Equine Gait Abnormalities as a Diagnostic Tool

Some disorders produce gait abnormalities and lamenesses that aid in a quick and accurate diagnosis.
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Equine Gait Abnormalities as a Diagnostic Tool
Horses with stringhalt typically present with an unusual hind limb gait in which they repeatedly overflexed the hock and stifle, giving the appearance that they're stepping over something. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Peter Huntington
Some gait abnormalities are obvious, while others are hardly noticeable. Either way, they can indicate a variety of equine disorders. At the 2012 Western Veterinary Conference, held Feb. 19-23 in Las Vegas, Nev., one veterinarian discussed how some gait abnormalities can point to specific health problems.

“Evaluating how a lame horse moves may not reveal the specific source of lameness for every problem, but several disorders produce a characteristic stride pattern that should not be mistaken,” said Robert L. Linford, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, a professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Using a case study approach, Linford took the veterinary audience through these characteristic gait abnormalities.

Case 1—Linford described one case involving a horse seen playing in his pasture before turning up lame shortly after. He had no outward evidence of trauma but showed significant lameness in the left foreleg, and his left shoulder appeared to rotate when bearing weight on that leg

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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