What to Do if the Horse Starts Limping?

Most often, a horse begins to limp if it is worried about the pain in the limb due to bruising, inflammation, or sprain. But muscle tension in the back, pelvis, or neck can also cause lameness. To reduce it and ease soreness, the animal transfers the load to one leg. If the pain is caused by a minor injury, it usually goes away within a few days. If the cause of lameness is a serious illness (arthritis, tendon curvature, chronic inflammation, etc.), then it will be possible to get rid of the problem only after treatment of the underlying disease.

Signs of Lameness

The first sign of lameness is an asymmetry of movements. The movement of a healthy horse is symmetrical. When the animal walks, it takes short steps, relies more heavily on the healthy leg, relieving the damaged leg from the load, often tilts its head towards the supporting limb, or, conversely, puts it unusually high. When the horse is standing, he may wiggle his injured leg or place him at an unusual angle.

In most cases, the horse is limping in one leg. But sometimes there is lameness in both forelimbs. In this case, the steps are shortened, the legs go to collapse and bend poorly, the animal often stops. Even if the above signs are subtle, you shouldn’t ignore them. A veterinarian should be invited to assess movement and investigate lameness. If the pathological process is not stopped in a timely manner, then the chances of a complete recovery are significantly reduced.

With lameness of the hind legs, the step is shortened on one side of the body, asymmetry of the side and croup, disunity of the stroke, and resistance to certain actions are noticeable. During the ride, the owner may feel that the horse’s bottom seems to disappear from under him, and the injured leg is constantly behind, does not approach the rider’s center of gravity. In this case, you need to contact a specialist. He will diagnose, determine the cause of the lameness and select the optimal treatment.


Select a flat, smooth area to examine the horse. The best option would be a paved road. Soft ground and a long slope may also be needed. You need to allow the animal to stand up as it is comfortable for him. It is the chosen pose that can most fully tell about the problem. First, you should step aside and take a close look at the horse in general to notice any changes in shape or posture. Then you need to proceed to a more thorough examination, mentally dividing the body along and comparing the two parts of the body from different sides and at different angles. When examining a horse, one should not only take into account the obvious signs but also pay great attention to the weak, especially the slightest, signs of asymmetry.

The next step is palpation. You need to carefully probe the entire limb, starting from the bottom. In this case, press on each site, examining the reaction of the animal. The shape of each part of the leg should be examined and compared with the paired limb. When a tumor is detected, tissue density is determined with fingers. A soft swelling is filled with fluid, which indicates ongoing inflammation. Hard tissue forms at the site of a healed wound, while bone or callous tissue is an old scar. Such information will help determine the nature and duration of the damage. Inflammation can also be detected by the strength of filling (but not by frequency) of the pulse. More blood flows to the affected limb, making the pulse more full. Another symptom is fever in the affected limb. But it will be possible to determine it only with severe inflammation, which is in full swing, when the leg becomes hot (a slight increase in temperature with bare hands cannot be detected).

After examining the standing horse, the diagnosis is started in motion, preferably at a short trot. You should lead the animal back and forth, observing it from the front, from the back, and from the sides, which will determine the cause of lameness and make the correct diagnosis.

How to Help a Lame Horse?

If the horse is lame, then it is necessary:

  • stop any work to prevent further damage;
  • restrict the horse’s movement in the stall to prevent worsening of the problem. Do not let her go for a walk, as she, despite the pain, will go into a gallop;
  • carefully examine the limb of the animal and palpate for painful areas, swelling, hot inflamed areas;
  • be sure to identify and eliminate the cause of the problem in order to avoid relapse. This will most likely require a specialist.

Minor lameness can go away on its own if the horse is left in a stall for a couple of weeks. If during this period of time the animal’s condition does not improve, you will need the help of a veterinarian.

If necessary, you can give the animal pain relievers prescribed by your veterinarian. But it should be borne in mind that analgesics eliminate pain and weaken sensitivity, which increases the risk of exacerbation due to lack of pain control. Do not give pain relievers before a veterinarian visit, as they mask the symptoms, making diagnosis difficult. The choice of treatment method always depends on the cause of lameness, therefore, it is impossible to choose drugs and physiotherapy on your own.

In the complex therapy of neuritis, radiculitis, bruises, dislocations, as well as to relieve muscle fatigue, Alezan 2 in 1 gel can be used. It contains natural active ingredients, helps to reduce swelling and pain, and restore the functional ability of muscles.

Prevention of Lameness

There are a few guidelines to follow to prevent foot problems.

  • Call in horses only after they have reached the age of three. During the first two years, train animals for no more than 30 minutes a day, taking into account age restrictions and physical development.
  • Before training, put on horse boots and do a 20-minute warm-up.
  • Avoid very high jumps and sharp turns.
  • Minimize deep sand and hard ground gallop.
  • When working at a trot, periodically change direction so as not to overload one leg and to ensure the symmetrical development of the animal.
  • With horses at risk, practice on the lane in a large circle.
Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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