What Is High Hind End Lameness In Horses?

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Last Updated on June 1, 2022

There are many causes of high hind end lameness in horses, and these lameness problems can be very difficult to diagnose. Let’s find out everything we need to know about high hind end lameness in horses!

What Is High Hind End Lameness In Horses?

There are many reasons why horses may go lame, and some of them are much easier to diagnose and treat than others. The upper hind legs of a horse are incredibly strong, as they are made of bulky bones and joints supported by immense muscles, ligament, and tendons. But even this powerful structure can go wrong at times, leading to high hind end lameness problems.

High hind end lameness is defined as lameness problems that originate from the upper section of the hind limbs – from the pelvis down to the hocks. Anything below this is described as lower limb lameness.

The reason that upper hind limb lameness problems are so distinctive is that they tend to manifest in very unusual ways, and are also very difficult to diagnose. The lameness that results from upper hind limb pain normally leads to the horse developing an abnormal gait, rather than the classic lameness we normally see with lower limb lameness. The horse may also be reluctant to exercise or have performance issues, and it may shift weight continuously between the hind legs when standing still.

Diagnosis of upper hind limb lameness in horses is difficult for many reasons. Firstly, it is much harder to identify the site of the pain, as these muscular structures make it tricky to carry out nerve blocks. If the site of the pain can be established, diagnostic imaging of these areas is also very difficult.

What Causes High Hind End Lameness In Horses?

The cause of high hind limb lameness will depend on the site of the pain and the root problem. These include sudden onset lameness as a result of an injury, through chronic lameness problems caused by degenerative disease or concussion injuries. Here are some of the most common high hind limb lameness problems in horses, grouped according to the location:

Hip And Pelvis Problems Of Horses

The pelvis of a horse is a relatively rigid structure, which attaches the hind limbs to the spine. Problems of the pelvis in horses are fortunately very rare, but when they do occur they can be very serious.

The most common conditions of the pelvis arise from a traumatic injury, such as a fall. These include fractures of the pelvis, dislocation of the hip, and inflammation and osteoarthritis of the hip joint.

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High Hind End Lameness In Horses

Another cause of hip and pelvis pain in horses is trochanteric bursitis, also known as whorlbone lameness. This is normally a secondary problem in horses with hock lameness, as the abnormal gait causes pain and swelling of the hip joint.

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Stifle Problems Of Horses

The stifle is a large joint in the hind leg that can be affected by a range of problems. Like most joints, the stifle is prone to arthritis, and bone cysts within the stifle joint are also very common. Meniscal tears and osteoarthritis are also commonly occurring reasons for stifle pain.

The stifle joint can be radiographed but it is not always easy to get clear images. This makes a definitive diagnosis difficult when stifle pain is suspected.

Hock Problems Of Horses

The hock of the horse is a very complex joint that contains multiple small bones, as well as many synovial structures, tendons, and ligaments. This hard-working joint is a common site for hind limb lameness problems in horses.

Hock lameness in horses can occur as a result of a capped hock, characterized as a fluid-filled swelling on the point of the hock. Another swelling commonly seen on the hock are thoroughpins, which are puffy swellings on the sides of the hog. Bog spavin and bone spavin are also potential causes of hind limb hock lameness in horses.

The most commons issue found in the hock are osteochondritis and osteoarthritis. These are relatively easy to diagnose with a series of radiographs.

Hock Problems Of Horses

High Hind End Lameness In Horses Summary

So, as we have learned, high hind end lameness in horses can occur for a variety of reasons and are often very difficult to diagnose. A horse with high hind limb lameness will show symptoms such as an abnormal or altered gait, reluctance to exercise, and weight shifting on the hind legs. It may be necessary to carry out extensive diagnostic tests to establish the cause and prognosis of high hind leg lameness problems.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on high hind end lameness in horses! Does your horse have a hind leg lameness problem that you are struggling to resolve? Or perhaps you’ve got some questions about the best treatments for lameness in horses? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!


What Is The Most Common Cause Of Lameness In Horses?

Most lameness problems in horses originate in the foot or lower leg. These include laminitis, foot abscesses, and degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis.

How Do You Detect Hind Limb Lameness In Horses?

If your veterinarian suspects hind limb lameness in your horse, they will carry out a series of diagnostic tests. These include a full lameness evaluation, where the horse is observed trotting in straight lines and on a circle. Flexion tests can help to identify the site of the pain on the hind leg.

What Can Cause Hind End Weakness In Horses?

As horses become older, they may develop hind end weakness. This occurs as the muscles start to deteriorate, leading to a loss of power and stability. Some health conditions can also cause high end weakness in horses, as can trauma to the pelvis.

Why Is My Horse High Stepping Hind Legs?

If your horse has a very high stepping action with his hind legs, he may have a condition called stringhalt. This can vary from a mild muscle spasm, through to a severe kicking action. The cause of stringhalt is not fully understood, but it is thought to be linked to a nerve that controls a muscle that runs down the outside of the hock.

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