Researchers Examine Compensatory Lameness Sources

Some forelimb lamenesses can result in the horse appearing unsound in a hind limb.
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Veterinarians are frequently asked to examine horses for lameness in more than one leg, a condition referred to as multi-limb lameness. “If you have a lameness in one leg, the horse will often shift its weight, and this can make another limb appear lame,” said John F. Marshall, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, of the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine’s Weipers Centre Equine Hospital, in Scotland. This, of course, can make diagnosing the source of the problem difficult.

To help veterinarians determine which limb is the source of the lameness, Marshall and colleagues evaluated 28 horses with naturally occurring forelimb lameness caused by a variety of issues, including navicular syndrome, coffin joint arthritis, and tendon and ligament issues.

They determined that these forelimb lamenesses resulted in significant compensatory load redistribution.

“Forelimb lameness reduces the push-off from the opposite hind limb, which looks like lameness,” Marshall explained. “For example, a left forelimb lameness would cause a false ‘lameness’ in the right hind limb,” caused solely by the horse shifting its weight away from pain in another limb

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Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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