476 Myrtle Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11205 US

(718) 623-3999

Open mobile navigation

Lameness in Horses

image of a horse.

Horse lameness is a condition that occurs when a horse is unable to move normally. While the majority of horse lameness is related to the foot, this condition may be caused by problems in a horse’s bones, muscles, nerves, tendons or ligaments. Repetitive injuries, infection, poor nutrition, tooth problems, and founder (also known as laminitis) are the primary causes for horse lameness. It may occur gradually over time or suddenly with little warning. In some cases, lameness may resolve itself; however, veterinary intervention is often required to proactively treat this condition and prevent additional health problems.

Lameness is the most common cause of poor performance in sport horses. Diseases or injuries to the musculoskeletal system are a major cause for poor athletic performance. The age, breed and gender of a horse are also important. Certain causes for lameness are more likely to affect certain breeds and ages of horses. Past medical history is also important in a lameness evaluation.

An equine veterinarian is trained to diagnose and evaluate lameness in a horse. The more severely lame a horse is, the more noticeable this lameness will be in the horse’s walk. A horse will be evaluated at a trot (jog), which is the optimal gait for detecting lameness. A horse will be observed from both the front and the back while the horse is moving to detect lameness.

A veterinarian will evaluate the following:
• Amount of weight bearing
• Length of stride
• Flight and landing of feet
• Carriage of the head and neck

The American Association of Equine Practitioners rates horses on the following scale for lameness:
• 0: Not detectable under any circumstances
• 1: Difficult to observe and not consistently apparent
• 2: Difficult to observe at a walk or when trotting in a straight line, but noticeable under certain circumstances (e.g., circling, inclines, weight carrying)
• 3: Consistently observable at a trot under all circumstances.

Once a horse is diagnosed with lameness, the most effective treatment options are those that directly target the underlying cause for lameness. In general, this means reducing exercise and the weight of the horse. Medications for horse lameness are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications that fight pain and improve joint mobility. Some injectable medications are also available to protect joint cartilage and support normal joint fluid. Hoof supplements that contain biotin, zinc, copper, complete proteins, and Omega 3 fatty acids may also be beneficial, depending on the cause for lameness.

Source:
Moore, Rustin M. DVM, PhD, DACVS; Burba, Daniel J., DVM, DACVS. “Musculoskeletal Causes of Lameness and Poor Performance in Horses.” Louisiana State University, School of Veterinary Medicine.

New to Clinton Hill Animal Clinic?

Sign-up to request more information!

Office Hours

Monday:

10:30 am-7:00 pm

Tuesday:

10:30 am-7:00 pm

Wednesday:

10:30 am-7:00 pm

Thursday:

Closed

Friday:

10:30 am-7:00 pm

Saturday:

10:30 am-5:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Location

Find us on the map

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "To Dr Dendtler and Staff, I cant begin to tell you how impressed I am with the loving care you have given to my cat Baxter, before and after the much needed surgery. Baxter is so pleased with the outcome; he goes around purring all day."
    Thanks again. -Estelle P.
  • "Dear Pamella, We want to thank all of you so much, not only for the loving care and consideration you showed us last Thursday when we had to say goodbye to Gericho but also for all the years of check-ups and other crisis' that we went through with him. We know it was your good efforts that allowed him to live a full and vigorous 16 years that gave us so much pleasure. Please know that we have always found your staff to be so courteous and helpful all these years."
    Thank you. -Cathy W.
  • "Dear Dr. Dendtler, You were very thorough and caring in treating Buddy. You explained clearly how to protect my dog. I have been to many clinics but you are the best. You were very professional and compassionate. Buddy and I are very grateful. Thanks ever so much to you and your staff."
    John L.
  • "Hi Dr Dendtler, Thank you so very much for fixing my eye. I can see clearly now…I can see all obstacles in my way! Love Vernell R"
    Vernell R.

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles