Your horse’s gait doesn’t look right. It’s not something you can really put your finger on, but he looks off. Is he lame, or is there something else going on? And how serious is it?
"Most clinicians can intuitively recognize an ataxic gait, but for owners or in subtle cases it can be challenging to distinguish an ataxic horse from a lame horse," explained Caroline Hahn, DVM, MSc, PhD, Dip. ECEIM, ECVN, MRCVS, from the Neuromuscular Disease Laboratory, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, at the 12th Congress of The World Equine Veterinary Association, held Nov. 2-6 in Hyderabad, India.
That being said, Hahn recommends going back to the basics to truly understand what ataxia is and how to diagnose the cause for ataxia in affected horses.
"Ataxia is a Greek term that means inconsistent," said Hahn. "Ataxic horses are those that are unable to control the rate, range, or force of their movements resulting in an inconsistent gait."
A normally functioning body is able to "sense" how its joints, muscles, and tendons are moving, and where all of the components of the body are in relation to each other. This is called proprioception, and two regions of the brain are responsible for proper proprioception: the forebrain and the cerebellum (at the base of the brain).
According to Hahn, "In order for the information to get to the cerebellum and forebrain the spinal cord has to be intact also, and this is a structure commonly involved in an ataxic patient."
To complicate matters further, damage to the