Lameness Investigations

Lameness investigation is a core part of the East Kent Equine services. Thanks to the post-gradual training in Equine surgery and orthopaedics and the state of the art portable diagnostic equipment (especially digital x-ray machine and ultrasound) we are able to conduct thorough and indent lameness investigations at your premises. We work closely with many local farriers and can advise remedial farriery with the support of feet radiographs when required.

Lameness can be severe or have an obvious cause, with heat and swelling of the affected area. These cases will progress straight to radiography or ultrasound. In many cases however the lameness is mild and requires nerve and/or joint blocks to identify the source of the lameness.

A lameness work up is a thorough and often a time consuming procedure that involves a number of stages:

  • The horse is first examined while stationary. We are particularly looking for any heat or swelling associated with a particular area and any conformational or anatomical anomalies that may be present. The back is examined and palpated to ascertain the presence of any pain or muscular spasm.
  • The horse is then examined while moving in a straight line on a hard, level surface. The horse is evaluated at walk, trot and on the lunge (both on a soft and hard surface). If the lameness is subtle, the horse may be also evaluated under saddle. At walk we are particularly looking at foot placement and the assessment of dynamic foot balance. At trot we grade the level of lameness from 1-10 (sound - non-weight bearing). We will also carry out flexion tests at this stage.
  • Once a consistent and gradable lameness is observed the horse will be subjected to nerve blocks (= diagnostic regional anaesthesia). This involves sequentiallyblocking out areas of the horse’s limb by injecting local anaesthetic around nerves, starting with the foot and then moving upwards. Once the area of lameness is identified we might decide to localise the region further by injecting local anaesthetic into joints or other synovial structures.
  • Once the area causing the lameness is confirmed, we will follow up with further diagnostic procedures. These are most commonly radiography (for bones and joints evaluation) or ultrasonography (soft tissues), which can be performed at your premises. In selected cases, however, we may wish to refer the horse for more specialised techniques, such a MRI or scintigraphy. MRI allows the simultaneous evaluation of bone, soft tissue and cartilage, and is particularly useful in the diagnosis of foot lameness. Scintigraphy is mostly used for investigating subtle lameness and lamenesses that cannot be localised using nerve blocks.

The diagnosis and potential treatment options are then discussed with the owner. We work alongside you to rehabilitate your horse to compete in its discipline, be that a competition horse or child’s pony. In any cases we work alongside paraprofessionals such as chartered physiotherapists, farriers and saddlers to help optimise the outcome.                                       

If you require any further information about lameness investigations, please contact us on 01304 364648.