What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Pointing, Placing One Limb Forward when Standing


Generally, horses point one front limb forward when they experience pain in the rear part of the limb, especially the hoof. So a horse that points a limb is probably also lame. Pointing is more common in front limbs but a similar stance can be adopted with a hind limb.

The most common cause of this behavior, especially in the forelimbs, is heel pain. However, other common foot lameness conditions like hoof abscess, bruises and other injuries to the rear of the limb also commonly cause horses to adopt this stance. Rarely, certain types of fractures and nerve paralysis can also cause horses to point a limb. Horses with severe injuries may not be able to bear weight on the limb when encouraged to do so.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you are not sure if your horse needs to be seen immediately or not.
    • If the horse will not move or cannot bear weight on the limb, even after 5 minutes.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office 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 there is severe lameness accompanying this sign but the horse can walk.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you notice this only intermittently and lameness is not obvious.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
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your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to rectal temperature and heart rate. Assess the foot for digital pulse and heat. Assess lameness at the walk. Look and feel for swelling in the heel and rear part of the pointing lower limb.

Share your findings and concerns with your vet. The severity of the problem usually depends on the degree of lameness and pain.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that this stance is normal for your horse. Usually it results from pain in the limb. Do not force the horse to walk forward if they strongly resist.

your vet's role

Your vet evaluates the horse standing and in movement to try to determine the nature of the problem. Often, they can quickly identify a problem in the hoof and provide diagnostic and treatment options.

In more complicated cases, a more detailed lameness exam may needed, which might include hoof tester application, flexion tests, nerve blocking and imaging of the limb.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Do you notice digital pulse and heat in the foot?
  • Does this horse have a history of lameness?
  • When was the horse last shod or trimmed?
  • When was the horse last ridden?
  • Have you noticed any other problems like tripping or poor performance?
  • Do you notice swelling or heat in the limb?
  • Do you notice lameness or suspect any other physical problems?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP