How to spot forelimb lameness
By Kirsty Haines
Tuesday 29 May 2012
Ever wondered how to spot forelimb lameness in horses? Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist Kirsty Haines explains.
I know you’re all thinking I’ve gone mad. It’s obvious when a horse is lame right? It nods its head. Well you’d be right it does. Remember the saying “down on the sound”. But a horse that nods obviously when its sound leg touches the ground, and lifts up its head and neck when the lame leg is on the floor is quite lame and really needs further veterinary investigation.
I’m more interested in subtle lamenesses as these are really common in my day to day practise. In fact in a recent article published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, researchers looking at 200 horses over 15 years of age found 50 % of them were lame, but of these only 23% of owners recognised their horse was lame.
So how do you spot a problem with your horse’s movement? This can be difficult and environmental factors will affect how your horse moves on a particular day at a particular time, but we can use these to our advantage.
The gait assessment
While a good old trot up will show some issues, it’s vital to look more in depth if a problem is suspected. After looking at the horse stood square, I always look at horses in walk and trot in a straight line. But that’s just the start. A full assessment includes tight circles on both reins, lunge assessment (or ridden if required). It’s important to look at how the horse uses himself through transitions and in all three paces. Sometimes an issue will only come to light on a certain surface. Hard surfaces send concussive forces up the limb so can highlight discomfort originating from a joint. On the other hand soft surfaces, particularly deeper sandy surfaces can put a greater stress on the soft tissues (muscle, tendon and ligament). So you can see how a horse may be sound in the school but not on a hack and vice versa.
So my horse is not moving correctly – What now?
This depends on why your horse is not moving correctly. It is a Vet’s job to diagnose an injury or illness, but physiotherapy is all about correcting movement dysfunctions for whatever reason (most people call me because their horse is not going right: that’s a movement dysfunction). Having an appreciation of why these occur, means I can treat effectively. This means we have a significant role to play to get you and your horse back on track post injury or illness, right from the early stages.
Kirsty Haines MSc MCSP ACPAT Cat A is a Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist practicing at Westfield Veterinary Physiotherapy, Tel: 0774 8788564, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Browse our horses for sale or place an ad on Horsemart now.