Whether a lameness exam is to pinpoint the cause of an unsoundness or to be sure a sale horse checks out, it needs to include a thorough hands-on neurologic exam.

At the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas, Monica Aleman, MVZ Cert, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, an associate professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine who has a special interest in neuromuscular disorders, described steps involved in a such an exam, stressing that following a consistent order helps the veterinarian avoid missing abnormalities. Neurologic cases aren’t always part of a veterinarian’s day-to-day practice, so a good review of neurologic principles is often helpful to the practitioner.

Neurologic Evaluation

No matter the reason for the evaluation, sound or unsound, the veterinarian should begin by gathering the horse’s signalment (breed, gender, and age), intended use, and medical history. If the horse is displaying neurologic signs, determine whether other horses on the farm are affected similarly.

“The exam must be tailored to the individual relative to the horse’s cooperation and training,” said Aleman. “Safety is essential when dealing with a horse with a neurologic condition.”

It is important to establish what is normal and abnormal for that horse; an owner can often shed light on subtle changes. Assess the horse’s behavior and state of consciousness, as this represents cerebral and brainstem activity. The normal horse appears bright, alert, and responsive to stimuli. An “obtunded” horse is quiet and fairly