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
Fever, Rectal Temperature Greater than 101.5 (in Adult)
Lameness, Chronic Hind Limb
Resting One Hind Limb, One Limb Cocked
Swelling of Upper Hind Limb or Leg
Lameness, Sudden Onset Under Saddle
Lameness, Immediately Following Trauma or Accident
Lameness, Severe, Cannot Support Weight on Limb
Swelling of One Lower Limb or Leg
Skin Feels Warm or Hot, Heat in a Local Area
Stifle Area Seems Swollen
Suddenly Stops or Resists Moving Forward Under Saddle
Reduced Racing Performance
Can't Seem to Move or Bend Hind Limb, Locked
Hind Hoof Swings Outward at Walk or Trot
Will Not Stop or Roll Back Well
Hind Limb Swings Inward, Viewed from Behind
Hind Limb, Short-Strided on One or Both Limbs
Excessive Bend in Hocks, Sickle Hocks
Worsening Attitude or Performance Under Saddle
Not Engaging or Collecting, Lacks Impulsion
Pop or Clunk Sound when Bearing Weight on Hind Limb or Walking
Lameness, Worse after Joint Injection
High Nail on Hoof Wall
Lame or Sore after Farrier Visit
Stumbling, Seems Uncoordinated Under Saddle
Resists Moving Forward Under Saddle, Lazy
Saddle Slips during Work
Rushes through Maneuvers or around Obstacles
Hind Hoof Slaps Down to Ground at Front Extent of Stride
Hind Hooves, Toes Worn Off or Toe Dragging
Hindquarters Seem to Fall Away or Collapse while Ridden
Lameness, Worse after Joint Injection
Foal Lameness, 1-6 Months Old
Foal Lameness, Under 1 Month Old
Clicking or Snapping of Hind Limbs at Walk
Straight Through Stifle & Hock, Post-Legged Conformation
Hind Limb Bows Outward at Hock When Walking
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
Sporadic Lymphangitis
Lameness, Undiagnosed
Osteochondrosis, OC, Osteochondritis Dissecans, OCD
Foot or Hoof Conditions, Undiagnosed
Bone Spavin, Distal Hock Arthrosis
Fracture or Broken Bone, Generally
Suspensory Ligament Branch Injury
Intermittent Upward Fixation of Patella
Stifle Meniscal & Collateral Ligament Injury
Stress or Hairline Fractures, Generally
Osteoarthritis, OA, Generally
Proximal Suspensory Ligament Injury, Hind Limb
Splints, Splint Exostosis
Subchondral Bone Cyst, Stifle
Cruciate Ligament Injury
Peroneus Tertius Rupture
Rope Burn, Uncomplicated Pastern Abrasion
Strain or Injury Distal Ligaments Proximal Sesamoid
Pastern Arthritis, High Ringbone
Curb, Strain of Tarsal Plantar Ligament
Fracture of Sesamoid Bones
Fibrotic Myopathy
Collateral Ligament Injury or Rupture, Generally
Fracture of Radius or Tibia
Upward Fixation of Patella, Locking Stifle or Patella
Laminitis, Acute
Deep Digital Flexor Tendinitis in Hoof
Nail or Other Foreign Body Punctures Foot, Sole or Frog
Joint Capsulitis, Synovitis, Tenosynovitis
Aorto-Iliac Thrombosis
Capped Hock
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
Hoof Wall Crack, Blowout
Fracture of Hip, Pelvis
Dislocated Hip, Coxo-Femoral Luxation
Wound or Laceration of Coronet Band & Hoof Wall
Neck Conditions, Generally
False Ringbone
Fracture of Pastern Bones
Trochanteric Bursitis, Whorlbone
Navicular Bursa Penetrated by Foreign Body
Fracture of Coffin Bone, Generally
Fracture of Femur & 3rd Trochanter Fracture
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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