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


Cracking, Popping or Crunching when Limb Moved


As in humans, popping and snapping sounds can occur in horses that are neither lame nor injured. Be skeptical of the significance of this sign when a horse appears normal otherwise.

On the other hand, this observation may accompany a fracture or ligament injury, particularly when coupled with severe lameness or a pain response to manipulation.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If severe lameness accompanies this sign.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the horse seems normal other than this sign.
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). Look for swelling or other abnormalities of the limbs. Assess lameness at the walk. If they are sound at the walk, observe them at the trot. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not force the horse to walk forward if they are very reluctant.

your vet's role

Your vet observes the sound you are describing, evaluates the limb carefully, and determines the presence or the degree of lameness. The veterinary examination of the limb can tell a great deal about the health of the anatomical structures. The presence of absence of lameness and response to standing flexion tells a great deal about the presence or absence of injury.

Radiographs, ultrasound and other imaging provides additional information to make a definitive diagnosis.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this?
  • What, specifically are you noticing? Describe the problem.
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Have you noticed lameness?
  • How lame does the horse seem to you?
  • Does the horse have a history of accident or injury?
  • Can the horse bear weight on all the limbs and walk forward fairly normally?
  • Does the horse react in pain when the limb is raised or manipulated?
  • 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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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP