Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Difficulty Advancing Front Limb or Leg

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

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

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

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp>101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • If the horse seems particularly distressed by the problem.
  • If severe and obvious lameness is visible at the walk.

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

  • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
  • If there is severe lameness accompanying this sign but the horse can walk.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Movement of the front limb forward requires the coordinated effort of multiple muscle groups. The neck, shoulder and extensor muscles of the forearm are all involved. Thus, pain in any of these muscles may cause a horse to be reluctant to bring the limb forward.

This “swinging limb”, “swinging phase” or “anterior phase” lameness looks different than a weight-bearing lameness (limb hurts when weight is borne on it). The horse may drag the front toe on the ground, or may move it slowly forward.

Generally, a horse demonstrating this observation has a problem high in the limb, in the neck, armpit or chest. Injuries to nerves of the upper limb can also result in this appearance.

WHAT TO DO

Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) paying particular attention to the presence of absence of fever. Carefully assess the whole limb, paying particular attention to the front of the forearm, the neck and the shoulder area. Be sure to press and manipulate these areas, looking for swelling, heat or a pain response.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet performs a careful physical exam to assess general health. They carefully evaluate the regions (listed above) that are most likely to be associated with this change in movement. They perform a lameness exam if needed and may use regional anesthesia and imaging techniques.

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

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