Lameness in a horse and types of treatment.

A guide on how to determine the site of the lameness in a horse and what treatment is best for that type of problem.

There are several ways of recognising lameness in a horse but generally the following ways are the most successful:

Get someone to hold the horse and examine its limbs for signs of heating/swelling or pain.

Ask your assistant to walk the horse away from you in a straight line and then back to you, repeat this in trot. Make sure that the leader

allows the horse total freedom of movement in his head so that you can see how well he is moving.

If the horse is lame in a hind leg then this should become obvious when the horse is being led away from you. This can be mainly noticed by the hip of the sore leg being held higher than the other, also the horse may appear to be nodding its head when the sore leg hits the ground.

A horse lame in its front leg will be easily spotted when the horse is moving towards you, the horse will nod noticeably when the sound leg hits the ground.

Lameness is more obvious in trot and on a circle.

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Another way of establishing lameness is by watching the horse as he moves around the stable or field, paying particular attention to whether he is moving less or more than usual or is over resting a particular leg.

Now that you have worked out which leg is affected try to establish the exact location. A very lame horse is normally injured either in the foot or, less commonly, in the shoulder / hip. If no obvious swelling or heat can be found, check the underside of the foot for bruising or injury particularly if the horse has been recently shod.

If the horse is lame in both front legs it may be due to navicular, laminitis, ringbone or pedal osteitis.

Minor injuries can be treated at home in the following ways:

Cold Hosing – Running cold water over the affected limb for 20 minutes several times a day. This helps to reduce swelling and clean wounds, remember to grease the heels before treatment.

Hot Tubbing – Used on injuries of the lower limb and foot. Fill a bucket half full with hot water and salt and place the foot, (with a greased heel), into the bucket where it should remain for 20 minutes, hot water should be added when required.

Hot Fomentation – Similar to hot tubing but on areas of the leg that cannot be placed in a bucket. Warm two cloths in a bucket of hot water and salt, apply one to the area until the heat is lost out of the cloth and then use the second one while the other warms up again. This should be continued for 20 minutes.

Poulticing – Helpful to reduce inflammation reduces bruising, clean wounds and draw out infections. There are excellent ready-made poultices that can be bought or you can make one of bran mash and salt. Place the poultice in the hoof and cover it by plastic bag or special boot securing it at the fetlock.

The best results are seen when cold and hot treatments are used alternately two or three times a day with poultices in between.

For prolonged or serious lameness veterinary advice should always be sought.

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