Leg Injuries in Horses
As the saying goes no foot no horse. Most horses have jobs that require athleticism. Additionally a horse with a severe lameness on one leg cannot survive for very long without causing irreparable damage to at least one of the other limbs. Knowing what causes leg injuries in horses how to identify lameness and when to call your veterinarian are keys to saving your horses athletic career and potentially its life.
What Are Leg Injuries in Horses?
Leg injuries in horses occur when any one or more structures in a horses limb is damaged by inflammation infection or trauma. This results in pain that can manifest as limping or lameness. Injuries can either be acute meaning they happened very recently or chronic meaning the injury developed over time. A good example of an acute injury is a hoof abscess while arthritis in a joint is more of a chronic condition.
Another way to think about leg injuries is considering what body structure may be affected. A little anatomy knowledge goes a long way to understanding the most common leg injuries. Horses have evolved to bear weight on one digit of each limb and all muscles that control movement are in the upper limb. That means that muscles above the knee in the front and the hock in the back attach to tendons and control flexion of joints. This allows for the finely tapered and fastacting limbs of the horse but these tendons and ligaments that run alongside are prone to injury.
Finally and most commonly are injuries contained within the hoof. The hoof is a rigid capsule meaning any inflammatory process causing swelling within will result in painful pressure. Think of a blister under a fingernailouch!
Symptoms of Leg Injuries in Horses
Most owners know when their horse is lame but identifying the affected limb can be difficult if there is no obvious wound or swelling. A stepwise approach to assessing a horse should be taken to distinguish the affected limb and between the following symptoms of lameness safely
Inability or unwillingness to put weight on the limb while standing
Rocking back to offload weight from both forelimbs while standing
Heat or swelling over the hoof capsule or the limb
Wounds abrasions or