The Most Common Western Performance Horse Lamenesses

The more data vets have on the injuries Western horses experience, the more they can do to try to rehabilitate or prevent them, one practitioner says.

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Western horse and rider
The more data vets have on the injuries Western horses experience, the more they can do to try to rehabilitate or prevent them, one practitioner says. | Photo: iStock
Researchers have identified the most prevalent musculoskeletal issues among horses in many disciplines—knowledge that’s ultimately helping veterinarians take steps to reduce those injuries. However, until recently, these figures hadn’t been well-quantified in Western performance horses.

Sherry A. Johnson, DVM, and colleagues conducted a study in which they investigated diagnostic blocking patterns in Western performance athletes. She presented their results at the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 17-21 in San Antonio, Texas. Johnson is a sports medicine and rehabilitation resident at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences, in Fort Collins, and Equine Sports Medicine LLC, in Pilot Point, Texas.

The research team reviewed 10 years of medical records of horses competing in Western performance classes and reining at nationally sanctioned competitions. They focused on identifying the affected limbs (including the primary, secondary, and tertiary limbs of issue), lameness grades, and diagnostic analgesia patterns. Johnson said they characterized lameness as single forelimb, bilateral (both) forelimb, single hind limb, and bilateral hind limb. They only included horses with performance-related lameness and complete diagnostic work-ups.

In all, Johnson and colleagues reviewed records from 2,677 lameness exams carried out on 2,521 horses. The researchers knew specific disciplines for 73.5% of horses—1,188 were all-around Western performance horses, and 616 were reining horses. Most were Quarter Horse geldings.

Lameness exam on horse
The primary lame limb was the right forelimb in 809 horses. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Sherry Johnson
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Written by:

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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