Lameness Evaluation Services
Lameness investigation can be done either at your yard or at the clinic. We always require a hard, flat surface for trotting up in a straight line, sometimes we need a soft surface and an area to lunge in.
Lameness investigation starts with taking a thorough history and discussing the current problem. This is then followed by a clinical examination, i.e palpation of the limbs and or back if necessary to feel for any heat, swelling or pain and application of hoof testers to the feet. We then watch the horse move first in a straight line in walk, and then in trot, ideally on a hard surface. At this point we may move onto flexion tests. These may be done in two parts (on each leg) and each is held for 60 seconds, the first flexes the lower part of the limb, the second the upper limb. The purpose of flexing the limb is to put a bit of strain on the soft tissue structures and joints in that part of the limb as this might exacerbate and therefore highlight any pain in this area. Depending on what has been found so far we may then ask to see your horse on a lunge either on a hard or soft surface or maybe see the horse ridden.
This initial assessment might highlight an area that we can then focus further diagnostics on – i.e x-rays or ultrasound scans, however many cases of lameness require nerve or joint blocks to pinpoint the area of pain more precisely. A nerve block involves injecting a small amount of local anaesthetic into the surrounding area of the nerve, whereas in a joint block local anaesthetic is put into the joint. After 10-20 minutes the structures supplied by that nerve or the joint we have injected will be anaesthetised and therefore the horse should be unable to feel that structure. If the lameness is resolved then we can say that the pain is in the area we have just blocked. From here we can move onto diagnostic imaging of said area.