How Might Neck Arthritis Affect Horses’ Gaits?

French researchers found horses with simulated C6-C7 nerve compression had shortened strides, tightened gaits, and a general lack of shoulder tone.

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How Might Neck Arthritis Affect Horses’ Gaits?
Frontview: The right shoulder and elbow get displaced away from the thorax as the horse is putting weight on its right frontlimb. To compensate for the instability, the horse is shifting its body weight to the other limbs by incurving the neck and the head to the left. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Gwenola Touzot-Jourde

If we’re observant, and we have the science behind our investigations, we can better determine the reason for lameness based on how a horse is lame. And, said a French researcher, we’re one step closer to characterizing neck-related lameness associated with osteoarthritis (OA) and related nerve impairment.

“A lot of times when we can’t find the source of pain in the limbs, we just have to start looking for other sites with expensive imaging exams,” said Gwenola Touzot-Jourde, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVAA, ECVAA, a veterinary anesthesiologist at Oniris Nantes-Atlantic National College of Veterinary Medicine, Food Science and Engineering. “But if we could recognize signs of lameness that are typical of certain conditions like cervical joint degenerative diseases, we could better determine which cases are more likely to need attention to this particular area.”

Touzot-Jourde sought to better understand lameness associated with OA in the C6-C7 cervical vertebrae—a site known for nerve compression due to bone disorders (especially articular process joint arthropathy). That’s why she and her fellow researchers chose to experimentally create nerve root dysfunction at the level of C6-C7 vertebrae in four healthy French Trotters and then observe how it affected their gaits

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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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