Many of us here in the SEIB horse insurance team have been there, that dreaded time when walking across the field and you realise your horse isn’t moving quite how he should be and is lame.
But what do you do next?
It is always advisable to seek veterinary advice, whether that be over the phone or an in-person appointment. However, there are a number of checks you can carry out ahead of making the phone call, or whilst waiting for the vet to arrive, so that you can explain to your vet as accurately as possible where you think the lameness is coming from or what has caused it.
Remove the horse from the field or stable
If you have a yard and stable area, lead the horse in to the yard to make an initial assessment as to what the problem appears to be. It will be easier to investigate on a level, non-muddy surface. If you don’t have the luxury of a yard and have to look at him in the field, always have a proper headcollar and lead rope to hand. If there are other horses milling around, bring your horse outside the gate so you can have a look without risking getting kicked.
Look at the whole horse
Unless the cause of the lameness is obvious – for example, your horse has a bleeding cut – the first thing to do is take off his rug if he is wearing one. Once the rug is off, it will be easier to see his legs more clearly. Also, if the problem is something higher up it is more likely to be easily visible without the rug on.
Feel the legs and hooves
Whether or not it is clear which leg your horse is lame on, the first place to start with any unexplained lameness is the feet. Run your hand down his legs to pick up each foot and pick it out using a hoof pick. Does each hoof feel the same temperature? When you go to pick out each hoof, does your horse react in the same way? The lameness might be down to something as simple as a stone in his hoof. If there is one particular hoof that he seems sensitive about then give it a really good check.
A general rule of thumb is that the lamer the horse, the more chance the lameness is coming from one of his hooves. If your horse does have one hoof that is warmer than the others / or one hoof that he is sensitive to the hoof pick on, there is every chance he has bruised his sole or has an abscess brewing. In this situation it can be helpful to see if your farrier is able to come and have a look.
If the problem doesn’t appear to be in the hoof, thoroughly check each of your horse’s legs – feel his tendons, around the fetlock and knee joints and around the heel and coronet area. He may have a small, yet deep puncture wound, a sore area under his fetlock joint, or he could have injured a tendon or some ligaments. A head torch can be a really useful thing to have to hand when examining his legs.
We have been providing insurance for horses for over 50 years. This experience allows us to tailor policies to suit your circumstances and ensure that you and your horses are covered should the worst happen. If you’d like advice on your insurance please call us on 01708 850000.