Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Lameness, Recent Hind Limb

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 severe and obvious lameness is visible at the walk.

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

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
  • If the lameness is mild.

Lameness is an alteration in gait caused by pain or a restriction on movement (mechanical lameness).

Recently observed hind limb lameness may be caused by a simple problem that will resolve on its own or by a more severe condition that requires veterinary care. Since there are hundreds of potential causes, it is very difficult to discern the difference between a minor self-resolving problem or a major problem.

The most common locations for hind limb lameness are the foot and the hock. As with the front limb, hoof bruises and abscesses are always high on the list.


Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the presence and severity of lameness at the walk. Take their rectal temperature.

Look carefully for swelling in the limb and carefully assess for digital pulse and heat in the lower limb and foot. Compare the apparently lame limb to the other limbs. Check the sole carefully for packed debris, penetrating nail or other injury. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.


Your vet will assess the horse’s general health, and perform a lameness exam. At that point, further diagnostics can be considered.

Note, when it comes to lameness, (particularly in the hind limb) it is very difficult for a vet to determine whether the underlying problem is simple or complex without examining the horse. Hind limb lameness exams can range from quick and simple to grueling and expensive.

What Not To Do

Do not treat your horse yourself with an NSAID (bute), without involving your vet. You risk encouraging your horse to use a damaged limb or allowing a disease process to worsen. Continuing to work a lame horse can lead to chronic lameness in the future.


Digital Pulse Can Be Felt in Foot
Heat in Hoof Walls, Foot or Feet
Swelling of Upper Hind Limb or Leg
Fever, Rectal Temperature Greater than 101.5 (in Adult)
Swelling of One Lower Limb or Leg
Lameness, Immediately Following Trauma or Accident
Lameness, Chronic Hind Limb
Lameness, Severe, Cannot Support Weight on Limb
Lameness, Sudden Onset Under Saddle
Resting One Hind Limb, One Limb Cocked
Stifle Area Seems Swollen
Suddenly Stops or Resists Moving Forward Under Saddle
Skin Feels Warm or Hot, Heat in a Local Area
Pop or Clunk Sound when Bearing Weight on Hind Limb or Walking
Lame or Sore after Farrier Visit
Can't Seem to Move or Bend Hind Limb, Locked
Lameness, Worse after Joint Injection
Hind Hoof Swings Outward at Walk or Trot
Hind Limb Swings Inward, Viewed from Behind
Hind Limb, Short-Strided on One or Both Limbs
High Nail on Hoof Wall
Worsening Attitude or Performance Under Saddle
Reduced Racing Performance
Not Engaging or Collecting, Lacks Impulsion
Excessive Bend in Hocks, Sickle Hocks
Will Not Stop or Roll Back Well
Rushes through Maneuvers or around Obstacles
Stumbling, Seems Uncoordinated Under Saddle
Resists Moving Forward Under Saddle, Lazy
Saddle Slips during Work
Foal Lameness, Under 1 Month Old
Lameness, Worse after Joint Injection
Hind Hooves, Toes Worn Off or Toe Dragging
Foal Lameness, 1-6 Months Old
Hindquarters Seem to Fall Away or Collapse while Ridden
Hind Hoof Slaps Down to Ground at Front Extent of Stride
Clicking or Snapping of Hind Limbs at Walk
Hind Limb Bows Outward at Hock When Walking
Straight Through Stifle & Hock, Post-Legged Conformation
Foal or Newborn, Fever, Rectal Temperature Greater than 102.5 Degrees

Identify or Rule-Out Possible CausesDIAGNOSES

Sole, Foot or Hoof Abscess
Sole, Foot, Corn or Heel Bruise
Lameness, Conditions Causing, Generally
Osteochondrosis, OC, Osteochondritis Dissecans, OCD
Lameness, Undiagnosed
Foot or Hoof Conditions, Undiagnosed
Bone Spavin, Distal Hock Arthrosis
Splints, Splint Exostosis
Proximal Suspensory Ligament Injury, Hind Limb
Suspensory Ligament Branch Injury
Stifle Meniscal & Collateral Ligament Injury
Stress or Hairline Fractures, Generally
Subchondral Bone Cyst, Stifle
Cruciate Ligament Injury
Osteoarthritis, OA, Generally
Fracture or Broken Bone, Generally
Intermittent Upward Fixation of Patella
Pastern Arthritis, High Ringbone
Fibrotic Myopathy
Rope Burn, Uncomplicated Pastern Abrasion
Capped Hock
Peroneus Tertius Rupture
Laminitis, Acute
Upward Fixation of Patella, Locking Stifle or Patella
Strain or Injury Distal Ligaments Proximal Sesamoid
Deep Digital Flexor Tendinitis in Hoof
Nail or Other Foreign Body Punctures Foot, Sole or Frog
Curb, Strain of Tarsal Plantar Ligament
Fracture of Sesamoid Bones
Fracture of Radius or Tibia
Aorto-Iliac Thrombosis
Collateral Ligament Injury or Rupture, Generally
Joint Capsulitis, Synovitis, Tenosynovitis
Fracture of Splint Bone
Fetlock Arthritis, Osselets
Fracture of Cannon Bone, Complete
Fracture of Cannon Bone, Condylar
Pigeon Fever
Obesity, Overweight or Fat
Idiopathic Bog, Joint Fluid Accumulation Top Joint of Hock
Fracture of Hip, Pelvis
Hoof Wall Crack, Blowout
Wound or Laceration of Coronet Band & Hoof Wall
Dislocated Hip, Coxo-Femoral Luxation
Fracture of Femur & 3rd Trochanter Fracture
Neck Conditions, Generally
Fracture of Pastern Bones
Fracture of Coffin Bone, Generally
Trochanteric Bursitis, Whorlbone
False Ringbone
Navicular Bursa Penetrated by Foreign Body
Fracture of Patella

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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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