Performance horse lameness

Lameness is a term commonly used in the equine industry, referring to an abnormal stance or gait. In most horses, this is a result of orthopedic pain. Accurately pinpointing the source of lameness can be a challenge in our stoic and silent equine friends, but it is critically important to allow for successful therapies.

Lameness diagnosis in the horse is a combination of art and science. In most cases, a careful history is obtained regarding the duration, onset, and riding maneuvers which exacerbate the lameness. Then a thorough physical exam is performed with special attention to conformation and careful palpation of the horse’s musculoskeletal system. Finally, the horse is examined in motion. This may be performed on various surfaces, with and without rider, assisted by flexion strain tests, etc. Once a gait abnormality is visualized, the fun begins. In subtle cases, a series of specific ‘blocks’ will be performed, methodically desensitizing regions or specific structures, until an improvement in the abnormal gait is seen. Horses are honest creatures, so as soon as the pain is alleviated from a block, the patient will quickly return to a normal gait. Once the specific region or structure has been localized, diagnostic imaging and appropriate specific treatments may be performed.

In more challenging cases, A Lameness Locator System may be applied for objective measurement and charting of asymmetrical steps. This gait analysis system may similarly be used for objective measurement of the improvement with ‘blocks’.


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