. So one of the things that might have
come out from watching the lameness exam is that lameness exams take time. They take a long time as a matter of fact in order to dissect
the lameness down to where it originates from one has to take the time to use
different surfaces to to move horses around because different
terrains will elicit different problems the grass will be more taxing on certain
things like soft tissues versus the concrete might be more taxing
on the hoof and so we tend to use as many tools as
we can to get to the root cause of the lameness.
That’s the hardest part of lameness workup is that the horse shows the lameness on a limb but
you have no idea where the origin of that lameness is. It might be
coming from the back it might be coming from the hip region and it might be coming
from the cervical spine it could it could be any
number of places and it’s not uncommon at all that we
would have clients come to the university and ride their horses and that’s the whole
reason why we have this lameness area because they will get on
the horses back and demonstrate demonstrate what they actually see when
the horse or feel when the horse is lame and that’s really vital information. One
of the most rewarding ways to to identify the source of lameness is to have a educated rider on the horse that
tells you this is what I feel and then you can see it from the ground then you
can match the interpretation of the trainer or the
rider with what you’re actually seeing and then things make a lot more sense.

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