If you detect lameness while riding your horse, bringing him in from the paddock or when you watch him in the field:
- Stop, and do a 360° evaluation of your horse looking for any obvious causes such as a laceration or swelling of a leg.
- If your horse is 3-legged lame or puts little weight on a limb, put your horse in a safe and comfortable area (e.g. stall or small paddock) and consult with your veterinarian as a fracture may need to be ruled out.
- Use your hands and eyes to check for any signs of inflammation along your horse's legs or along his back or neck, i.e. heat, pain, swelling, redness of the skin.
- Pick up and examine each foot looking for any signs of punctures or embedded foreign material. Consider having your farrier visit to better evaluate other structures such as the sole. Your veterinarian may recommend leaving certain embedded objects in place until the foot can be radiographed to determine the extent of the injury.
- Taking your horse's temperature can be useful since some causes of lameness might be accompanied by a fever (e.g. bacterial infection within a joint, known as "septic arthritis").
- You may decide to have your veterinarian examine your horse whenever he shows signs of lameness. If the lameness is severe or worsens despite stall rest and appropriate first aid, an examination would be indicated. Provide the information you have gleaned from your 360°examination of him and any other details (did you observe a head nod?). A good history may help your veterinarian select appropriate diagnostic and effective treatment plans.
- Regardless of whether or not there is veterinary intervention, keep detailed records of the signs that your horse exhibited and what you did for him and when, and his response (did he improve?). Include any information from your veterinarian including the diagnosis, treatments prescribed.
If you would like to learn more about joints and lameness, Equine Guelph has developed two modules on this topic