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.

EQUUS - - Front Page - By Bob Grisel, DVM

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.

RULE #1

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.

RULE #2

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-

RULE #3

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.

RULE #4

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

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