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A lameness results from discomfort or pain in one or more legs on your horse. The horse will appear to have a shortened stride, shuffling gait, unable to take the proper leads or can even have difficulty walking

Our Lameness Exam

Visual Exam 

We evaluate the whole horse beginning with the head and neck, moving to the back, SI, hind quarters and shoulders and then down each leg. We watch your horse walk toward and away from the veterinarian and then proceed to trot in the same manner. We may have you lunge your horse in both directions on soft or firm ground. In some cases, we may ask you to saddle your horse so we can evaluate the issues you are feeling and seeing, while the horse is working under saddle.

The visual exam also includes evaluation of the feet, shoes and hoof angles. We look at conformation of our horse (bone structure, muscle structure and how they use those systems together). We look for swelling at the joints or splint bone bumps and use all the information gathered through the visual exam and the patient history provided to begin narrowing the location of the lameness

Palpation, Range of Motion and Manipulations 

We evaluate the range of motion of all the joints from the neck through the spine and down the legs. Palpation of the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and joints of the body is performed systematically and any pain or discomfort is identified and localized. We manipulate the limbs to look for laxity or contractures of the joints, tendons and ligaments. Using passive flexion, extension, abduction, adduction and circumduction, we can further assess the limbs for any restricted movement

Hoof - We perform a hoof tester exam which allow us to pinpoint any pain in the sole, frog or heels of the foot. We look at hoof angles and assess the frog and sulcus to look for signs of imbalance, deformity or disease.


As part of the movement exam, we employ static flexions of the various joints. Flexions are a procedure where the veterinarian or their assistance will hold the limb with a particular joint or set of joints flexed in position for a time period of between 30-90 seconds. When the time limit is reached, the horse is jogged away from the veterinarian to look for any exacerbation of lameness. Flexion tests can help us localize the source of lameness more easily. Flexions are typically performed on the fetlocks, hocks, carpus and stifles although there are many other types we can use depending on the case.

Nerve blocks

Nerve blocks (anesthesia of the nerve) are used to help localize the source of lameness. A nerve block works by temporarily desensitizing (taking away feeling) an area of the leg and then evaluating the horse for lameness. If the nerve block has successfully taken away the feeling to the area that hurts, the horse will jog off sound (not lame). Nerve blocks typically begin at the level of the foot and work up the leg until resolution of the lameness is found.

Video analysis

We can provide general analysis of lameness based off of video which is delivered to our office email. There is a small charge for this lameness evaluation but often waived if the horse is subsequently seen by our service.

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