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Diagnosing and Treating Equine Lameness: Has your horse got a limp? Determine what’s wrong and help him heal.

Free Guide on Horse Lameness

Print this guide and take it straight to the barn! This free downloadable guide helps you diagnose lameness in your horse and help him on the path to recovery sooner.

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Download your FREE guide on horse lameness from MyHorse Daily to learn more about hind leg lameness in horses or front leg lameness in horses.

MyHorse Daily Managing Editor Amy Herdy

MyHorse Daily Managing Editor Amy Herdy

Do you own a lame horse?

I fell in love with horses sometime shortly after I turned 2, and that’s when I started begging my parents for a pony of my very own.  I knew little about equine logistics such as feed, board, tack or horse lameness, but none of that mattered—I was in love.

Yet in the crazy rush of raising four children, my parents somehow overlooked my request, forcing me to take matters into my own hands. And so at the age of 12 I bought my first pony, a little lame horse, with money saved for years in a blue box under my bed, and after the fact announced my purchase to my parents.
checking horse lameness
It didn’t matter to me that my pony, a retired buckskin barrel racer named, appropriately, Buck, had such lameness issues that he walked with a pronounced limp.  I knew nothing about front leg lameness in horses or hind leg lameness in horses and I didn’t care. He was mine, bought and paid for, and he came complete with a saddle, bridle and stall rent, which I swore I’d pay for with babysitting. And I did.

Now I’m older, wise and know much, much more about horse lameness causes. I still fall in love with various horses but I’m much more careful with how I invest my dollars. I’ve learned from watching others that front leg lameness in horses or hind leg lameness in horses is nothing to mess with.

Suspect Your Horse Is Lame? We Can Help.

Diagnosing and Treating Equine LamenessSooner or later, every horse owner is confronted with a horse that's either slightly "off" or one that's downright gimpy. What do you do next? Our FREE guide, Diagnosing and Treating Equine Lameness, helps you successfully diagnosis your horse so he can receive the proper treatment. Click the button below and we'll send you a download link to your copy of this FREE guide and we'll also notify you by email whenever we post new tips!

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Take what happened with my friend Brenda, for example.

Brenda is one of those people who researches everything. She never plunges. When Brenda, who had grown up riding horses, decided she wanted to enjoy one now that she was older, she shopped around carefully. No lame horse for her!

And when Brenda found what she was sure was the horse of her dreams—a large draft mare—she scheduled an appointment with the vet to have the mare checked out from head to tail in order to ferret out any signs of ill health or lameness. There’d be no cough, poor vision or fetlock lameness in Brenda’s horse, or she’d not buy her. Period.

The vet did an exam—but not an x-ray—and found no sign of front leg lameness or hind leg lameness or anything else wrong, and so Brenda happily purchased the mare and brought her home.

Six months later, the mare began shaking her head and acting as if her hind legs had some kind of lameness that caused her pain. Brenda soon became an expert on hind leg lameness in horses , as well as horse lameness causes, and figured out that her beloved mare had bone chips, a condition known as Osteochondrosis, or OCD.

It’s common in large breeds that grown really fast, and is caused when some of their cartilage and bone fragments break off into the joint space. As you can imagine, this lameness often creates a painful condition for the horse.

The horse may try and compensate for the lameness by not wanting to move the affected leg, or by swinging the affected leg outward in order to try to avoid bending it.

Why a Head-Bob Could Signal Lameness In Your Horse

Diagnosing and Treating Equine LamenessSuccessful treatment of equine lameness first begins with an accurate diagnosis. In our FREE guide, Diagnosing and Treating Equine Lameness, we help you recognize signs of lameness in your horse so you can help him heal.

Click the button below and we'll send you a download link to your copy of this FREE guide and we'll also notify you by email whenever we post new tips!

Please provide your name and email address to download this free guide.

All fields are required.

Although OCD usually affects both sides, one leg is usually worse than the other. And while it can be a reason for front leg lameness in horses , it’s one of the leading causes of hind leg lameness in horses .

Now my friend Brenda had to decide what to do.  The treatment for osteochondrosis (OCD) focuses on preventing further breakdown of the joint cartilage and bone, as well as decreasing pain, in order to address the horse lameness.

And while the type of treatment for this type of horse lameness depends upon several factors, including the horse’s age, the severity of its lameness and the owner’s financial situation, for my friend Brenda, the options were limited. She tried cortisone shots on the mare for a few months, but her 6-year-old mare exhibited such a pronounced case of horse hind leg lameness that her vet advised surgery in addition to exercise restriction, weight control and pain management.

The surgery cost Brenda more than $2,000, which was more than she’d paid for the mare. But what was she to do? She was already attached to her. So despite a trainer’s clinical advise to get rid of the mare and not invest the money in her to cure her lameness, Brenda did.

The surgery went well, and afterward, Brenda started her mare on the long road to recovery. She knew her horse’s hind leg lameness had been a long time in the making, and that it would take months to heal.

She faithfully wrapped her mare’s legs, gave her the anti-inflammatory medicine prescribed by the vet for her lameness, and took her on slow walks as she healed.

Get Smarter About Equine Lameness

Diagnosing and Treating Equine LamenessYour horse's conformation, use and temperament are all factors to consider as your lame horse heals. In our FREE guide, Diagnosing and Treating Equine Lameness, we help you become better informed about the nature of his problem so you can apply a more effective treatment regimen.

Click the button below and we'll send you a download link to your copy of this FREE guide and we'll also notify you by email whenever we post new tips!

Please provide your name and email address to download this free guide.

All fields are required.

Finally, she put her on a pasture and allowed her total rest for six months. At the end of that time period, the mare was well, and her lameness gone.

Now Brenda (and I) know a lot more about lameness, as well as horse lameness causes. When it comes to OCD, those causes include:

  1. An excess intake of calories, including too much phosphorous and calcium. It’s recommended that breeders slow the rate of growth of large breeds of horses in order to reduce the incidence of osteochondrosis (OCD), which can lead to hind leg lameness or front leg lameness. Ask your veterinarian what kind of diet is best for your horse.
  2. Exercise—Often, OCD develops as a consequence of a defective transformation of cartilage into bone. If a young horse overuses a joint that’s affected by OCD, then the defective cartilage can separate from the bone to which it is attached. Separation of this cartilage from the bone causes pain and joint instability. So if you restrict the horse’s exercise, it can help prevent OCD and front leg lameness or hind leg lameness.
  3. Improper shoeing can also cause many joint and muscle problems, and has been proven to play a large role in degenerative disease and lameness. So make sure your farrier is experienced and has a strong reputation.

Amy Herdy
Amy Herdy
MyHorse Daily Managing Editor

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