How to Detect a Lameness?

How to detect a lameness?

The horse is of all animals the one most exposed to lameness. Particularly feared, owners and riders are not always able to detect them in time.

These affections can quickly damage the quality of life and impair the horse’s performance. As a result, Seaver has developed a tool to aid lameness detection.

Let’s start with some definitions.

What is a lameness?

A lameness is not a disease but an anomaly of posture or displacement usually caused by a discomfort or pain in a limb. Also called claudication, the lameness prevents the proper continuity of the movement. When a horse is lame, he transfers his weight to another limb to relieve the afflicted one, causing thus a movement asymmetry.

There are several reasons for lameness in horses. It can manifest following a shock, resulting in swelling. In this case, the lameness is benign and can disappear after a few days. It is also possible that a pebble slipped into the horn making the support painful. The intervention of the veterinarian or farrier is then essential. The lameness can also be explained by pain in one of the limbs. The latter may be pathological such as osteoarthritis or navicular disease, for example, or result from a straining or tendonitis. An appropriate treatment is then required to ensure the proper recovery of the animal. The origin of a lameness can also come from higher, especially the kneecap, the stifle or the shoulders.

As a rule, if the lameness is due to a skeletal, joint or foot injury, it will be pronounced on “hard” ground. Conversely, if it is due to a muscular or tendinous lesion, it will be more pronounced on “soft” ground. It is essential to identify the place and causes of pain to properly cure the lameness.

How to detect it?

• With you Seaver girth

As mentioned above, when a horse is lame, he tends to carry less weight on the afflicted limb to lessen the pain. Seaver measures the weight distribution per leg, which will allow you to detect a problem in early stages. In order to do this, the tool compares the up-and-down movement and the left-to-right movement of the torso of the horse during the placement of each limb on the ground.

By definition, a sound horse moving in a straight line and on a flat surface should have symmetrical movements. He bears the same weight on the left forelimb as the right forelimb and the same applies for the hind limbs. It’s evident that this rule only applies to symmetrical gaits that is to say walk and trot.

A threshold of approximately 25% movement asymmetry is suggested to detect a problem, meaning that a horse putting 25% less weight on one limb compared to the contralateral limb might have a problem. However, it is important to notice that a movement asymmetry does not indicate a lameness in all cases. Other factors have to be taken into account such as a bad posture of the rider, a bad positioning of the saddle or a saddle not adapted to the horse. When in doubt, it is better to consult a veterinarian.

For more information on the movement symmetry, take a look at our article in association with Camille Judet Cheret, professional dressage rider: ici

An abnormal increase in heart rate for the same training intensity may also be a sign of lameness. Thanks to the electrodes placed inside the girth, Seaver records the heart rate of your horse in real time. Thus, you will be able to quickly spot an abnormality and anticipate the first signs of lameness.

If you are not sure of yourself, no need to panic we’ve got you covered. The Seaver girth is equipped with an alarm system. Thus, notifications will be sent to you on your mobile application to warn you of a possible lameness.

• Via a visual examination

Lameness can also be confirmed visually. For that, it is necessary to observe the horse moving on a flat ground, in a straight line, from the front, the side and the back, walking and trotting.

In case of a front limb lameness, the head and neck will tend to rise suddenly when the sore limb leans on the ground and to go down when the sound limb hits the ground.

Left front limb lameness ©Laurence Grard-Guenard

In case of a hind limb lameness, this is slightly different. The hip tend to rise when the sore limb leans on the floor and to go down when the sound limb hits the ground.

How does stress affect my Horse’s well being?

How does stress affect my horse’s well-being?

In the wild, horse is a herd animal that grazes all day long and keeps an eye on his environment to run away from possible predators. The way of life we impose on him is often very different from that of his natural environment.

By interacting with him and changing his habits, we confront him with various stressful elements. The stress generated can have an impact on his health and well-being but also on his sports performances.

Let’s take a closer look at this evil that is an integral part of our mount’s life.

What is stress?

Acute, punctual or chronic stress is a situation of physiological and behavioral tension due to a new or threatening context. It is a reaction state that primarily affects the nervous, endocrine and immune systems and negatively affects the welfare of the animal.

In the natural environment, when the latter get stressed, the heartbeats accelerate, the blood pressure increases, the circulation speeds up, the brain works faster, the hearing and sight are on alert… The whole body is ready to flee. In captivity, when it is impossible to run away, his metabolism will begin to secrete cortisol (stress hormone) more consistently. The state of stress is managed by the central nervous system that works in tandem with the adrenal glands to produce a cascade of hormones.

In case of a one-off stress situation, the levels of cortisol will return to normal fairly quickly. However, if the stress is intense, if it persists and becomes chronic, the consequences associated with the release of corticosteroids will be harmful to the horse’s well-being and his performances.

What are the consequences of prolonged stress?

Stress affects the overall health of your horse by causing physiological or behavioral disturbances such as:

• Lack of concentration while working,
• Muscle contractions,
• Excessive sweating,
• Exercise intolerance,
• Loss of appetite,
• Weakening of the immune system making the horse more susceptible to other diseases.

Whatever the origin, stress changes your horse’s digestive functions. Indeed, an excessive release of cortisol will disrupt the digestive transit by a decrease in the digestive enzymes thus inducing the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria. This can lead to diarrhea, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance, causing development of colic.

What about your Seaver girth?

By measuring the stress level of your horse while training on a regular basis, Seaver gives you the opportunity to identify stressful times and anticipate these disruptions. In our case, the level of stress is measured from changes in heart rate and respiratory rate and is symbolized in the application by a gauge divided into several distinct color segments: green representing a low stress level, blue, a normal level and red, a high level. The part highlighted on the gauge is the average of your horse. The more this part will be placed to the right and the less your horse will have been stressed during his session, and vice versa.

One last piece of advise to finish

Because workload is directly proportional to stress load, top-performing athletes are particularly prone to stress. Training and exercises adapted to your horse’s work level are a good way to prevent and combat stress. Consistent exercise programs not only help develop physical fitness and prevent overtraining injuries, but also ensure that you do not inadvertently require a level of physical performance that can cause chronic stress in your horse.

See you soon for a new article,