Would a horse fake lameness?

peanut

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I have a horse who is lame in the school (straight line and on circle) but completely sound when out hacking. The vet has x-rayed/scanned/cortisone injected previous injury (also seen by physio, farrier & saddle fitter) but can find nothing wrong. She has also had a few weeks off in case of soft tissue injury.

There were quite a few times (prior to calling the vet) when I would take her in the school and then get off because I wasn't sure whether she was quite sound (she is short behind and sort of hops and then grinds to a halt).

Weeks down the line she is still lame in the school. Against what I would normally do but with veterinary consent, yesterday I pushed her through the "lameness" and after a bit of arguing, she went really nicely and was completely sound!

She's an exceptionally bright and opinionated alpha mare who learns good and bad behaviour very easily. Could she possibly be faking it to get out of work? Has anyone any experience of this sort of thing please?

ETA: I should have said that she has always loathed going in the school!
 
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Sukistokes2

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you seem to have had a very thorougher check up and at times like that I think it can be better to push though issues and see what happens.
As to your question I know the answer to be yes they can.

My pony Star would lead out of the field limping like his leg was going to drop off, if I turned him out he would trot off as sound as a bell. If I ignored the issue he would limp for a short while, give a deep sigh and then be sound. It was always the same leg.
Some horses are not silly and easily put two and two together.

If the vet is saying ride I would follow his/her advice and see what happens.
 

poiuytrewq

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What happens if you do school work but on a different surface? eg- in a field
I wonder if it's to do with the surface or movements?
My horse, who is arthritic for sure is good on hacks but trot a few circles in a school and he's lame.
He can however trot circles on a flat field with no problem so I assumed the softer surface made things a little tougher for him.
 

pennyturner

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It's not that unusual to see mono-directional (away from home) lameness in nappy horses. Lameness in the school,though, I would think more likely to be real. It's much harder going on the soft school surface.
 

Wagtail

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I don't believe they can fake lameness. Certain types of lameness only show up on soft surfaces or on circles. However we have a horse here that looks lame when she is uncomfortable in other ways such as when the saddle was hurting her and also when she has gastric ulcers. There is a clear and obvious lameness in her right hind. But once she's on the ulcer treatment she's sound again.
 

Redders

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A mare in out yard has shown similar symptoms, and it has been indicated that the problem is soft tissue issue in her neck causing lameness on school surfaces, esp on a circle. She has improved with sports massage but has just been off to the vet physio today to see if there is an underlying issue in her neck that needs treating. Not sure exactly what tests have been done, as she isn't mine but I know farrier and saddler have been out and a physio, she is off with vet physio now to see if there is a root cause.
 

peanut

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Thank you for the replies. I am grateful for all suggestions - I will take them on board and run them past the vet. She has had a physiotherapy session with someone who has seen her regularly over the last few years, redders, and nothing was found to be wrong.

If it is of any help to you - we have two schools both with very different surfaces and she is lame on both. She is a horse who is never trotted on hard ground/roads out hacking and the ground is very soft around us at the moment after all the rain.
 

SpringArising

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No, they can't fake things. They don't think like people.

It's most likely to do with her legs being more strained in the school - i.e. going round in circles.
 

Annagain

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My share horse went through a phase of something similar. We were aware of his soft hooves but there was no heat or gunk so didn't think it was a problem, but it turned out the suface of the school was impacting in the cleft of his hoof and because it was so soft, rubbing. If he kept going he'd improve, the vet thinks either because he'd get used the pain (made me feel very guilty!) or because as he warmed up and lifted his hooves higher (he has a tendancy to drag them when he's being lazy and he always starts off lazy) it was allowing the surface to make its way out more easily. On the farrier's instrctions, we rolled a very thin sausage of cotton wool and pushed it into the cleft wth the back of a hoof pick, this prevented the surface getting in and kept the two sides apart so they couldn't rub on each other.

Long shot, but worth a try
 

LizzieRC1313

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My horse goes marginally lame when he has mud fever, even very mildly (he gets it all year round). He can be worked through it and it did enter my mind is he just being difficult? However, every time it happens we can guarantee he will be scabby. However, he would be totally sound on a hack, I think it's because the skin is tight and sore and so when he has to use his legs more and step under himself he can feel it more, and therefore it affects his way of going. I should add, he is SUPER sensitive TB though (can't be clipped without sedation etc etc)
 

spike123

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i've always gone by the fact if a horse is only lame on a hard surface it usually has a bony related issue and if only lame on a soft surface the problem usually lies in a soft tissue injury of some description. I'd suspect some kind of ligament injury given horse is still lame after a month or so but assuming all her legs have been scanned perhaps it's something higher up.
 

happyclappy

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We have a cob who used to fake lameness. When we took him out in his carriage he would often fake lameness, but he stopped after some time when he realised we were not taking him home. Yes, we know it was faked and not genuine.
 

leggs

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a yes but....i've only come across this once in 30+ years of dealing with horses. this horse (pony) 30+years would fake lameness when you got him out of the field (the second you clipped the leadrope on) and would be 100% once released. This was a horse used at a riding stable all his life. Died of colic, not his legs !

When you say you take the horse out and "ride him through" and he/she then goes back to 100% sound I would suspect something like arthritis. I would have this horse checked out fully!
 

FionaM12

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I don't believe they can fake lameness. .
No, they can't fake things. They don't think like people.
Horses don't have the thought processes of 'faking' lameness - that's an anthropomorphic train of thought.
I agree with these comments. I believe any stories of such cases will have had another explanation: different ground, or lameness eased with exercise etc. I don't think horses can make connections like that.
 

Pearlsasinger

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We had a Clydesdale mare who we bought from a RS to teach a novice OH to ride. One day in the schooling field, novice was convinced that the mare was lame. Sister who was with him, said he should push her on, he was reluctant. Sister got on and pushed her on, the mare gathered herself together and wasn't even slightly lame. She had learned every trick in the book to get out of work. We had that mare for another 10 yrs or so and she never had a day's lameness until she got a big knee because of a heart problem just before she was pts.

In OP's case, my first thought would be that the surface is the reason for the obvious lameness and I would do further investigations.
 

mairiwick

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I would have said no too, but I've seen a mare that was up for sale at a riding school act hopping lame while being tried by a prospective buyer, then absolutely fine when ridden by one of us. She did it 4 times over the course of a week. There probably was a genuine reason behind it but it was so bizarre to see!
My mare was a bit like this recently... a little shuffley. But she is arthiritic and hadn't really had much work done in the school on a regular basis. Lots more walk work to warm up and over a week she's gotten over it completely.
 

LadyRascasse

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To answer your original question, no a horse wouldn't 'fake' a lameness however they do learn that certain behaviours will get a certain reaction. For example my horse has learn if he steps back I will put his food on the floor so if he sees me with a feed bucket (or any bucket actually) he steps backwards (he didn't do this when he first came he used to try and walk through you for any food) It is entirely possible that she had a problem (hence the lameness) and you got off basically rewarding her (not saying you did the wrong thing at all) she could have since learnt that is she walks funny that you get off and she does no work.

All that said my old boy used to feel lame in walk when he was cold backed as he warmed up he 'became' sound. Physio, exercise rugs and a sheepskin saddle cloth helped him.
 

Kezzabell2

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I post the same thing in August about my boy! he was hopping lame one minute, sound the next! he was treated for a hoof abscess but never got any puss! hes recently been diagnosed with bone spurs in the hock of the same leg! so as much as I thought he was "faking" I now know he wasn't! it could be that it didn't always hurt but every few steps it would tweek!

or it could be that they remember pain or expect something would hurt?
 

Andalucian

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I'm guessing the horse is shod? If so, when in the school, the sole/frog are taking more pressure than on hard surfaces. I'd investigate sensitivity in these structures given what you describe.....and no, they don't fake lameness, that's why nerve blocks work.
 

Caol Ila

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Nope.

If horse starts out unlevel and gets better after you ride it for ten minutes, it is probably stiffness and once the horse loosens up, it goes away.

I've seen horses who were "rein-lame," i.e. who would look unlevel due to an out of balance rider.

The horse cannot read your mind. You take it out of its field, you see that it's limping, you probably watch it walk or trot for a bit and try to figure out which leg it's lame on, how lame it is, work out if there is swelling or heat, or maybe you get as far as riding or lunging, and after some faff, you conclude it's too lame to ride and put it away. Or if it's so hopping lame that you notice as soon as you catch it and can immediately see which leg is the problem, you probably don't say, "Oh, well, he's on three legs, I guess I'll just put him back in the field." You probably take the horse to a stable or tacking area and call the vet. There is no way that the horse can know that you intended to ride that day, and didn't.

Horses learn from stimuli that happen immediately, or not, after a behaviour. Your horse (to use one example in this thread) steps backward, he gets his feed bucket. Immediate reward, so he associates the stepping back with the feed. I don't think any horse is capable of enough abstract thought, mind-reading, or understanding human speech, to figure out that the reason he didn't get ridden today was that he was lame. There are too many variables and in most cases, too many things happening between you thinking, "Huh, I think he's lame," and you getting off the horse or putting it back in its field.
 
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YasandCrystal

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I don't believe they can fake lameness. Horses generally want to please humans, it's in their good nature. I agree with Caol Ila that an out if balance rider can make a horse ride lame.

Incidentally I had a communication done with my horse today, because he threw a complete wobbler last week for no apparent reason. I have been given detailed information regarding pain he is suffering and this will hopefully be confirmed and worked on by an osteopath on Saturday.
 
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FionaM12

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Horses learn from stimuli that happen immediately, or not, after a behaviour. Your horse (to use one example in this thread) steps backward, he gets his feed bucket. Immediate reward, so he associates the stepping back with the feed. I don't think any horse is capable of enough abstract thought, mind-reading, or understanding human speech
Agreed. I think that's the key with understanding other animals too. Immediate consequences are what they grasp. They don't have the ability to figure out complex cause and effect.
 
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