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


Choppy or Short Gait, Short-Strided


A short choppy gait can be a consequence of a horse's conformation, which directly determines their way of moving. Importantly, however, it also can result from lameness, especially lameness in multiple limbs.

Horses that are sore-backed or experiencing pain or discomfort in more than one limb do not always show obvious signs of lameness. Instead, the gait may just seem short, stiff or choppy. Muscle pain and even abdominal pain can also cause a horse to move stiffly.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.
    • If you wonder whether limitations on your horse's performance could relate to lameness.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Consider whether this problem in gait is something new or is your horse's normal "way of going". Consider the horse's conformation. How would you describe it? Assess the horse carefully, paying particular attention to feet, limbs and back. Feel for heat and digital pulse.

Turn the horse sharply on a hard surface. Reluctance to turning might indicate foot soreness or lameness in general. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not simply conclude that this is normal; that it is "just the way my horse travels."

your vet's role

Your vet will likely need to evaluate the horse in order to understand whether the problem is a conformational one or relates to pain.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Do you see obvious lameness or a head bob?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Does your horse have a history of lameness?
  • Do you notice digital pulses in the feet?
  • In what gait do you notice the problem most?
  • When was the last time the horse performed to your expectations, or has he ever?
  • Have you examined the horse's back and girth and checked saddle fit?
  • Has anything changed with respect to shoeing or trimming?
  • When was the horse's last shoeing?
  • Does the stiffness seem worse on hard ground than soft?
  • Has the saddle or pad changed?
  • 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
more diagnoses

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP