Lameness is a common problem and encompasses a range of conditions from foot bruising and abscesses to joint and tendon disease. In order to prescribe appropriate therapy it is necessary to diagnose the cause of lameness accurately.
In general a lameness investigation begins with a gait analysis at walk and trot. This should be carried out on a hard, level surface. Lunging the horse on a firm surface can be very useful to reveal low grade lameness. Palpation of the affected leg and a thorough foot examination will be carried out. Flexion tests can be useful to localise the site of lameness to a joint.
If the cause of lameness is not apparent following clinical examination a systematic series of nerve blocks can be performed using local anaesthetic injected under the skin to desensitise different regions of the horse’s leg – when the horse goes sound the region causing lameness has been identified.
Once the region of lameness has been identified further examination of this area can proceed using radiography (x-rays) to assess skeletal structures and ultrasound scanning to visualise soft tissues and tendons.
Once a diagnosis of the cause of lameness has been achieved the proper medical or surgical treatment can be arranged to maximise the chances of your horse returning to full work.