Lameness can vary from very mild to severe or non weight-bearing. All cases of severe lameness are an emergency and should be seen by a vet.
IMMEDIATE VETERINARY ADVICE SHOULD BE SOUGHT IN ALL CASES OF SEVERE OR UNEXPLAINED LAMENESS.
This is by far the most common cause of lameness. Other causes of severe lameness should be ruled out.
The foot will need to be pared by a vet or farrier to release the pus and assess the extent of infection. A poultice is often applied to the foot for a number of days.
If a sharp object (such as a nail) pierces the foot and damages the structures within, it may result in an extremely serious infection. Penetrations towards the central foot are potentially dangerous. Penetrations around the periphery of the sole or heel are usually less serious; however, all such injuries should be thoroughly assessed by a vet.
Unless leaving the object in will cause further damage, it is advisable not to remove it so that your vet can accurately assess which structures may be affected. Padding around the object can help to prevent further damage while waiting for the vet.
This is an infection of the skin and lymphatic drainage vessels. The affected limb is usually very swollen and the horse is reluctant to move. Although the cause is most likely to be a wound this may be very small such that it is never found.
Veterinary advice should be sought to rule out other causes of swelling and pain and to advise on appropriate treatment.
Every joint and some tendons are surrounded by a sac of fluid (synovial fluid) which allows the joint/tendon to move smoothly. If punctured, this fluid can become infected (synovial sepsis), a situation which is extremely serious. A wound is usually present but this can be as small as a thorn which can be easily missed.
Lameness usually develops rapidly over 12 to 24 hours such that the horse will be unable to put any weight on the limb. There may be signs of distress such as sweating and an increased respiratory rate. Other signs may include heat, pain and swelling around a joint or tendon.
Synovial sepsis is an emergency and immediate veterinary advice should be sought in all suspected cases.
In most cases the horse is severely lame (unable to bear any weight) with obvious signs of distress (e.g. sweating, shaking, increased or laboured breathing). There may be obvious injury and swelling to the limb; however the location of some fractures may not be immediately apparent. Some injuries, particularly kicks from other horses, can result in damage to the bone without severe lameness at the time of injury. These should be thoroughly assessed by your vet (see Kicks).
This is a severe form of muscle cramping which most often happens soon after the onset of exercise. It can vary greatly in its severity and may be very serious in some cases.
Do not move the horse except on to a trailer/to a nearby loose box
Injuries to the tendons on the back of the lower limbs below the knee or hock (the superficial and deep digital flexor tendons) commonly occur. They can be due to direct trauma (e.g. sheep wire) or to stresses and strains put on the tendon during work, in which case there is no associated wound. Early signs of tendon strain may be very subtle with only an increased sensitivity on palpation or mild swelling and heat in the area. In more severe cases there may be obvious swelling and bowing (a curved appearance when viewed from the side) of the tendon and an acute onset of moderate to severe lameness.
If you notice any abnormality around the tendon area you should consult your vet before turning the horse out or continuing with work. Traumatic injuries involving the tendons will always need urgent veterinary attention.
Laminitis is inflammation of the soft tissues (laminae) that join the pedal bone to the hoof capsule. It can occur due to hormonal problems, diet, trauma
or secondary to other illnesses.
Urgent veterinary advice should be sought in all cases of laminitis; early treatment is essential to minimise the damage to the foot.