What Is Stringhalt?

My 29-year-old Quarter Horse gelding has been diagnosed with a condition that my veterinarian called “stringhalt.” What causes this condition? What is the treatment and prognosis?
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By Atwood Asbury, DVM, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida; and A.J. Kaneps, DVM; Beverly, Mass.

Q. My 29-year-old Quarter Horse gelding has been diagnosed with a condition that my veterinarian called “stringhalt.” He indicated that this condition is rare in this breed and in this location of the United States (northwestern Pennsylvania). What causes this condition? What is the treatment and prognosis?

Missy

A. Stringhalt is an abnormal gait that involves exaggerated flexion of one or both hock joints, resulting in a rapid elevation of the hind limb. The abnormality might be subtle–such as minor upward jerking of the hind leg, or so severe that the canon bone and fetlock are pulled violently against the horse’s belly. Some severely affected horses have difficulty moving forward because of the over-flexion at every step. Signs could be exaggerated in nervous or agitated horses, or when they are backed. There is no breed or age predilection. Other syndromes that can cause somewhat similar gait abnormalities include shivers, fibrotic myopathy, intermittent upward fixation of the patella, and peripheral neuropathy (nerve degeneration) due to equine protozoal myelitis (EPM)

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