Equine Lameness

brown horse being trotted

Horse ownership brings a sense of joy and satisfaction, but with that also comes a serious responsibility. Horses are magnificent, strong animals, but this health and strength needs careful maintenance and observation in order to spot and treat problems early on. At Carolina Equine Hospital,  we make it our top priority to help horse owners learn all they can about their animal’s health. Horse lameness is a serious physical condition and spotting this issue early on could be crucial to your horse’s health and longevity.

What Is Horse Lameness?

The term “lameness” refers to a wide range of gait abnormalities. The most basic definition is an abnormality in your horse’s movement. These abnormalities can be caused by pain or reduced movement. Although many people think of lameness as only concerning the legs, any part of your horse can be affected. Lameness often starts in the bones or in the soft tissues of the body.

Lameness can be graded on a scale from 0 to 5 to pinpoint the severity of lameness. A 0 indicates a sound horse with no lameness present, while a 5 indicates that lameness is so severe the animal cannot bear weight on the leg. Our veterinarians may also use terms such as acute or chronic to describe lameness. Acute means that lameness that is a new development that occurred suddenly. Chronic lameness would refer to lameness that has been an ongoing problem for some time.

Lameness can be a result of many causes. The most common causes include trauma to the limb, abscesses, overload injuries, arthritis, and laminitis.

How to Identify Lameness

Severe lameness is often easy to identify. Severe lameness will manifest as a distinct abnormality in gait or stance. It can also manifest as an inability to bear weight. If an animal is unable to stand, it likely has an extreme case.

Not all cases of lameness are this extreme, however. The less severe cases are sometimes more difficult to pinpoint. A few of the subtler signs of lameness may include:

  • Head bobbing
  • Short choppy strides
  • Resistance to bending and turning
  • Frequent shifting of weight

Treating Lameness

The first step to diagnosing lameness is to have one of our doctors perform a lameness exam using the Lameness Locator. Once the severity of the lameness is known treatment can begin. Lameness can be treated with various methods. These could be minor treatments, like injections, medications, physical rehabilitation, or chiropractic care. In severe cases, a horse may need surgery.

Visit Our Equine Hospital

If you fear that your horse is experiencing lameness, it is best to get treatment right away. At Carolina Equine Hospital, our equine veterinarians are skilled lameness locators and will be able to diagnose your horse properly. We can then create a treatment plan to help your horse heal and regain strength. To learn more or to schedule an appointment for your horse, call us today.


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