Treating Lameness in Horses

Unfortunately, lameness is the most common cause of loss of use in horses. At Larkmead Equine Vets, our team have decades of experience between them when it comes to treating lameness. If you have any concerns about your horse, book a visit from one of our equine vets who will come and assess their condition and provide an appropriate treatment plan and advice.

Contact us about horse lameness


What is lameness in horses?

Lameness is a clinical sign, as opposed to a disease. The term ‘lameness’ is used to describe a change in gait I.e, the horse is either unable or unwilling to move or stand normally. This is usually in response to pain in a limb (or somewhere else), but may also be a result of a mechanical restriction on movement or a neurological condition.


Lameness can be caused by:

Pain is the most common cause of lameness in horses, i.e. pain from:

  • Trauma
  • Damage to the hoof, bones, joints, or soft tissue (orthopaedic pain)
  • Metabolic disorders that affect muscular function
  • Circulatory problems
  • Infections such as cellulitis, septic arthritis, and hoof abscesses


Mechanical lameness is where a physical abnormality, such as scar tissue, prevents the horse moving the limb normally. It is not usually painful.

Neurologic lameness in horses can be the result of infection, trauma, toxicities, or congenital disease. Our equine veterinary team may recommend that your horse undergo a neurological evaluation if the cause of their lameness is not obvious.


Common signs of horse lameness:

  • Imbalance when standing/unusual posture
  • Shifting of weight from one leg to another
  • Dragging a toe or not lifting hooves
  • Holding up a foot
  • Inability to turn smoothly
  • Slower performance
  • Bobbing of the head
  • Changes in mood/temperament
  • Lying down more than normal
  • Decreased appetite

Signs more commonly associated with a neurologic cause of lameness include unilateral muscle atrophy, paresis, paralysis, or dysmetria. Book a visit from one of our vets if you spot the above signs or have any concerns.


Lameness investigations

Lameness workups can be time intensive as our team may need to rule out a number of other ailments if the issue is not obvious. Contact our equine team to book a lameness visit.

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