Is my horse lame?

Know signs of lameness before they get to far.

Knowing signs of initial lameness can help you to get a quick diagnosis before the lameness becomes a permanent of debilitating problem for your horse. Some signs of lameness include:

  • stiff movement
  • limping
  • sore muscles
  • head bobbing
  • reluctance to move/lift legs
  • inflammation and heat
  • digital pulses

Medical and Lameness History

Create a medical and lameness history chart for your horse.

Having a medical history chart for your horse makes it quick and easy for you to relay this information to your veterinarian in a case of emergency and for lameness. Knowing your horses history can lead to a quicker and more accurate diagnosis.  Below is an example of a medical history/lameness chart for your horse.

Medical History

Regular Hoof Care

Create a hoof care schedule with your farrier and begin photo documentation of the changes in your horses feet.

A regular hoof trim schedule goes a long way in the health of your horses hooves. Four to six weeks is the recommended trim schedule for most horses. Creating photo documentation of your horses hooves allows you to be aware of changes that you may not other wise notice (contracted heels, club feet, etc). Also making sure your horses hooves are cleaned daily with drastically help with hoof health (prevention of thrush, white line disease).


Use the SWIPER (S -scan horse and environment, W– what is wrong? I -immediate needs, P– plan, E -execute, R-reassess and repeat) approach to assess emergency situations.

Using the SWIPER  approach helps to assess the situation and determine your next decisions. When using this method you will be able to prioritize and get the horse treated appropriately and receive medical attention if needed. Scanning your horse and environment lets you see trauma/illness and well as immediate and future dangers and helps you get an idea of what is wrong. Once you have determined what is wrong you can prioritize your horses immediate needs (immediate vet call, wound care, etc). You will quickly develop and plan and execute this plan. This method helps to keep a sense of organization in sometimes overwhelming situations and ensures all bases are covered when your horse has an emergency.

Equine First Aid KIt

Prepare and equine first aid kit that is easily accessible in your facility.

In preparing and equine first aid kit that is easily accessible in your barn is a big help during emergencies. A first aid kit that is prepared is easy to take to your horse if they are unable to be moved from the location where you found the trauma. Also it helps to keep handler calm as they have everything they need in one easy spot. A prepared first aid kit is only useful if everyone knows where it is kept; tack room or feed rooms are easily accessible to all and easy to remember.

Here are examples of some essentials for your first aid kit:

Equine First Aid Kit

Quarintine Protocols

New arrivals and sick horses should be quarantined/isolated for a minimum of 14 days, ideally 30 days.

Isolating new arrivals and sick horses allows you to properly monitor said horse while keeping the others in your herd safe. While horse is isolated you should monitor his manure, feed/water intake, for any signs of sickness/disease and make sure to do a daily health check. By keeping new arrivals and sick horses in quarantine you are preventing the spread of sickness and disease to your main herd as well as making sure these new arrivals don’t catch anything for the residing herd as well.


Vaccinating your horse to prevent disease.

Vaccinations should be appropriate for the location of farm and desired needs of facility and horses.Vaccinations are only effective if they are being used properly. In order to find the proper vaccines for your house consult your barn manager and veterinarian to find out which diseases are most frequent in your area and which your horse is at most risk of contracting. Also if you know your horse will be traveling and in contact with other horses you will need to know which areas you will be traveling to and for how long to be able to properly vaccinate. Although vaccinations do not completely eliminate the risk of disease they are a good step in the right direction for the prevention of diseases.

Body Condition Scoring

Body Condition Scoring is an effective yet simple way to ascess the fat carried by the horse. By hands on palpation of specific areas you can make an objective and consistent assessment of your horses condition. Knowing your horses condition will help you better manage your horse to ensure its health and avoid conditions such as laminitis. The BCS can help you deicide on nutritional needs and exercise needs for you horse.

I think body condition scoring is very important when caring for horses. It is an essential tool to help create nutrition plans, and exercise plans for your horse. Knowing your horses BCS and having nutritional and exercise plans can help prolong your horses life and avoid conditions such as laminitis, osteoarthritis, sever obesity and many more.  An overweight horse is never a happy horse, and neither is an underweight horse. BCS can help you understand where your horse should ideally be and can create a goal that you may reach for proper management of your horse.