Stringhalt in Horses

Stringhalt seems to make horses yank their legs up and halt them there momentarily before taking their next step. This is the outward sign of neurologic disease, sometimes caused by toxicity, sometimes of unknown origin. If time doesn’t cure it, the prognosis is poor. But today researchers are hard at work looking into ways to make horses with the condition safe, happy, and free of clinical signs.
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For centuries this neurologic disease has left veterinarians and scientists ­scratching their heads.

A jerk, a jump, a hop with the hind legs tucked up high. Similar to the function of strings on a marionette, stringhalt seems to make horses yank their legs up and halt them there momentarily before taking their next step. This uncontrollable exaggerated movement of the digital extensor muscles is the outward sign of neurologic disease, sometimes caused by toxicity, sometimes of unknown origin. If time doesn't cure it, the prognosis is poor. But today researchers are hard at work looking into ways to make horses with this condition safe, happy, and free of clinical signs.

History, Clinical Signs, and Causes

Stringhalt appears to be an age-old disease in horses and other hooved animals. Descriptions of the disease date back to the Renaissance. William Shakespeare has even been credited for the name of the disease (as a variation of the term "springhalt," from Henry VIII)

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Written by:

Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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