Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Resists Raising, Lifting, or Bending a Limb

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you are convinced this is associated with lameness.
  • If you notice apparent wobbliness or weakness, in addition to this sign.
  • If there seems to be pain, swelling or lameness.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
  • If you do not notice lameness.

There are several possible reasons why a horse may resist raising, lifting, or bending a limb.

When an injured joint is put into flexion or any injured tissue is stressed, pain can result causing a horse to withdraw or resist. Pain in or injury to the opposite (weight bearing limb or support limb) limb can also cause a horse to resist lifting the other limb because it hurts to bear weight on the affected limb.

Horses that are weak or suffering neurologic deficits may also resist having a limb lifted because they lose their balance or stability.

In some cases, no obvious physical basis for this behavior is identified. In these cases, this behavior may result from either a training deficiency or handing error.


Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the presence or absence of lameness. Assess both the lifted limb and the support limb carefully, looking for swelling or other abnormalities of either limb.

Compare your horse’s response when the same manipulation is done with the opposite limb.

Consider the horse’s training and your own ability. Could this be strictly a behavioral problem? Share your findings and concerns with your vet.


Your vet will usually start with a thorough history and physical exam, paying particular attention to the affected limb(s), in attempt to determine whether this behavior has an underlying physical cause.

Depending on their initial findings, your vet may also recommend a lameness and/or neurologic exam. Some vets will be able to help with the behavioral aspects of this problem too.

Identify or Rule-Out Possible CausesDIAGNOSES

Lameness, Conditions Causing, Generally
Laminitis, Acute
Fetlock Arthritis, Osselets
Carpal Arthritis, Carpitis
Fracture or Broken Bone, Generally
Laminitis, Chronic
Ligament & Tendon Injuries, Generally
Osteoarthritis, OA, Generally
Myopathy & Muscle Conditions, Generally
Infected Joint, Septic Arthritis (in Adult)
Flexor Tendon Injury, Tendinitis, Bowed Tendon
Septic or Infected Flexor Tendon Sheath (in Adult)
Fracture of Carpal Bone Chip & Slab
Fibrotic Myopathy
Idiopathic Bog, Joint Fluid Accumulation Top Joint of Hock
Suspensory Ligament Branch Injury
Strain or Injury Distal Ligaments Proximal Sesamoid
Muscle Strain in Upper Limb
Tying-Up, Recurrent Exertional Rhabdomyolysis
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Carpal Canal Tenosynovitis
Stress or Hairline Fractures, Generally
Fracture of Carpal Bone Chip & Slab
Foal or Newborn, Septic or Infected Joint or Tendon Sheath
Laminitis, Support-Limb
Fracture of Scapula or Point of Shoulder
Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy, PSSM
Fracture of Cannon Bone, Condylar
Cruciate Ligament Injury
Fracture of Extensor Process P3
Fracture of Humerus
Equine Rhabdomyolytic Syndrome, ERS
Fracture of Olecranon of Elbow
Wound or Laceration to Heavily Muscled Areas
Abscesses in Heavily Muscled Areas
Infection of Extensor Tendon Sheath
Fracture of Pastern Bones
Carpal Hygroma, Synovial Hernia, Ganglion
Fracture of Hip, Pelvis
Fracture of Femur & 3rd Trochanter Fracture
Fracture of Navicular Bone
Subchondral Bone Cyst, Generally
Deep Digital Flexor Tendinitis in Hoof
Muscle Strain of Back
Wound or Laceration into Joint, Tendon Sheath or Bursa
Curb, Strain of Tarsal Plantar Ligament
Fracture of Sesamoid Bones
Wound or Laceration involving Lower Limb Flexor Tendon
Wounds to Extensor Tendons
Deep Digital Flexor Tendon Rupture
White Muscle Disease, WMD
Fluoroquinolone Induced Tendinopathy
Radial Exostosis & Osteochondroma
Dislocated Hip, Coxo-Femoral Luxation

POSSIBLE TREATMENTS or TherapiesTo Lessen or Resolve the Sign

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.