Investigation of lameness in horses can be extremely challenging. Localising the source of lameness can take several days and involve multiple techniques. Although this may be expensive, an accurate diagnosis will save unnecessary expense on inappropriate treatments.
An initial lameness investigation involves examination of the horse at rest. We go over the whole horse observing, palpating and manipulating each limb as well as the back and pelvis. The horse is then examined moving, first at the walk and then at the trot in a straight line. Flexion tests will then be performed followed by observing the horse lunge on both a soft and a hard surface. In some cases the lameness may only be apparent when the horse is ridden. At the Equine Centre we have a dedicated trotting area and a ménage for lunging and riding.
Once the lame limb or limbs have been identified our specialist veterinarians will discuss with you whether imaging is indicated or if serial nerve blocks are required to localise the lameness. Nerve blocks are the only objective way of determining where the source of pain that is causing the lameness is located. Nerve blocks deaden areas of the limb and if the source of pain is within the areas blocked the lameness will be abolished. Each nerve block takes about 20-30 minutes to work completely so this can be a time consuming process as we work our way from the foot up the limb.
Once the lameness has been localised with nerve blocks then imaging techniques can be used to determine the cause. These include x-ray, ultrasound, scintigraphy or bone scanning, MRI and CT. Our Specialist equine veterinarians will discuss with you the most appropriate technique for your horse. Often multiple techniques are required to get the most information.