Lameness refers to a horse’s gait or normal stance. It can be due to problems in one or more limbs, the trunk, or the neck. It is not a specific disease but indicates a disorder in the musculoskeletal structure. 

It is costly in terms of the money needed for medical treatment. It also takes time to treat the condition. However, you can prevent lameness and save yourself and your horse time, money, and pain. It all starts with a knowledge of the causes of lameness in horses.




It can be hard to detect lameness in horses since it commonly appears at varying stages of development. However, you can identify issues if you are keen to look closely. Pay particular interest to the horse’s overall demeanor, gait, and movement.

You can understand the causes by looking at the common issues that result. These include:

  • Neurological issues

  • Mechanical issues

  • Trauma or pain


Neurological Issues


A neurological examination of your horse is necessary when you cannot pinpoint the reason for lameness. Congenital illnesses and toxins can lead to neurological issues that lead to lameness. These can cause paralysis, unilateral muscular atrophy, paresis, or dysmetria.

You will notice that your horse has muscle tremors and find it difficult to pick up its hind feet. Affected limbs may be hyper-flexible during the stringhalt. Neurological issues may also occur from spinal cord compression or changes in the brain.


Mechanical Issues


These primarily result from the upward fixation of the patella. It can also be due to fibrotic myopathy, adhesions, annular ligaments, and severe fibrosis. In the case of fibrotic myopathy, the animal pushes the afflicted leg back and down. It causes the foot to slap down on the ground during walks.


Trauma and Pain


These can result from infection, orthopedic problems, metabolic, and diet-related causes. There can also be damage to tissue and inflammation. It leads to pain that may cause lameness. A high intake of carbohydrates without a balanced diet can also result in issues. It causes metabolic trauma that can have a direct impact on muscle function.




Treatment will vary with the cause of the lameness. It includes joint support, rest, anti-inflammatory medication, injections, and surgery. The vet will develop a treatment plan that may include complementary and regenerative therapies. These include chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, and massage.




Prevention should start with providing regular wellness care for your horse. House the animals in a safe environment, trim their hoofs, and help them exercise. Give them five to 10 minutes to warm up and cool down after exercising. Also, slowly reintroduce your horse back to exercising after a rest period. 

You can also use joint supplements to help prevent lameness. But if you notice a change of attitude, do not hesitate to call the vet and let them perform a lameness evaluation. It will help take care of anything causing discomfort before the situation becomes severe.

For more information on lameness in horses, visit South Willamette Veterinary Clinic at our office in Creswell, Oregon. Call (541) 895-5665 to book an appointment today.

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