Lame horse? Here’s how to trou­bleshoot.

Here’s how to trou­bleshoot the prob­lem and pre­pare for the vet if you have a lame horse on your hands.

Horse & Rider - - Contents -

It’s what we dread—notic­ing that our horse seems “a lit­tle off.” And if he is, what are the steps for as­sess­ing a lame horse? Here’s how to or­ga­nize your ex­am­i­na­tion. At Lib­erty In his pen or pas­ture, does your horse stand nor­mally, with his feet placed more or less un­der him? Cock­ing a hind leg is OK, but “point­ing” a front leg is not. A wider than nor­mal stance is also a warn­ing sign and may in­di­cate a neu­ro­log­i­cal deficit. At a Stand­still On a firm, level sur­face, in­spect each of his legs from ev­ery an­gle, look­ing for cuts, bumps, rubs, bruises, swellings, and dis­charges. Run your bare hand over each leg, feel­ing for heat or sen­si­tive ar­eas. Flex each limb and feel the lay­ers of ten­dons in back of the can­non bone for bumps or sore spots. Check the dig­i­tal pulse of each foot; a nor­mal pulse is faint and slow (about 32 to 36 beats per minute). Wrap your hand around the out­side of each hoof, feel­ing for heat and com­par­ing each foot to the oth­ers. Ex­am­ine the sole, frog, and bars for lodged items, punc­ture wounds, bruises, and cracks. Tap the sole with the hoof pick. Note whether your horse re­sists lift­ing any of his feet, which may in­di­cate pain in the op­pos­ing foot. At a Walk, Trot Have a helper walk your horse back and forth on flat, firm foot­ing as you watch how he moves, es­pe­cially dur­ing turns. Is he strid­ing nor­mally, or is he hes­i­tat­ing or other­wise re­luc­tant to move out? Does he turn the same in both di­rec­tions?

Have your helper trot your horse di­rectly away from you, in a straight line, then pivot and trot straight back to and past you, so you can view your horse from the back, front, and side. Does your horse’s head bob at any point? (It will bob up when a sore fore­leg lands and down when a sore hind leg lands.) Do ei­ther of his hips move un­evenly, or do any of his toes drag? Is his stride shorter than nor­mal? On a Cir­cle Watch as your horse is longed at a trot in both di­rec­tions; is his move­ment the same go­ing both ways? Watch, as be­fore, for head bobs or other hitches of move­ment.

Tighten the longe cir­cle, be­cause the smaller it is, the more stress is placed on feet and legs. Mov­ing to pave­ment fur­ther ups the ante. If your horse can trot a small cir­cle (say, 20 feet in di­am­e­ter) on a black­top or con­crete sur­face with­out show­ing signs of lameness, he’s prob­a­bly not lame.

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