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


Lameness, Chronic Hind Limb


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

Low grade, chronic hind limb lameness often goes undetected because it is far less obvious than forelimb lameness. It is a highly under-diagnosed cause of poor performance and behavioral problems under saddle.

Hind limb lameness can also be difficult for your vet to definitively diagnose. If your horse resists training, seems sore backed, can't perform their job at expected levels, low-grade hind limb lameness may be part of the problem.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If lameness is noticeable at the walk.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you consider this a chronic and relatively mild problem that is not changing rapidly.

your role


What To Do

If you suspect there is a problem with your horse's hind limbs, assess the limbs looking for swelling or any other abnormalities. Lift the limbs into flexion and see if you notice a response. Feel the hind feet for heat and digital pulse. When in doubt, rest the horse for a few days and reassess. But recognize how subtle these problems can be. Just because you cannot see an identifiable hind limb lameness does not mean one does not exist.

Share your findings and concerns with your vet, who may recommend a lameness exam. A large variety of conditions cause hind limb lameness, but they usually cannot be differentiated without thorough veterinary examination.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that because a horse travels a certain way, that this confirms a specific diagnosis.

your vet's role

Hind limb lameness diagnosis is as much an art as a science and can be very difficult. Your vet will likely begin with a careful history and general physical exam including an assessment of the horse's conformation and prior use. All of this provides clues to the source of lameness. Different vets perform the exam differently, but this initial assessment is usually followed by more careful examination of the horse's limbs at rest, and then an assessment of the horse in movement. In general, that is followed by flexion exams, hoof tester application, nerve blocks and imaging.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What are you noticing that makes you think there is a hind limb lameness?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Has anything changed in the way the horse is managed?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • When was the last shoeing?
  • Is there a history of severe lameness or accident in the horse's past?
  • What are the results of the bute trial?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnostics

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