You finally made it out to the barn to ride and what do you see? Your horse painfully limping around. He’s dead lame, as the saying goes. You can see the discomfort all over his body and face. Lameness is usually identified by a change in your horse’s gait or stance. Check out the most common causes of a lame horse:

  1. Ligament or Tendon Injury: Injury usually in the lower leg. The suspensory ligament is often at risk.
  2. Hoof Injury: Infections like an abscess, blunt force injury, or some kind of disease.
  3. Degenerative Diseases: Osteoarthritis or arthritis.
  4. Diet-Related Diseases: Laminitis, also known as founder.
  5. Heel Pain: Possibly navicular, but could be from the suspensory ligament or other collateral ligaments.

Most lameness begins in the hoof. It’s important to start your search for a cause by applying pressure to the foot. You’re looking for discomfort and heat. There are hoof testers on the market to make this task easier.

You’ll also want to walk and trot your horse in a straight line as well as a circle. Your veterinarian might perform a flex test, diagnostic nerve block, X-rays, ultrasounds, and other imaging. In order to treat the lameness, you need to identify where it is coming from.

Sometimes the solution is simple and the lameness resolves itself in a few days. Other times, your horse could be battling a serious injury or life-threatening disease. It is wise to work with your veterinarian if you are not sure of the cause. Keep a close eye on your horse and never underestimate lameness.