Do people just not recognise lame horses?

RHM

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I am another one who had a bilateral hind limb lameness - two vets past him as sound everyone on the yard (bar the farrier) thought I was crazy when I sent him to horspital for a work up. I am so crap at seeing lameness but since I’ve only really ridden mine for some years now I can really feel when he doesn’t feel his usual self!
I completely agree with the other comments - I think if you have to ask someone else does your horse look lame then it almost certainly is!
 

AGray825

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Is there an agreed difference? theres the stiff MP describes, with an adult horse who has never been worked properly and is slowly being introduced to going correctly, theres the stiff you get with an arthritic horse as it comes out of the stable, then theres the stiff you get which is a lame horse with what looks to be SI issues which appears a bit stiff but is in fact lame.

The difference for me is that the first is improving, the second is being worked gently to help a medical condition, and the third is lame.

I had what I thought was the first, a month of only tiny improvements and the vet was involved, treatment given and he actually genuinely became the first. Theres far, far too much of the third floating about either willfully or ignorantly being ignored.
My girl is the first, whereas my 6yo is the 3rd (as confirmed Monday :( )

I was initially concerned about my girls way of going, so got my vet out to have a look and she was referred to as stiff due to years of incorrect riding. She needs regular chiro treatment to deal with extreme stiffness in the neck and sympathetic riding to correct the issue. Both my main vet and my chiro (who is also a vet) have confirmed this and indeed the more you ride her correctly and convince her to relax through her neck and into the contact, she better her way of going is.
My main vet performed flexion tests on her (which were negative) and then watched her being ridden and determined that while she starts stiff, she quickly loosens and is sound throughout the rest of the ride. As a 19 yo ex showing pony, I can't expect much more from her.

The same vet is the one that came out to see my 6yo and very quickly determined bilateral hind leg lameness (I didn't prompt it, I just knew he seemed increasingly 'uncomfortable' and 'resistant', no idea the problem was coming from behind as my main worry was his previously broken pedal bone) and diagnosed with suspensory ligament damage in both hinds.

The biggest difference between the two: One improves the more work I put in to her, the other gets worse the more work you put in to him.
That's the way I tend to look at lame vs just stiff is whether improvement happens and how quickly it happens (like my girl improves within 5 minutes or less of a walk/trot warm up)

I agree with the sentiment others have expressed though, far far too many obviously lame horses with problems that appear to be being ignored, particularly in the showing ring.
 

Bernster

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I agree. Outside of more obvious lameness, the subtle unlevel cases are difficult but generally I would split them out like that - The biggest difference between the two: One improves the more work I put in to her, the other gets worse the more work you put in to him.
 

Rowreach

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I do think it takes a combination of experience and talent to instruct as you've described. Like @maya2008 mine has PSSM and I've struggled so hard to find instructors who can help me ride her 'for her' that I gave up with lessons. If she's having a stiff day then there's no point in faster work - & I'm prepared to have a lesson in walk - but so few instructors can adjust their teaching accordingly. I know they're out there, but it's frustrating when you explain the background and it still becomes all about leg / whip / pressure even when the horse has physical limitations.
It's interesting, isn't it - as an instructor I loved establishing horses and riders in walk in order to set them up properly for the faster gaits - sometimes that was for the benefit of the rider, but more often for the horse. Yet many riders just want to get on and trot trot trot, and stuff the quality ...

Several years ago I was guinea pigging for a group of people being put through their BHSI exam. They'd been hand picked because apparently there weren't enough Is in Ireland at the time. I had one very sensitive but talented horse, who required very specific delicate riding and coaching, and another established but older and stiffer horse, who needed a bit more time at the beginning of a session before he got going properly. Not one of those instructors could cope with either horse (despite the two FBHSs who were there training them, who had both trained me on the two horses and knew them well). A week or so later, every single one of them passed their exam. I was not impressed :(
 

TPO

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Years ago I had a mare who just wasn't quite right in front but I couldn't put my finger on it. When I had the vet out for any other reason (and there were several of those!) I'd trot them up for her and they said she was fine and pretty much that it was my imagination.

I had the same conversations with then farriers and therapist (McT-C). They all said that she was fine and sound. When I moved yards and changed vets this vet wrongly diagnosed Kissing Spine and Spavins. I booked her into the vet hospital who confirmed that she had neither KS or spavins and passed her sound. I moved away from that yard/vet to my original practice and a couple of months later she did go definitely lame in front. I took her in for an x-ray and they diagnosed very advanced navicular. The vet rated it as 8/10 to the severity and when I asked said that to develop to that stage it had been underlying at least 8mths. During that 8mths I'd trotted her up for each of the partners at that equine vets (no note of this at all on her records - that's how little respect they gave to my concerns), was trotted up for different vet practice who wrongly diagnosed her, took her into the vet school who passed her sound before back to original practice for definite diagnosis.

With the benefit of hindsight I now know they were also wrong in the information and options I was given for her and that what I suggested would have worked but they wouldn't listen to me and I cowed to the "professionals". If that vet had listened to me when I had the concerns, over 8mths prior, then it never would have gotten to that stage. I'm not sure what else I could have done or who else I could have voiced concerns to considering I'd already done that with vets, farrier and therapist.

So the take away lesson is for every horse owner/carer to learn as much as physically possible and educate yourself at every possible turn. The experts/professionals aren't always right and they aren't always good people. Yes we need them but if I've learned one thing the hard way it's not to rely on them and to listen to your own gut (and your own gut gets better the more you read/watch/listen/learn (of the right stuff))
 

Northern

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Interesting discussion! I am now of the somewhat cynical mind that no horse is *truly* sound. I too had a mare who was not right, very very subtle change in her trot but I knew because I had been riding her for 5 years! Vet, farrier and instructor said she was fine but she ended up with fetlock arthritis and bone chips which eventually migrated into the joint. I still feel horrible that I didn't investigate earlier, I had so many people tell me she was fine :( Hindsight is wonderful...

Now I am perhaps hyper aware of changes in gait. Interestingly, there are so many horses for sale who I wouldn't classify as sound at all, especially a recent one advertised for 14k pounds apparently training medium level dressage who is clearly uneven and unhappy in the video. But it seems the instructor also shown in the video is blissfully unaware...
 

Diddleydoo

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Years ago I had a mare who just wasn't quite right in front but I couldn't put my finger on it. When I had the vet out for any other reason (and there were several of those!) I'd trot them up for her and they said she was fine and pretty much that it was my imagination.

I had the same conversations with then farriers and therapist (McT-C). They all said that she was fine and sound. When I moved yards and changed vets this vet wrongly diagnosed Kissing Spine and Spavins. I booked her into the vet hospital who confirmed that she had neither KS or spavins and passed her sound. I moved away from that yard/vet to my original practice and a couple of months later she did go definitely lame in front. I took her in for an x-ray and they diagnosed very advanced navicular. The vet rated it as 8/10 to the severity and when I asked said that to develop to that stage it had been underlying at least 8mths. During that 8mths I'd trotted her up for each of the partners at that equine vets (no note of this at all on her records - that's how little respect they gave to my concerns), was trotted up for different vet practice who wrongly diagnosed her, took her into the vet school who passed her sound before back to original practice for definite diagnosis.

With the benefit of hindsight I now know they were also wrong in the information and options I was given for her and that what I suggested would have worked but they wouldn't listen to me and I cowed to the "professionals". If that vet had listened to me when I had the concerns, over 8mths prior, then it never would have gotten to that stage. I'm not sure what else I could have done or who else I could have voiced concerns to considering I'd already done that with vets, farrier and therapist.

So the take away lesson is for every horse owner/carer to learn as much as physically possible and educate yourself at every possible turn. The experts/professionals aren't always right and they aren't always good people. Yes we need them but if I've learned one thing the hard way it's not to rely on them and to listen to your own gut (and your own gut gets better the more you read/watch/listen/learn (of the right stuff))
Absolutely brilliant post TPO:). I'm so sorry that you went through this and sadly I've had almost exactly the same experience.

It's so hard when you present the horse time and time again to different professionals, you pass on all the relevant (and sometimes irrelevant ) details to be more or less fobbed off. I've felt so let down while I desperately try to do the right thing by my mare. Vets, saddle fitters, physios, osteos and chiros all happy to take the money and run, leaving me no further forward. It makes me so angry

We need more like Sue Dyson, who will accept that 'not quite right' needs proper investigation and owners are not paranoid or deluded
 

scats

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Years ago I had a mare who just wasn't quite right in front but I couldn't put my finger on it. When I had the vet out for any other reason (and there were several of those!) I'd trot them up for her and they said she was fine and pretty much that it was my imagination.

I had the same conversations with then farriers and therapist (McT-C). They all said that she was fine and sound. When I moved yards and changed vets this vet wrongly diagnosed Kissing Spine and Spavins. I booked her into the vet hospital who confirmed that she had neither KS or spavins and passed her sound. I moved away from that yard/vet to my original practice and a couple of months later she did go definitely lame in front. I took her in for an x-ray and they diagnosed very advanced navicular. The vet rated it as 8/10 to the severity and when I asked said that to develop to that stage it had been underlying at least 8mths. During that 8mths I'd trotted her up for each of the partners at that equine vets (no note of this at all on her records - that's how little respect they gave to my concerns), was trotted up for different vet practice who wrongly diagnosed her, took her into the vet school who passed her sound before back to original practice for definite diagnosis.

With the benefit of hindsight I now know they were also wrong in the information and options I was given for her and that what I suggested would have worked but they wouldn't listen to me and I cowed to the "professionals". If that vet had listened to me when I had the concerns, over 8mths prior, then it never would have gotten to that stage. I'm not sure what else I could have done or who else I could have voiced concerns to considering I'd already done that with vets, farrier and therapist.

So the take away lesson is for every horse owner/carer to learn as much as physically possible and educate yourself at every possible turn. The experts/professionals aren't always right and they aren't always good people. Yes we need them but if I've learned one thing the hard way it's not to rely on them and to listen to your own gut (and your own gut gets better the more you read/watch/listen/learn (of the right stuff))
Excellent post. I was repeatedly told that Polly was sound, when I knew she wasn’t. I was then told that there was no point scanning her as it couldn’t be her suspensories as she wasn’t presenting that way. I said I wanted it regardless and sure enough... a hole in her suspensory.

I did the same when it came to Divas breathing problem and pushed to be taken seriously, despite quite clearly annoying a few vets along the way.

I trust my instincts and I spend a huge amount of time researching and learning as much as I can. And I know my horses. That counts for an awful lot.
 
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I have got better at spotting lameness over the years. As someone else mentioned this is definitely due to the experience of having unsound horses. Not how you want to learn, but it works. I always check how my horses are standing, walking, trotting and turning as they are in the paddock. I knew something was up with my grey recently due to how she was standing 'wrong' and on inspection it was thrush.

I also practice on the local escaped sheep. They get some bad foot trouble and we had to follow a lame ewe on the way to the Vet recently. She was lame on the off fore and off hind and had been shorn so the unlevel pelvis was easy to see as she trotted away with her sound lamb. It's actually very helpful to see sound and lame at the same time to compare. The farmer who owns her came over yesterday to lend us some sheep so we did let him know she was lame.
 

Orangehorse

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As already stated, it can be very hard to see or even feel hindleg lameness. As others, I had a feeling something wasn't right and after two lameness work-ups that were regarded as OK a new vet started prodding around my horse's hip not hocks and he nearly bit me! She said it was subtle and regularly sees as bad or worse at affiliated dressage! Enough to stop him doing dressage though as he doesn't like to canter on a circle - ok in a straight line.

There was that hilarious post a few years ago of an event rider who took her father, a vet, to a competition and he kept saying in a loud voice "that horse is lame" to her great embarrassment. I went as a spectator to watch a local ODE and watched the warm up and thought in particularly that one horse definitely looked "off" but then as someone already said, is it lame or is it muscle development and no pain? For a hunter or a hack that isn't going to matter, but for a dressage competition it should be pointed out as it is the paces that are being judged.

As for navicular - I used to watch my horse walking across the field and think there was something not right, but I didn't know what (front feet). I had the vet out while the farrier was there - said it looked normal - and had the vet out on a separate occasion, who wanted to do an investigation on his knees.
Then I discovered the Barefoot movement - and I realised that what I was watching was a horse not putting his heel down first, he was starting to go flat footed. I did have his shoes off (though now he is back in shoes) but I am strongly convinced that if he hadn't had time out of shoes and his feet trimmed and balanced and grown stronger for a couple of years at least he would have gone on to develop navicular. I just automatically watch his foot fall now.
 

Toby_Zaphod

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So many say their horse is a little foot sore. or he's a bit footy, or he's a bit short etc etc etc. Why do they not say "HE'S BLOODY WELL LAME!" There's no shame in it the only shame is when they minimise it & keep on riding? One of ours last year was lame for about 2.5 months. We had him checked out & the vet couldn't find much at all & it turned out he'd got bruised soles which he's done yomping around & bouncing to a halt on rock hard ground in the paddock when we had the last very hot dry summer. Vet said to give him time & we did & he came good & has been fine ever since. Owners sometimes have to realise that if their horse is lame then he's lame, don't minimise it, get some advice, treat if necessary & stop riding!!

As for those who lake blatantly lame horses to shows then the stewards/judges should call them to the box & stop them competing instead of sitting there doing nothing. The horse's welfare is paramount.
 

ihatework

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As for those who lake blatantly lame horses to shows then the stewards/judges should call them to the box & stop them competing instead of sitting there doing nothing. The horse's welfare is paramount.
I completely agree but it is actually more difficult than you think to eliminate someone in soundness. I do some dressage judging, primarily horse trials.

I recall one particular horse quite clearly, I play it over in my mind quite regularly as I wonder if I should have done anything different. I’m not sure I would if in the same situation again.

Horse came into the dressage. Did a fairly sweet and obedient test, it was only a 90 and was being ridden by a fairly normal RC level rider. The horse did not appear unduly distressed being there. But to me it was quite clearly lame behind, it affected the rhythm and purity of the gait and to an extent the suppleness. On a straight line it was not to bad, but was most noticeable in circles/corners.

As a judge you can’t, unless it’s really hopping (which it wasn’t) call a horse out as lame. So I marked what I saw and the horse had a mix of 5’s and 6’s as they completed all the movements as written. Mid 40’s score (horse trials) and I guessed the rider wouldn’t be impressed given the horse popped his nose in and behaved ok.

I got out of the car, explained to the rider I had to score low as I felt the horse was unlevel at times and asked them to present to the vet before going jumping to get the all clear. I got a very sarky mouthful from the rider that the horse was under vet supervision and it was clearly mechanical 🙈🤷‍♀️

Anyway the horse didn’t jump although I didn’t get to speak to the vet.

BUT I have seen similar instances whereby when the horse is trotted in a straight line the bilateral issues look not to bad and the vets pass the horse to compete ... then the dressage judge is the bad guy.
 

Tarragon

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Is there an agreed difference? theres the stiff MP describes, with an adult horse who has never been worked properly and is slowly being introduced to going correctly, theres the stiff you get with an arthritic horse as it comes out of the stable, then theres the stiff you get which is a lame horse with what looks to be SI issues which appears a bit stiff but is in fact lame.

The difference for me is that the first is improving, the second is being worked gently to help a medical condition, and the third is lame.

I had what I thought was the first, a month of only tiny improvements and the vet was involved, treatment given and he actually genuinely became the first. Theres far, far too much of the third floating about either willfully or ignorantly being ignored.
This is spot on I think.
 

Tarragon

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I fall into the "can spot a noticeably lame horse but not a subtle lame one" camp (though after watching the "subtle lame" video I think that I am much wiser!)
However, I think that most horses, like most people, are not entirely sound, which is not really surprising - how many of us are world class athletes at the top of our game?? I am in my mid 50's and I have my fair share of aches and pains, and certainly wouldn't pass a 5 star medical. I would be very grumpy if asked to sprint 100 metres or do some ballet (I cannot even touch my toes!) but, give me some good walking boots, good grub, a glass of wine and a comfy bed, and I would be able to walk all day quite happily!
 

TotalMadgeness

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10 minutes in my instructor stopped my lesson on my connie and told me to get a vet. She couldn't exactly pinpoint the problem as the pony wasn't obviously lame but she felt there was something off in his stifles. I paid her, got the vet out and she was spot on - he has malformed stifle joints. The vet said he was 1/10ths lame which was very difficult to spot. Anyway point is I didn't think twice about getting off in that lesson - as I hope any owner who gives a toss about their horse would do!
 

GTRJazz

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My horse Bob was born with his weigh not going through the center of his rear leg bones which caused his joints to wear, he has broken a rear leg, caused by Galloping around, and has an injury to his pelvis. I have seen many five star vetted horses a lot younger than him PTS but he is still going. Someone spotted his way of going at a local show which made me smile inside.
I will not jump him and do not push him to do anything he does not want to do the grey has to do that now
 

ozpoz

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I think it is really important to be able to recognise signs of pain - not just lameness. I wince much more watching a horse ridden which is clearly in discomfort, rather than not 100% correct, and sadly this is a fairly common sight. The video Shilasdair posted is one of 4. It's really worth watching the whole series.
The Ridden Horse Pain Recognition presentation is available to watch on demand here. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/srt2018riderweight
Unfortunately, people don't always want to know if their horse is in pain or lame.
 

Lex2009

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Sorry to bring up a old thread . I think the problem nowadays is people now there horse horse is lame but choose to a ignore they don’t want to get the vet out because of the money. Lameness investigation is very expensive you won’t be long having a big bill without insurance. I now a lot of people without insurance.
 

thingstodotoday

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There's a dealer local to me who put up a video of a horse that is awfully lame in the school, and also out xc schooling. The poor horse was metaphorically screaming in pain, and had the most awful action over a jump, and was bucking and napping after, but the comments were all praising the rider and the horse's "quirks" apparently just make him interesting. Poor thing was head nodding lame in the school.
 
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I'm happy to be drawn in. :D

I don't insure my horses for vet fees. If one is lame and I can't identify a simple, undramatic reason, I always call the vet. Getting the vet involved quickly can save a lot of money especially when antibiotics are needed to nip an issue in the bud.
 

Gloi

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Just to add - if you want a frisson of risk/excitement/danger in your life, join a FB Highland Pony Group and tell them their ponies are fat.

'But it's a Highland pony!' they'll say, as though obesity is a desirable breed characteristic.
Not quite to the same extent but there is a lot of the same in Fell Pony groups. Pictures with people saying how well there youngster is thickening out when it is really pig fat
 

Gloi

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I hack out with a few people whose horses really struggle walking downhill. Usually they just say the horse doesn't like going down hills but I'll bet there is bilateral artritis going on.
 
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