Weekend Wellness: Diagnosing Lameness in the Foot with Evention TV

Did your horse just take a wrong step or is he off? If he is off, is it in the hoof or up higher? These are the questions that keep us up at night. Horse Nation and Evention TV can help!

Pixabay/Rebecca Schönbrodt-Rühl/CC

We’ve all been there. We lunge our horses, watch them move and examine every misstep and head bob trying to determine if our horses are off.

Once we know the horse is off, deciding whether to call the vet or the farrier can sometimes seem like a game of chance. If it’s in the foot, a call to the farrier may be our best bet. However, if it’s something else, well … then it’s time to call the vet.

Fortunately, Horse Nation and Evention TV can help you determine how to diagnose lameness in the foot.

Start by finding the horse’s digital pulse. The digital pulse is an excellent baseline indicator of what is going on in the hoof.

Ideally, you will be familiar with what your horse’s digital pulse feels like when he is not lame. However, that’s not how most of us function. We tend to look for the pulse once we need to, not as a means to establish a baseline (note to self: find digital pulse while horse is resting and sound). Fortunately, you can use your horse’s sound leg (hopefully he has one) as a baseline in a pinch.

You can find the digital pulse in four different locations, but the easiest places are on the fetlock and between the coronary band and the fetlock.

To find the pulse on the fetlock, run your fingers down the horse’s tendons, keeping your fingers on the inside of his legs. As the tendons curve down and to the back, you will feel a softer spot on the bottom portion of the horse’s fetlock joint. If you roll your fingers back and forth, you should be able to feel the digital artery. By pressing lightly, you can feel the digital pulse.

Photo from Evention TV

To find the pulse below the fetlock, start at the front of the pastern halfway between the fetlock and the coronary band. Using your index and middle fingers, move toward the back of the pastern, applying some pressure until you find a small groove. The groove will be over the outer edge of the heel bulbs. You can roll your fingers over this area until you feel a pulse, but if you press too hard you will pinch it off and if your touch is too light you will not be able to feel it.

Typically, the digital pulse can be difficult to find (and this is a good thing!); however, if it’s really jumping out at you, this can be an indication of anything from a sore heel, to a bruise, to an abscess, to laminitis. In this video, Evention TV goes into more depth about how to diagnose lameness in the foot and offers helpful hints on how to remove a shoe until the farrier can arrive:

If you do determine that your horse is off and you need to pack and wrap your horse’s foot, Evention TV has a video for that, too! Follow these tips to make sure you’re wrapping your horse’s foot in the most effective way until the farrier arrives.

Good luck, Horse Nation. May your horses be sound and keep all their shoes. Go riding!

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