HOW LAME IS YOUR HORSE? - Your quick guide

Lameness in your horse is indicated by an abnormal gait or stance, it is most commonly caused by pain, but can also be due to neurological or mechanical dysfunction. Lameness is most commonly caused by pain, but may also be the result of neuromuscular disorders or mechanical restriction. Lameness itself is a clinical sign, and not a diagnosis.

Pain is the most common cause of lameness in the horse and is usually the result of trauma or orthopedic problems, but other causes such as metabolic dysfunction, circulatory disease, and infection can also cause pain and subsequent lameness.
horse uneven lame

Orthopedic causes
of lameness are very common and may be the result of damage to the hoof, bone, joints, or soft tissue. 

Metabolic causes of lameness include hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) an inherited genetic disease which is characterized by violent muscle twitching and substantial muscle weakness or paralysis which directly affects muscular function.

Circulatory causes of lameness occur when blood flow to an area is compromised. This may be due to abnormal blood clotting

Infectious causes of lameness are the result of inflammation and damage to tissue.                                                                                                                             
Mechanical lameness is caused by a physical abnormality, such as scar tissue, that prevents normal motion of a limb. Mechanical lameness does not cause pain.

Neurologic lameness may be the result of infection, trauma, toxicities, or congenital disease.

You've probably heard your vet say that your horse is three-tenths lame - but what exactly does he mean by that? Here's a quick guide to the scale of lameness.

(Above Image by Natural Animal Health Support)

There is a lameness scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst situation. Here's the countdown from ten....

 10 - the horse can't put his foot to the floor
   9 - the horse can touch the floor but he's not really putting any weight down
   8 - horse is very very lame but it still taking a tiny amount of weight as he moves
   7 - the horse is hobbling
   6 - horse is pretty badly lame
   5 - horse is very noticeably lame
   4 - horse is obviously lame but is not hobbling
   3 - the vet can see a lameness but it is fairly mild
   2 - the vet can tell that there is a lameness but it takes work to decide which leg is the lame leg
   1 - the vet thinks that there is probably an asymmetry but he has to look very carefully to come to this conclusion

For more a-z of horse ailments Read more