Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Lameness, Conditions Causing, Generally

There are thousands of potential causes of equine lameness. Start with a limb with dozens of bones, many joints and even more joint pouches and capsules, tendons, tendon sheaths, check ligaments, sesamoids, bursae, muscles, ligaments, nerves and vessels.

Add to that a unique, intricate and dynamic live hoof. Mechanically, consider the dozens of levers, pulleys, and struts that make up this unique biomechanical device. Envision them all interrelated, connected to the spine through tendon and ligament and muscle, and the spine linked to both front and hind limb. Now add the limb, which is enveloped in massive muscle and is extremely difficult to penetrate with our imaging methods.

The equine limb is a miracle of engineering and is very complex.

Lameness as a science is thus very complicated. The practice of lameness evaluation is a lifelong pursuit and is an art as much as a science. Sometimes vets can reach a precise diagnosis, sometimes we cannot. Even when we do, there may be other factors that complicate the situation that we may or may not be aware of.

I Might ObserveRelated Observations

Seems Sore in Feet, Especially on Hard Ground or Gravel
Lameness, Chronic Front Limb
Lameness, Generally
Lameness, Chronic Hind Limb
Hindquarters Seem to Fall Away or Collapse while Ridden
Hesitant to Walk on Hard Surfaces
Lameness, Sudden Onset Under Saddle
Bobbing Head when Trotting or at Gait
Lameness, Recent Hind Limb
Foal Lameness, 1-6 Months Old
Lameness, Recent Front Limb
High Nail on Hoof Wall
Resists Raising, Lifting, or Bending a Limb
Lameness, Severe, Cannot Support Weight on Limb
Single Lump or Swelling on Lower Limb or Leg
Leads, Trouble Maintaining or Changing
Hind Limb, Short-Strided on One or Both Limbs
Kicks Out with a Hind Limb Under Saddle
Disjointed Feeling Under Saddle
Difficulty Advancing Front Limb or Leg
Shifting Weight from Limb to Limb, Treading
Worsening Attitude or Performance Under Saddle
Carpus (Knee) Swollen
Not Engaging or Collecting, Lacks Impulsion
Suddenly Stops or Resists Moving Forward Under Saddle
Choppy or Short Gait, Short-Strided
Winging In, Front Hoof Swings Inward Toward other Limb
Will Not Stop or Roll Back Well
Dropped Elbow, Cannot Support Weight
Hind Hoof Slaps Down to Ground at Front Extent of Stride
Rushes through Maneuvers or around Obstacles
Lame with Snow, Ice or Mud Packed into Soles
Reduced Racing Performance
Rigid, Stiff Limbs or Legs
Swelling of Multiple Lower Limbs or Legs
Cannot Pick Up Foot
Hard Bump on Inside of Lower Hock
Foal Lameness, Under 1 Month Old
Abnormal Foot or Limb Placement, at Rest
Will Not Stand for Farrier, Will Not Hold Leg Up for Long
Loss of Muscle Mass, Generalized, on Top-line or Back
Saddle Slips during Work
Can't Seem to Move or Bend Hind Limb, Locked
Resistance to Mounting
Stumbling, Seems Uncoordinated Under Saddle
Hind Hoof Swings Outward at Walk or Trot
Back Sore, Dips Away from Pressure with Hands
Splints or Braces Against Pressure from Hands
Saw-Horse Stance, Hind Limbs Under & Front Limbs Forward
Hind Hooves, Toes Worn Off or Toe Dragging
Resists Moving Forward Under Saddle, Lazy
Lame or Sore after Farrier Visit
Obvious Stumbling or Tripping, Even when Not Under Saddle
Scar on Coronet, Hairline of Hoof
Foal or Newborn, Fetlock(s) Excessively Upright or Rolling Forward, Cocked Ankles
Crab Walking or Uneven Tracking
Hind-End Leans or Falls to One Side, One Hind Limb Seems Weak
Considering Horse For Purchase
Opposite Hooves Seem Different Angles, Shapes or Sizes
Hind Limb Bows Outward at Hock When Walking
Irritability, Moodiness, or Aggression Toward People
Cannot Seem to Get Up, Lying Down, Seems Aware
Drags in Hand, Won't Lead Up
Hypersensitive to Touch, Generally
Abnormally Deep Cleft Between Heel Bulbs, Deep Central Groove of Frog
Accident, Horse Trapped in Trailer
Rough Gait at the Trot
Black, Smelly & Pasty Material in Sole or Frog, Thrush
Resting One Hind Limb, One Limb Cocked
Front Limbs Spread, Wide Stance


Depends on diagnosis.
Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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