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Lameness After Jumping

Lameness After Jumping

James Smith
• Friday, 05 March, 2021
• 7 min read

Horses competing in showjumping are required to jump obstacles from 0.90 m to upwards of 1.7 m in elite competition at major championships. Most outdoor competitions in Australia take place on grass, but in the USA and Europe there is an increasing tendency for these shows to be on all weather synthetic surfaces.

horse jumping head lowering english riding horses stop rider equestrian practicalhorsemanmag course scott jumper while magazine training dressage
(Source: practicalhorsemanmag.com)


Because of the tight turns, and variable surfaces, riders often use studs or caulks that are screwed into the shoes to enhance traction. On hard ground studs have the potential to increase bruising and may predispose these horses to hoof wall cracks.

On landing the front coffin and fetlock joints are overextended (hyperextended) which places strain on the flexor tendons and the suspensory ligaments in these limbs. Some subtle injuries can cause a decrease in performance such as drifting to one side when jumping, showing resistance to one rein in particular, difficulty with a flying change in one direction, refusing to jump a certain type of obstacle, rushing at fences, or unwillingness to work on a particular arena surface.

While there were many limitations in this study, the authors showed that horses who had previous orthopedic injury were much more likely to have time off due to lameness. This pain may come from simple causes such as tearing/bruising of the sensitive laminae or hoof wall cracking, or may be related to injuries of the bones/ligaments in the foot like the particular bone.

Other common injuries within the foot include damage to the collateral ligaments of the coffin joints, and bruising or trauma to the bones in the foot/pastern (Figure 3). Jumpers are prone to these injuries due to the repeated loading placed onto the coffin joint upon landing after fences.

This is a cost-effective means to target therapy to the precise cause of the problem, rather than spending months trying various ‘shotgun’ treatments. Injuries to the bones of foot/pastern often respond to treatment with the drug Children and a shorter period of rest.

corn horse hoof heel sire cheltenham jump horseshoes sporty beyond race festival go problem
(Source: hoofcare.blogspot.com)

The most common cause of hind limb lameness in jumping horses is arthritis in the bottom joints of the hock (bone spavin). A number of factors can contribute to the development of this condition, ranging from poor conformation, to the extreme strains placed onto the hocks during takeoff.

A lameness examination will show increased lameness after upper limb flexion tests, and there are commonly changes on x-rays indicative of arthritis. It should be noted that not all horses with clinical signs of hock arthritis have abnormalities on x-rays, and some may need a bone scan and/or nerve blocks to help diagnose the condition.

Treatment most commonly involves intra-articular medication with corticosteroids, but corrective shoeing, and the judicious use of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as phenylbutazone can be very helpful. Provided an accurate diagnosis is obtained, treatment for most conditions will result in a return to similar levels of performance.

As with any performance horse, the use of products that provide some degree of joint protection such as partisan poly sulfate, or hyaluronic acid are indicated on at least a monthly basis. Clinical ConditionClinical SignsWork-upTreatmentPrognosis Arthritis of the bottom hock joints(bone spavin)Unwillingness to work, dragging toes, shortened stride behind Lameness examination, nerve blocks, x-rays, bonescanCorrective shoeing, phenylbutzone and light work, intra-articular injections, joint fusion via chemical or surgical arthrodesisGood-excellentSuspensory ligament desmitisInitially subtle, loss of power, or lameness that is warmed out of, lameness worse on soft going or with limb on the outside of the circle Lameness examination, nerve blocks, ultrasound, x-rays. Rest and corrective shoeing, graded exercise program, shock wave treatment., injection into ligament of stem cells, PRP, bone marrow, surgical treatment for hindlimbFair-goodStifle joint ArthritisShortening of stride behind, unwillingness to canter on a certain rein, lamenessLameness examination nerve blocks, ultrasound, x-rays, diagnostic arthroscopy, bonescanIntra-articular medications, Stem Cell or PRP injectionsFair-GoodCruciate ligament and meniscal injuriesOften over-diagnosed.

Generally moderate-severe hind limb lamenessLameness examination, nerve blocks, ultrasound, diagnostic arthroscopyLimited, rest and graded exercise, surgical debridement via key-hole surgery, Stem Cell or PRP injectionsPoor-FairSuperficial digital flexor tendinitisSwelling and pain over the tendons, lameness may or may not be presentPhysical examination and ultrasounds and graded exercise program. Intra-lesional injection of PRP or stem cellsFair-good, prone to re-injuryUpward fixation of patellaLocking of stifle if severe, mildly affected horses may show an unwillingness to canter, switching of leads and skipping behind Lameness examination, ultrasound of the patella ligamentsIncreased work-up hills to build gluteal muscles, internal blistering of ligaments with iodine in almond oil, surgery with patella ligament splittingExcellentInflammation in the digital sheathWindgalls, lameness in the affected limb Lameness examination, nerve blocks, ultrasounds and graded exercise if concurrent injury to tendons, injection of corticosteroids and 1-2 week rest if not, surgery if annular ligament thickened.

fracture repair
(Source: www.northwestreferrals.co.uk)

The majority of successful, modern, elite show jumpers are naturally well-balanced, loose-moving athletes. Unlike many other disciplines, there is a reasonable balance of males (geldings and stallions) and mares, although there does not appear to be any difference in susceptibility to injury.

The elite show jumper generally has a heavy competition schedule with little time for recovery from injury before it is next expected to compete. It also has to withstand traveling long distances between competitions and often confinement in relatively small stables, with little opportunity for turnout.

Since elite show jumpers travel so much, use of the same farrier becomes difficult, so the horse may be subjected to variable trimming and shoeing. Due to the intensity of competition, early identification of any potential problem is crucial; therefore, regular, comprehensive monitoring of the musculoskeletal system is recommended.

Chronic lameness must be identified and controlled to: 1) enable a horse to pass mandatory veterinary inspections at international competitions, 2) optimize its performance and 3) reduce the risk of the development of secondary, acute problems. There are many potential causes of acute onset lameness which are not unique to the show jumper, elite or otherwise.

Successful management of the elite show jumper requires knowledge of the individual, how it normally moves both in straight lines and in circles on both soft and hard surfaces, and how it responds to a variety of manipulative tests. It is essential for the veterinarian to have a good working relationship with not only the rider, but also the groom, who may have the greatest knowledge of any subtle changes in the horse’s action or behavior.

cornell bronchoscopy evaluation respiratory medicine ruffian performance sports cardiac lower
(Source: www.vet.cornell.edu)

A comprehensive clinical examination should include careful palpation of the limbs and back for detection of areas of heat, pain or swelling, and muscle tension. The development of fluid swelling in the joints, even in the absence of overt lameness, should be regarded with suspicion.

A significant number of elite show jumpers exhibit some degree of shivering-type behavior in one or both hind limbs (involuntary muscular movements of the limbs and tail). Frequently this does not appear to be associated with any compromise in performance, but it does complicate the evaluation of the response to flexion of the hind limbs.

Local nerve blocks are invaluable techniques for isolation of the site(s) of pain, either to temporarily remove overt lameness or to improve performance. Nuclear scenographic examination can be invaluable in identifying suspicious areas in cases of low-grade poor performance, but due to the large variation in scenographic appearance between clinically normal horses, it is usually necessary to desensitize a suspicious region with a local nerve block to confirm that it is indeed a source of pain.

While recognizing the potential benefits of intermittent medication of joints that have low-grade problems, it must always be understood that there are inherent risks; therefore, this should only be done when necessary. The back should be assessed carefully since it is very prone to low-grade muscular injury and bony abnormalities such as impingement of the tops of the vertebrae can cause recurrent low-grade discomfort in elite athletes.

The show jumper, like other horses, requires variety in work pattern and time to relax. He did great in the beginning, but after a while he sped up and tripped on two jumps.

lump spavin bog study case horsemanship
(Source: www.winninghorsemanship.com)

Afterwards he was limping a little and my trainer said oh he is being particular' my horse is a quarter horse Morgan, so particular is possible, but we have pads on his front feet, and he is doing fine. After I just trotted him around waiting for others to go, and he did not limp anymore.

That's an interesting phrase... Particular does affect a lot of quarter horses, but usually it starts off as a little (but consistent) lameness in the affected foot that gradually gets worse over time. While it can be helped with corrective shoeing its degenerative.

If this happens again you might want to get some x-rays to make sure there is not something going on inside. I found out my horse had low ring bone because of that very same symptom. I walk trotted and cantered today, and he did fine.

Im going to be putting splint boots on from now on Unlike us, dogs can’t tell us what happened or where it hurts using words, leaving us struggling to figure it out for ourselves.

In general, gradual onset limps are caused by an underlying, chronic or degenerative condition, such as osteoarthritis or dysplasia. Some causes of gradual limping, such as bone cancer or hip dysplasia, can be treated more effectively if they are caught sooner rather than later.

paula broadhurst
(Source: www.sussexequinehospital.co.uk)

In general, it is usually better to play it safe and schedule an appointment with a veterinarian for a limp that lasts more than a few minutes, but as with people, dogs seem to have a knack for getting hurt outside of normal office hours. Broken bones or dislocated joints require immediate care, and nerve damage can be a sign of a more serious neurological condition or spinal injury.

Lameness in dogs is a frequent veterinary complaint, and there is a huge range of possible causes, from chronic conditions to trauma. If you’ve ever stepped on a piece of glass, then you know how it feels to have something sharp lodged in your foot.

Foreign bodies, like glass, nails, sticks, thorns, plant matter, or anything else that should not be in your dog’s paw, hurt. Insect and animal stings or bites can also cause tenderness and limping, as can lacerations, broken toenails, burns, frostbite, and bruising.

If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis or suffers from dysplasia, your vet will most likely recommend a veterinarian-grade joint supplement of glucosamine and chondroitin. Joint supplements like Clyde Mobility Chews are often used as an early intervention and throughout the progression of osteoarthritis because they are safe for long-term use in most patients.

While research is still limited, joint supplements such as Clyde can help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia. Younger dogs, especially large breed puppies, can develop conditions such as hypertrophic osteodystrophy and Pakistanis, which make walking painful.

Broken bones, fractures, sprains, dislocations, ligament tears, joint trauma, and spinal injuries can all cause moderate to severe limping, and in some cases the dog may not be able to put weight on the affected leg at all. You may find them acting perfectly normal after that time and save yourself a trip to the emergency room.

Sometimes the cause of your dog’s limp is clear, like a broken bone or a piece of glass in a paw pad. Your dog’s treatment plan could be as simple as a few days of rest, or it could entail surgery, further testing, and a prolonged recovery.

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