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


Bobbing Head when Trotting or at Gait

Assess Lameness at the Walk


Head bobbing at the trot is a classic sign of lameness. Head bobbing is more noticeable in forelimb lameness but is also seen in many hind limb lameness conditions (although it tends to be inconsistent).

Some sound gaited horses bob their head normally when they are at their classic gait. Without experience, it can be difficult to determine from a head bob whether these horses are lame or not.

  • 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 this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.

your role


What To Do

If you notice a head bob at the trot, suspect lameness. Start by checking the limbs for swelling, heat or soreness. Always check the lower limbs for digital pulse.

Watch the horse trot on a straight line, as well as in circles to each direction. If you think this might be lameness, call your vet and discuss your findings and concerns. Keep in mind that most lameness originates in the lower limb.

Take a video of the problem and send it to your vet. In most cases, the best you can do for your horse is to have the problem evaluated promptly by a vet. For most lameness conditions, early diagnosis and treatment yields the best prognosis.

What Not To Do

The horse should not be ridden until a diagnosis is reached and the lameness is resolved or managed.

your vet's role

Your vet performs a lameness exam to determine the cause of the lameness or gait abnormality.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is head bobbing worse on the straight, or when turning one direction or another?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Is the lameness noticeable to you at the walk?
  • Do you notice swelling, heat or injury in any of the limbs?
  • What are you seeing specifically?
  • Does this horse have a history of lameness?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

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
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP