Protect your horse from lameness

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Whether you’re a happy hacker or a professional coach, you’re more than likely to have come across your fair share of lame horses in your time, and this isn’t just down to chance.

Lameness is without a doubt the most common problem affecting our horses and it’s very frustrating when it strikes. A recent study of horses who were assumed to be sound
showed that 47% actually had some kind of lameness and the owner had no idea.

While the traditional ‘head nod’ is something we all look out for when checking if a horse is sound, other signs can be overlooked, meaning owners aren’t spotting that their horse isn’t quite right.

Very often, lameness occurs in both front or hind limbs, so you wouldn’t get the head nod. Changes could be a lot more subtle, and it might be something like a change in performance that suggests he’s not quite right.

Protect your horse

One of the reasons that lameness is such a common problem in horses is because there’s so many different causes.

Whether your horse has been zooming around in the field and injured himself, or is suffering from laminitis, they can all cause pain.

In general terms, when we think of lameness we think of front foot pain. There’s lots of causes but some of the most common are navicular, deep digital flexion injury and laminitis.

Many horses also have back pain and this is often secondary to other lameness but it’s also essential to check that your saddle fits. People spend lots of money on saddles, but often fail to check them regularly. 

You’ll never be able to protect your horse from every type of lameness  but there are things you can do to limit your horse’s risk.

Regular farriery is key, so make sure you get your horse’s feet regularly trimmed and shod (if he needs shoes). Working your horse on different surfaces and doing different types of exercise can help to protect him too. Many injuries are caused by repetitive strain, so try to mix up your horse’s training and work him on a variety of terrain and work surfaces.

Keeping your horse at a healthy weight can also reduce his chances of conditions like laminitis and can also ensure he’s not carrying too much weight that can put pressure on his joints. 

Finally, if you’ve noticed any changes in your horse, one of the best ways to protect him is to contact your vet.

The sooner you get something recognised by your vet, the more chance you have of treating the problem successfully. Changes can be anything from a change in attitude when you ride and him feeling irregular, to not pushing properly from his hindquarters.

Don’t miss the latest issue of Your Horse Magazine, jam-packed with training and veterinary advice, horse-care tips and the latest equestrian products available on shop shelves, on sale now. Find out what’s in the latest issue here