Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Limb or Joint Seems to have Excessive Range of Motion

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

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

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If severe lameness accompanies this sign.
  • If your horse will not bear weight on the affected limb.

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

  • If there is mild lameness accompanying this sign.

Any injury to the support structures of the limb (tendon, bone or ligament), may result in a limb that feels abnormally loose. That said, it is important to know that in a normal horse the structures of the limb feel somewhat lax when the limb is not bearing weight. This can cause an inexperienced examiner to falsely conclude that a horse has broken its leg.

There may be a few instances in which you make this observation. The first scenario is one in which the horse will not walk forward and one limb is held strangely. Unfortunately, this is what horses look like when they have suffered a complete fracture of a limb.

Horses that have sustained a severe fracture also sweat, have an elevated heart rare, are anxious and reluctant to move. Importantly, they simply will not put any weight on the affected limb. If your horse can bear weight on the loose limb but it is accompanied by a severe limp or swelling, this too could result from a very severe injury.

WHAT TO DO

If the horse is reluctant to move, let them be. Call your vet immediately. They may advise you to give the horse medication to provide some relief until they arrive.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

In many cases, your vet will quickly make a diagnosis from their physical examination. Otherwise, they will use diagnostics such as radiography, to diagnose the injury.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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