Lameness

Lameness can affect any horse. Our goal is to make the diagnosis and treatment as quick and effective as possible. Many lameness issues can be diagnosed at your yard using our state of the art portable x-ray and ultrasound equipment but for the more complex cases our specially designed trot up and ménage allows for accurate diagnosis of even the most subtle lameness. Once the cause of lameness has been established the correct course of treatment can be recommended be it surgery in our surgical facility or management at your yard, our vets are on hand to guide you through the choices necessary to get your horse back to work as soon as possible.

Lameness Examination

While the cause of lameness is sometimes easy to find in many cases it takes careful examination to find the source.

  • A full history to find out when the problem started, if it has changed and how the lameness has responded to treatment.
  • Examination firstly involves a static examination of your horse, we are looking for any asymmetry in muscles or bones as well as how they choose to stand, how they are shod and if there is any sign of injury.
  • We may use hoof testers at this point to see if there is any pain in the hoof such as an abscess or laminitis.
  • Walking your horse up and down will allow us to see how they move their leg through the air; do they dish, brush and is the movement of all legs equal. How do their feet land, do they land on one side of the hoof for example.
  • Trotting is the pace that shows lameness up the most easily in the majority of cases, any obvious lameness will be noted as well as any changes to how the horse carries themselves during movement.
  • Flexion tests allow us to stress one leg at a time to see if this causes an increase in lameness when trotted away immediately.
  • Lunging on both a hard and soft surface will change the way that pressure is transmitted through the structures of the foot and leg and can reveal lameness that was not evident on a straight line.
  • In some cases a lameness will only be seen when a horse is ridden and occasionally only during a particular activity such as collected work or after jumping in which case it is necessary to recreate the conditions that cause the lameness in order to fully evaluate why it is happening.
  • Nerve blocking is a diagnostic procedure that allows us to remove the feeling from regions of the leg, if we have removed the feeling from the area where the pain originates the horse will become sound indicating a small region to concentrate further examination on. In some cases having removed one source of lameness can reveal another source in which case we need to repeat the process until all lameness has been resolved.
  • Depending on where the lameness appears to be, we will recommend the most suitable course of action; this will almost certainly involve x-rays or ultrasound examination of the affected region. It may be that other imaging is going to be the best way to diagnose the lameness in which case either MRI or bonescan (Scintigraphy) will be recommended as appropriate.
  • In cases where a joint is suspected of being the source of the lameness we will place local anaesthetic directly into the joint to narrow down the site of lameness more specifically.