Hitch in the Giddy-Up

I have a Trakehner/Thoroughbred cross that starts flexing his hind legs rather noticeably when trotting

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I have a Trakehner/Thoroughbred cross that starts flexing his hind legs rather noticeably when trotting and/or beginning to canter. He usually does not do this unless he gets excited in the trot, is striking off in the canter, or is transitioning to trot from canter. He never does this at the walk. He is three years old and quite big, and he is probably still growing. His hind legs appear normal. Should I worry?

AIt is certainly likely that your 3-year-old horse’s exaggerated hind leg gait at the canter might resolve as he becomes older and the relative incoordination and lack of muscular development of youth resolves. There are several other conditions, however, which could produce the gait you describe.

Some individuals with bilateral osteochondrosis (OCD) lesions in their stifles can present with what is sometimes described as a "bunny-hop" gait at the canter. Evaluation of your horse for this type of problem is well worth doing at this point in time, as treatment of such lesions earlier, rather than later, can improve the prognosis.

A good physical examination to assess the presence of any stifle joint distention, combined with radiographic evaluation of the trochlear ridges or condyles of the femur (the upper bone of the stifle joint), should answer this question

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Written by:

Midge Leitch, VMD, Dipl. ACVS, was a performance horse veterinarian, a member of the Section of Sports Medicine and Imaging at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet), and served as the Clinician in Radiology at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center, in Kennett Square. She died in 2014 after battling cancer.

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