Deciphering Multilimb Lameness in Horses
Learn how veterinarians get to the bottom of this complex cause of poor performance
It might start as a performance issue. You notice your horse is just a little “off,” not wanting to take certain turns or lacking power over fences. Or maybe he can do medium trots but no longer wants to do collected trots, or she’s making wide turns around the barrels.
While poor performance can have multiple causes, multilimb lameness—pain in two or more limbs—might be the culprit.
But unlike a single-limb lameness, which often presents as a well-recognized head-bob or hip-hike, multilimb lameness can be complicated to recognize, diagnose, and explain.
“Most riders don’t recognize it (as lameness), but they can appreciate that they’ve got a problem,” says Sue Dyson, MA, Vet MB, PhD, DEO, Dipl. ECVSMR, FRCVS.
To diagnose and, ultimately, treat multilimb lameness, owners and veterinarians must collaborate to focus on the signs and causes, she says.
Poor Performance: The First Clue
Horses with multilimb lameness rarely look “classically” lame, explains James Bailey, BVetMed, FHEA, MRCVS, clinical assistant professor in veterinary sports medicine at the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, in the U.K. “You’re looking for mild performance issues a lot of the time,” he says.
Horses might not only resist certain movements but also shake their heads or gape their mouths. “It really throws into question all those horses that historically were dismissed as naughty or unrideable and dismissed from certain levels of activity,” he
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