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Lameness in horses

Jul 31, 2018
Lameness in horses

Lameness in horses, every horse owner will recognise the experience. Lameness in horses is one of the most common diseases.

It could be a stone bruise or the more serious tendon injury and/or varying from an hardly noticeable change in movement, to the horse isn’t able to put one or more feet on the ground.

We call it lameness if one or more of the legs isn’t moving normally and consequently displays an irregular gait or isn’t able to move the leg at all.

When the horse stands on 3 legs, it will be a clear picture where to look, for the cause of the lameness. But in most cases, it isn’t so simple. A proper diagnose by an Equine Vet, in those cases is the way to go.

The musculoskeletal of the horse is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. In a healthy horse the carrying and movement phase of the right leg is the same of the left leg, the movement of the individual joints will be symmetric. With a lame horse his carrying and movement phase is irregular. The horse will try in the carrying and movement phase to ‘save’ the sore leg, and supports it often, by moving his head. In general, the lame horse will ‘fall’ on the healthy leg, when moving.

We can divide the lameness in horses into two main types;

Lameness in movement is when the horse has problems with putting his leg forward and / or back when moving.

Lameness in carrying is when the horse has problems putting weight on his sore leg, pain occurs when the hoof hits the ground.

The cause of the lameness in movement is often diagnosed higher and the carrying one under the front fore knee or the hock and thereunder, in the hindleg.

A mix of the 2 types is harder to diagnose as the cause is often related to the spine or somewhere else.

By lunging the horse, the difference between the 2 lameness’s shows up on;

Soft surface, the horse shortens his length of forward pace, when the circle gets smaller, the lameness will increase when the sore leg is on the outside of the circle. The leg must make a bigger movement, and it will hurt more.

Firm surface, the horse will shorten the carrying phase (leg won’t come under), the lameness will increase when the sore leg is on the inside of the circle. (the inside leg carries the most weight on a circle)

A lame horse is in pain and needs to be diagnosed and treated by a Vet.
The earlier the better!
The Farrier plays a key role in keeping the horse sound, making sure his feet are in balance and the right angles.


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