Lameness and other musculoskeletal disorders

Orthopaedics is a field of medicine and surgery that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system

Lameness is one of the most common reasons for coming to the veterinarian’s office. The most typical causes of lameness in horses are aseptic arthritis, osteoarthritis, and tendon and ligament injuries. As flight animals, horses usually conceal their musculoskeletal pain for as long as possible, so even the slightest changes in their movement or behaviour may indicate a problem. Besides lameness, other reasons for a veterinary examination include stiffness, reduced performance and unwillingness to move or, for example, jump obstacles. We are also happy to help when an owner wishes to check a horse’s musculoskeletal system to discover any undiagnosed diseases, for example, before and after the competitive season.

When to book an appointment for a lameness examination

You should schedule a lameness examination if you notice something unusual in how your horse moves or if it is unwilling to move. Before and after a more intensive period of performance, it is also advisable to check the horse for latent problems, which can affect its performance and worsen if left untreated.

Please contact the nearest on-call veterinarian if your horse is suddenly lame. Acute lameness can be caused by hoof abscesses, fractures, wounds or septic arthritis, which require immediate treatment.


Lame­ness ex­am­in­a­tions

A lameness examination assesses the horse as a whole. The muscles and limbs are palpated thoroughly. The movements of the horse are observed during trotting but, if necessary, also during galloping or horseback riding. To identify abnormalities in a horse’s gait that are difficult to observe, the Equine Hospital also has access to EquiGait sensors developed for studying asymmetrical movement. 

The bending of joints can be used to locate the problem site, in addition to which the aim is to use diagnostic anaesthesia to locate as accurately as possible sites that cause lameness. The purpose of anaesthesia is to alleviate lameness through systematic anaesthetics, as the painful spot is numbed. At times, a back-related problem may underlie abnormal movement. When examining the back, it is important to check its mobility and any positions that cause pain. Following a clinical examination, the horse can undergo radiography, ultrasonography or an MRI scan. After the lameness examination and any necessary imaging, the horse is medicated as appropriate.

At the Equine Hospital, a veterinarian cooperates, if necessary, with a veterinary physiotherapist and farrier in assessing the horse and planning treatment.

    The treatment provided at the Equine Hospital includes the following:

    • Intra-articular treatment
    • PRP
    • IRAP
    • Stem cell therapy
    • Surgical procedures
    • Veterinary physiotherapy
    • Shoeing to treat injured and diseased hoofs
    • Acupuncture