Lameness Issues in Horses

One of the most common investigations we are asked to perform at the practice is for lameness. We explain how we investigate lameness at our equine practice

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One of the most common investigations we are asked to perform at the practice is for lameness. Some of these investigations are straightforward with an obvious cause such as a foot abscess or an area of increased swelling, however others require further investigation.

Investigating Lameness

When we investigate lameness, we will often ask you a number of questions around the lameness and what the horse does. Like athletes there are some conditions that are more prevalent in certain disciplines e.g. suspensory ligament desmitis in dressage horses. After examining the horse, we will usually want to examine the horse in a straight line and lunged on a soft and a hard surface. Some cases we will also see ridden. As we do so many investigations at the practice it is set up to have just the right surfaces for these examinations.

Potential Symptoms of Lameness

These are the most common symptoms of lameness. This list is by no means exhaustive!

  • Heat/pain or swelling
  • Head nod
  • Soreness on the turn
  • Difficulty with transitions
  • Cold backed
  • Changed performance
  • Poor performance
  • Aversion tactics
  • Behavioural problems

Causes of Lameness

Some horses are very stoic and the only symptom may be a loss of performance or altered behaviour e.g. difficult transitions, sudden stopping at fences. In some cases, there is more than one cause of lameness. In these more complicated cases or where there is no heat or swelling we often perform nerve or joint blocks. These involve putting local anaesthetic in key locations and observing the horse after set periods of time to see what effect it has had on the lameness.

Diagnosing Your Horse

Getting the right answer is key in these cases as we need to make sure there is a correct treatment and rehabilitation plan so we will often have the cases in for at least one day to investigate rather than make a rushed diagnosis.

Rest assured we will take the time to get to the right answer for your horse. This takes time and effort and this is why for the ongoing cases we do them at the practice where we have top of the range kit, appropriate surfaces and experienced teams. Wendy and Jacqui have lameness clinics Monday – Thursday however emergencies are seen any time. We work with you, farriers, physiotherapists, saddlers and instructors to get the optimal result for your horse.

Out of hours emergency

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