Lameness. Every horse owner fears the word. But when you own a horse, then you’ll probably need to evaluate him for lameness at some point during his life. Here are 6 ways that you can evaluate lameness in your horse.
While it’s not advisable to ride a lame horse, sometimes lameness becomes apparent while you’re riding. Lameness is usually most apparent at the trot. If you’re riding your horse and think that he’s feeling a bit funny, then try to sit the trot and feel for an uneven step or a hitch in his gait. Try to make note of whether you feel the issue up in the front of your horse’s body, or whether it seems to come from behind.
2. Watch Your Horse Being Led
If you suspect your horse is lame, have a friend lead your horse straight away and to you at the walk and then at the trot. Watch your horse for unevenness, shortness of stride, hesitation, and head bobbing – all of these indicate lameness.
3. Put Your Horse on a Lunge Line
Asking your horse to walk and trot on a lunge line can also help to identify which limb and where lameness is occurring. Watch your horse travel on the lunge line in both directions. When the sore limb is on the inside of the circle, the lameness will usually be more accented.
4. Listen to Your Horse on a Hard Surface
Some horse owners find it easier to listen for lameness in their horses. Have a friend lead your horse over a hard surface at the walk and the trot. Listen for an accented step, or for a step which doesn’t echo out as loudly as the others. This can help to narrow the search for a painful leg or joint on your horse.
5. Perform Flexion Tests
Flexion tests can help to identify the joint where the lameness is originating. If you’ve never performed flexion tests before, then have your vet perform them. It is possible to over-flex and injure a horse if you haven’t been taught how to properly flex him.
6. Do a Nerve Block
The last step in evaluating lameness in a horse is often to perform a nerve block. This is a last result effort which is used when the source of the lameness cannot otherwise be identified. Your vet will start by injecting and numbing joints low on your horse’s affected leg. He will then watch your horse trot out to identify the joint where the lameness is occurring.