15 RULES FOR ASSESSING LAMENESS
In his new book, Bob Grisel, DVM, shares insights gained during a lifetime of diagnosing and treating performance-related problems in equine athletes.
Lameness evaluation is a daunting venture for many of us because there are so many visual components to the horse’s gait. Making rhyme or reason out of what we’re seeing can sometimes seem to be an insurmountable task.
We need to realize, however, that we are not required to process all of the visual input simultaneously. In fact, our optical acuity is significantly sharpened when we are only asked to assess one thing at a time. By following a stepwise approach, we force ourselves to interpret each aspect of the horse’s gait independently from one another, thereby simplifying the overall process.
As with any technique, there are inherent do’s and don’ts when it comes to observing the lame horse. Adhering to a few basic guidelines can both simplify and enhance our visual judgment and clinical reasoning.
Practice, practice, practice. Work hard to sharpen your observation skills. Observe as many lame horses as you can, even if it requires you to seek out video footage to review online. A setting in which a single examiner is able to evaluate a large number of subjects has been suggested to be a crucial part of refining one’s subjective diagnostic accuracy.
Watch your horse move on a regular basis (at least weekly). This practice will enhance your ability to discern gait alterations
during the early stages of lameness, before multiple primary or secondary issues have as much chance to develop. With fewer areas of the horse being affected, lameness evaluation is considerably your simplified. horse’s movement Moreover, will changes become in more obvious once you’ve established a visual parisons baseline. Video of can your facilitate horse’s this process gait. by allowing for day-today com-
Employ the help of your veterinarian whenever possible. It is very likely that your equine practitioner has observed many lame horses and could provide further insight into what you’re seeing. If you’ve acquired video footage, pertinent clips can easily be sent to your veterinarian for expeditious review and consultation.
Look for consistent patterns of abnormal movement as opposed to brief flashes of lameness. Stepping on a rock or reacting to some other temporary environmental impediment can generate an obvious, short-lived gait deficit that might disappear within a few minutes. Remember, we’re not looking for an odd step here or there. Rather, we are looking for consistent patterns of movement, both normal and abnormal. If you can’t convince yourself that there is some degree of regularity associated with the altered movement you’re seeing, it probably doesn’t deserve your undivided attention. That said, if you notice the lameness for more than a few hours or over