So, your horse is hopping! What can you do to address the problem and how should you go about it?
It is in everyone’s best interest to take prompt action any time you have the least suspicion that something is not right with your horse, especially when it comes to any indications of lameness.
Careful observation is the key to identifying what is causing the lameness. When your horse is lame, it is important to follow up with any treatment your farrier or veterinarian recommends. By using your eyes and your hands as you examine your horse and observe your horse in action, you may be able to locate the cause of the lameness.
REMEMBER: Most lameness problems involve a structure in or below the knee or hock, so that’s the best place to begin!
1. FEET FIRST… MOST PROBLEMS START HERE
– Pick the horse’s feet and make sure no rocks are wedged into crevices.
– Look for dark spots that might indicate a bruised sole. Check for discharge or odor.
– Look for cracks, and check to see if the hooves have been trimmed too short, if a nail is close to the sensitive structures of the hoof, or if the shoe doesn’t fit properly / is loose.
– Move the heels, tap the hoof wall, and use hoof testers if you have them.
– Feel the hooves. Is one hoof warmer than the others? Do you find a pounding pulse? If so, these are indications of injury or possible abscesses.
2. CHECK LOWER LEGS FOR HEAT AND SWELLING
Inflammation could indicate horse may have an injured tendon or ligament.
Note any abnormal stance such as favouring one leg, pointing the toe, or a dropped fetlock.
Look for wounds or injuries to the lower legs.
3. ARE THE JOINTS SWOLLEN OR HOT
- Horses can suffer from arthritis and other degenerative diseases, which might lead to swelling, but not always. A horse may have a bone chip floating in the joint.
- Note any areas that are inflamed, as evidenced by heat and swelling – then look for small puncture wounds.
- Has the stifle perhaps slipped and locked?
- Flex and extend the joints to observe range of motion and to check for pain.
4. SYMMETRY, POSTURE, CONTOUR OF NECK AND BACK
As you move your hands over the horse’s neck and back, notice any indications of swelling, pain, heat, inflammation, or loss of muscle tone.
Does your horse flinch when you approach with the saddle or move away from your touch when you attempt to brush the neck or back areas?
Are there any changes in range of motion?
5. GAIT ASSESSMENT ON SMOOTH LEVEL GROUND: WALK AND TROT, STRAIGHT AND CIRCLES
As you observe from the side, rear, and front, try the horse on soft and hard surfaces, as well as up and down inclines.
Note any abnormal head movement, including a bobbing of the head as steps are taken, hip hiking as the horse walks or trots, reduced arc of foot as the limb is flexed, a shortened stride, or abnormal foot placement such as landing toe first.
THE OBJECTIVE IS TO:
1. Assess which leg/s are affected
2. Determine if the neck or back are affected
3. Grade the severity of lameness – in PART II