A new study reveals some surprising facts about lameness, says Peter Green MRCVS
The old adage “no foot, no horse” came about because of the frequency and prevalence of foot-related lameness in working horses. Foot abscesses, bruises, corns, laminitis, not to mention the range of chronic low-grade internal foot problems like palmar foot pain and coffin joint disease — all figure highly in the clinical records of most working horse populations.
A study recently published in the Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) featured the lameness records of the horses of the Household Cavalry mounted regiment (pictured) over a 13-month period. Vets at the University of Nottingham studied the reasons for lameness and work absence, the proportion of horses that returned to full work and the time taken to recover.
The overall rate of lameness was much as expected — about 25% of horses had an episode of lameness at least once a year. But there were some surprises.
The most common cause of lameness was not foot trouble but cellulitis, an infection of the soft tissues of the lower leg similar to mud fever. Next came skin wounds, such as overreaches and speedy cuts. Foot-related lameness came third, which was not expected since these horses work on roads and other hard surfaces and need frequent shoeing.
The vets question whether the type of work influences these results and whether eventers, racehorses and hunters have different patterns of lameness from these military mounts. More research will no doubt answer the question.