Hoof Care & Lameness
The importance of keeping the foot healthy cannot be overestimated since everything that we ask of the horse focuses around it being able to move! When you consider that the horse evolved over time from having a foot with multiple digits or “toes” to a foot with a single digit, you get some appreciation of the stress that is placed upon that digit.
Lameness occurs when there is a significant change in a structure that is involved in the horse’s locomotion and/or when there is pain involving any of the structures that comprise the musculoskeletal system. These structures include bones, joints and bursae, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Some definitions (Ref: Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, 25th ed; WB Saunders Co.; 1974) are provided below:
Lame: Incapable of normal locomotion; deviation from the normal gait.
Bursa (plural: bursae): A sac or sac-like cavity filled with a viscid fluid and situated at a place in the tissue at which friction would otherwise develop.
Tendon: A fibrous cord of connective tissue … attaching the muscle to a bone or other structure.
Ligament: A band of fibrous tissue that connects bones or cartilage, supporting and strengthening joints.
Joint: An articulation; the place of union or junction between two or more bones.
Injuries to the overlying skin and subcutaneous and connective tissue can also produce lameness depending on their location and severity. Some breeds, because of their conformation (or the way they are put together), are predisposed to certain types of lameness. This will be an important point to consider when you are purchasing a horse and one you can discuss with the veterinarian who is performing your pre-purchase examination.