Horses are a very diverse animal. Many different breeds, all with different abilities. One thing they all have in common is lameness. No matter what the breed or what they are used for, lameness is a problem many horses face. What is lameness though? Lameness is a symptom within a horse's body that causes pain in their limbs. The pain causes the horse to change its gait in an attempt to lessen the amount of weight on the affected limb. Lameness occurs due to a few different reasons:
- The horse’s age: With any species, age takes a toll on the body.
- Wear and tear: Depending on what your horse is used for, the wear and tear of activity can cause lameness to occur.
- Injury: If your horse has been injured there is a possibility of suffering lameness. Lameness can be difficult to spot. Get a good understanding of your horse and their anatomy. This can help you identify issues and know what to expect with their specific breed. If you notice your horse’s attitude change or their willingness to be ridden and perform, call a veterinarian. Only a licensed veterinarian can diagnose a horse with lameness. The vet will have you come in and do an exam. This blog will talk through what to expect during the veterinary exam for lameness.
- History: The vet will look into a detailed history of your horse. The more information you can give the vet about your horse, the better. The more the vet knows will help them identify if your horse has lameness, where it is coming from, and how to address it.
- Standing Test: Done from a distance. The vet will get a look at the horse’s general appearance. Looking for things such as swelling, pain, and heat.
- Movement: The vet will have your horse trot. Starting in a straight line, followed by doing some circles. They might even have your horse do a specific pattern or have a rider on the horse. This depends on what the vet can see up to this point in the exam.
- Flexion Test: This consists of having specific limbs and joints of your horse under stress for a certain amount of time. This is done to determine the severity of lameness.
- Hoove Test: The vet will use a certain tool to put pressure on the hooves. This is to check for a pain response from the horse. By this point in the exam the vet should have a good idea of where the lameness is occurring.
There are two more steps in the exam that may or may not take place. This depends on how much the vet has been able to determine up to this point. They may do these next two steps so they can be certain on diagnosing your horse.
- Nerve Blocking: The vet will use a local anesthetic to numb certain nerves or areas of the limb. They will have the horse trot around, then apply the anesthetic. Once they’ve numbed the horse, they have the horse trot again. This is to see if the lameness improves. If they have numbed the right area, the horse will trot better. If not, they will numb different areas until they pinpoint where the lameness is coming from.
- Imaging: Using imaging from an MRI can help the vet be sure on where the lameness is coming from and the severity of it. This step is taken often when the lameness is happening due to an injury.