Detecting lameness/soreness in a horse

Discussion in 'Horse Health' started by RoozerCruizer, Mar 10, 2018.

  1. RoozerCruizer

    RoozerCruizer Senior Member

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    Hello everyone. I'm looking for some advice/tips from some of the more seasoned horse owners here.
    I'm trying to get better at observing lameness and soreness. I can mostly see when a horse is lame or sore in the front end, and if I know the horse I can feel it when I'm up in the saddle. I've got a pretty good handle on understanding how horses move when they're sound and some of the differences that can happen when they're stiff or sore. But that's mostly for the front end. The hindquarters are definitely more difficult for me to notice but I'm working on it.

    Anyways, my question is, what are some "tells" that you might see in a horse to suggest lameness? I'm talking more functionally instead of refusal or attitude changes.

    The reason this question comes up is I'm getting ready to get a prepurchase exam done on a horse and in the mean time, I'd like to see if I can notice some things on my own by the time I get an opinion from the vet. Basically a self quiz where I get the answers at the end :) and I've just been wanting to get better about it in general.

    I know this is a difficult topic to talk about on a forum since it's MUCH easier to watch a horse and tell someone what to look at. But I thought I'd give it a go and see what you guys have to say :)

    So again, what are some things you can see in a horse that might indicate lameness or soreness? Bonus question, any tricks for detecting it? I know my old vet used to have some stretches and stuff that he would use but I never got the chance to ask him how he did it and why it worked.

    Anyways, thanks again, and sorry for the long post!
     
  2. TBLove

    TBLove Full Member

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    There are so many variable to lameness... Muscle, bone, tendon, hoof balance, skeletal imbalance, footing, breakover, tack fit, rider fit, arthritis, founder, old injuries, neurological, to name a few.

    Generally, some of the many examples could include,
    -Any form of shorter than normal striding in any of the four limbs
    -Any form of head bob on a consistent basis with one of the either fore limbs
    -dropping a hip lower (or raising one higher) than the other during movement
    - flexion test can be used to tell if a horse in sore in particular joint however, a young horse will flex substantially different than a 16 yo with a heavy competition record.
    -odd hoof placement in the walk (one in front of the other [tight rope walking], landing toe first, landing side first and rotating leg etc) winging a leg out or in abnormally
    -small changes in attitude under saddle such as refusing to bend, refusing to lift back, refusing to go forward, etc.
    -horse is obviously off; hopping on three legs, moving on toe only, standing with fore limbs or hind limbs stretched out, etc
    -pointing a front leg with opposite leg cocked could mean a check ligament strain among many other things in the front leg that is pointed
    -bridle lameness is different than actual lameness,though the horse may appear unsound
    - cross firing (cantering on opposite leads front and back), changing to outside lead on a circle when not asked to, etc,
    - grouchiness or tightness in transitions (tail swish, raised head, ear pining, kicking out) can mean back, hip, shoulder pain, poor tack fit, or even rider error
    - an otherwise balanced horse starting to fall into his/her circle could be a sore shoulder/inside foot
    -tripping in front
    -knuckling over behind could mean stifle issue

    There is much more tells, but those are some of the easier to spot ones.
     
  3. RoozerCruizer

    RoozerCruizer Senior Member

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    Wow, thank you for the reply!! Exactly what I was looking for!
     
  4. bellalou

    bellalou Senior Member

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    Another thing to remember is to really observe how sound horses move. Often we forget to really examine movement until we're trying to figure out what's wrong, and then we don't have a baseline to measure by.

    Think about really watching horses move, both at liberty and under saddle. You can do it when you're watching others ride, or watching your own horses in a field, or you can do it watching things like YouTube videos - sale videos, show videos, whatever.

    When you know how a horse is supposed to move, it's easier to see when they're not moving properly. Quite honestly, a lot of times for me, I'm not even seeing specific "tells" so much as my mind is just saying, "that horse is not moving right and it's in the hock on the off side." Because the way he's moving is not the way a horse with a good offside hock moves.
     
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  5. Ziast

    Ziast Senior Member

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    I watched a video from a vet once, I don't remember what the point of the video was, but they were jogging a horse or at one point. I remember them pointing out that you can watch the rise and fall of the wither and hip as the horse strides. Each side should rise to the same degree. The demo video had the horse trotting straight along a wall with horizontal boards, so it was easy to gauge the distance. May not he practical always, but it stuck with me.
     
  6. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    That's why a lot of people try to detect lameness when the horse has a lot of strong horizontal lines behind him, like a fence rail that falls just above his withers and hip.

    There are a lot of good veterinary videos on youtube that coach you in what to look for, and show sound and lame horses. Many people ignore mild signs. For me, any sort of 'uneven strides' is a problem. Whether someone would say 'oh he's just a little stiff' or 'he's sore, not lame, he'll work out of it', or whatever, any of that is a problem for me.

    It's good to study those videos, and any videos of injured or lame horses (just keep in mind that unless it's diagnosed by a vet, the person posting the video may just merely be guessing about what is causing the lameness).

    Every day after catching the horse or haltering him, check his legs. Look and feel. Check for changes in the shape of the legs, thickness of the major tendons, heat, swelling(and note if it's soft, squishy, firm, very hard, whatever), tenderness.

    So what to look for?

    • Head bobbing at the trot (the head bobs up when the lame foreleg touches down, or when the sound hind leg touches down).
    • The rump seems to bump up and down unevenly when the horse trots(hind leg lameness). People often are SURE the horse's back is sore or the stifle is sore. But quite often it's actually in the hocks.
    • The hocks are kept straight, without bending
    • the toes stab into the ground
    • There is a 'hitch' or hesitation in the stride when the leg holds still (especially a hind leg)
    • When you compare, the hip, hock, stifle or fetlock doesn't move the same as its opposite pair.
    • There's a sort of a hitch or 'stop motion' to a leg (especially a hind leg) when the horse is lame behind.
    • The leg appears to jerk, twist, land wide or stumble.
     
  7. Strike2

    Strike2 Registered

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  8. Strike2

    Strike2 Registered

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    Watch the horse move when soundness is not an issue . Study the tail movement. Foot fall . Attitude. Natural head carriage when free in pasture . Ears talk . All horses are different. Pain is tolerated differently per horse . Each horse is unique. Feel for hot spots or sudden areas of no thank you spots . Change in activities. Sometimes a video can help you see what’s wrong . Ask a trusted friend to look .
     
  9. Strike2

    Strike2 Registered

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  10. Strike2

    Strike2 Registered

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    Feel the hooves for heat . Check it’s pulse . Learn to check all vital signs . Watch how it’s breathing steady or labored . Look at the manure and stall . What’s new there ? Stall changes tell us things about the horse . Eating ok ? Unusual patterns of any kind . Compare the same body parts against each other . Is one leg bigger in a spot than the equivalent side ?
    If your horse always greats you with a willing attitude and suddenly stops something’s up . I hope this helps
     

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