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Lameness | Lameness Work

Lameness Work

The hospital conducts upwards of 1000 in-depth lameness examinations every year. Many of these are subtle or complex, and may not show up a lameness under all circumstances.  

In order to give us the best chance of seeing lameness under varying circumstances, we have the following facilities at our disposal:

  • Hard and soft straight trotting tracks (see photo above)


  •  Hard and soft lunging arenas (see the two photos below)



  • A 600 metre trotting track


  • A large outdoor riding area

If you are bringing a horse in for a lameness examination, it is helpful (within reason) to have the horse as lame as possible on the day of examination. With low grade chronic lameness, it is best not to rest the horse prior to examination, and also it is usually best that the horse has not received anti-inflammatory medication prior to examination. Obviously this need not be the case with severe and acute lameness.

Generally, after an initial assessment involving palpation, trot-up and flexion tests, a horse will require nerve blocks to isolate the area where the lameness is coming from.

Nerve blocks are performed using the same drugs (local anaesthetics) used to numb your mouth when you go to the dentist. The principle is that if the horse can’t feel the painful area, then he/she will go sound whilst the nerve block is working. The drug can be injected straight into a joint, or it can be injected around the nerves as they run down the leg.

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As individual nerve blocks can take up to an hour to work, and some horses may need to have multiple nerve blocks performed to reach the site of the lameness, you should anticipate a consultation lasting several hours, and plan your day accordingly.

Once the site of the lameness has been isolated, your horse may then undergo radiographical (x-ray) or ultrasound examinationIn a percentage of cases, we are unable to localise the lameness using clinical examination or local anaesthesia. This is especially true in hind limbs, where up to 25% of lameness may be in the pelvic area, which cannot be blocked using local anaesthesia.

Selected cases may be candidates for nuclear scintigraphy ('bone scan’). This can be done at GVEH using our newly- upgraded equipment.