Causes and Diagnosis
Lameness may be caused by many different pathologies, some of which can be diagnosed on the basis of a thorough clinical examination and others that may require further investigation either at the yard or at the clinic.
Treatment for common causes of lameness such as foot abscesses or laminitis can be initiated on the day with shoe-removal, pad or poultice application and pain-relief. Other lamenesses that are often evident on the basis of clinical examination are fractures and soft tissue injuries such as tendon strains although many of these will require imaging (x-ray or ultrasound) for confirmation and a definitive diagnosis.
If no signs of heat, pain or swelling are evident it is usually necessary to try to abolish the lameness through the use of nerve blocks (regional anaesthesia of the nerves) in order to localise the source of pain. It is possible for one or two nerve blocks to be performed at the horses yard but for further nerve blocks or blocks into joints it would be necessary to bring the horse into the clinic. Once the source of the lameness has been localised, the use of appropriate imaging (x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, bonescan) will be used in order to yield a diagnosis and to direct treatment.
For lameness, which is not apparent when the horse is walked or trotted in a straight line, lungeing on a hard and soft surface is often necessary and occasionally the horse being seen ridden is warranted for the evaluation of more subtle lameness or poor performance issues. To determine the cause of subtle lameness, your horse may have to be evaluated on more than one occasion and a trip to the clinic may be necessary to get to the bottom of the problem.