Last Updated on August 9, 2022
A symptom such as horse dragging hind leg may be an indication of many different problems. It is important to know what normal horse movement looks like so you can quickly identify when you see a horse dragging hind leg. Let’s take a look at horse-dragging hind leg possible causes and treatments!
Horse Dragging Hind Leg – Symptoms
With a problem such as a horse dragging its hind leg, you may notice that something doesn’t look quite right, but can’t quite put your finger on what it is. It may be that your horse’s movement doesn’t look quite balanced or is slightly uneven. This may be more apparent at the trot than in other gaits, or you may be able to hear rather than see the unevenness in the horses’ movement.
Another common sign of a horse that is dragging its hind leg is an uneven wearing of the hoof or shoe. As the toe of the hoof is dragged forward over the ground, rather than placed down flatly, the toe will be worn down faster than other parts of the hoof. Farriers and veterinarians often refer to this as the horse knocking his toe out.
You may also notice obvious lameness in a horse that is dragging its hind leg. Hind limb lameness is harder to recognize than fore limb lameness, but there are some classic signs to look out for. If you stand behind the horse while he’s trotted away from you, you will see that one side of the hindquarters will dip lower than the other.
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Horse Dragging Hind Leg – Possible Causes
If a horse is dragging his hind leg, it means he is not moving the limb normally. In normal movement, the leg of the horse should arc through the air, and the hoof should be placed flatly on the ground as it lands. When horses drag their hind legs, this arc is not as pronounced and the toe is dragged along the ground before the hoof is placed on the floor.
There are several reasons why this can occur. These can be split into two categories, mechanical lameness, and physical lameness.
Mechanical causes of horses dragging their hind legs include an unbalanced or unsteady gait or poor conformation or hoof balance.
A horse that is not balanced in its movement will not move its limbs correctly. It is rare to see a horse that is unbalanced without a rider, so this problem normally only occurs when the horse is ridden. The horse will rush through movements and struggles to carry the weight of the rider in a balanced manner.
Poor confirmation or hoof balance will lead to the horse dragging its hind leg, either with or without a rider, although it is normally worse with the rider on board.
Physical lameness occurs as a result of injury to the leg. It may be painful for the horse to move the leg in the normal manner, leading it to drag the hind leg.
Horse Dragging Hind Leg – Treatments
The treatment for a horse dragging his hind leg will depend on the underlying cause. Although this problem may be corrected by schooling and training methods, it is important to rule out any physical abnormalities and pain first. An assessment by your veterinarian will help rule out any physical lameness and correct any issues such as poor hoof balance.
If the horse is dragging his hind leg because of an unbalanced or coordinated gait, training exercises can help to correct this. This may mean taking a step back to basics to help your horse work through in a balanced manner. If you are a novice rider, a trainer can help you with these problems.
It is important to make sure that your horse is not tired or unfit and you are working it on a suitable surface. Exercising a tired horse on a deep surface will only exacerbate any hindlimb lameness problems. Never train a horse that is dragging his hind leg without a full veterinary assessment first.
So, as we have learned, a symptom such as horse dragging hind leg may be an indication of many different problems. Horses may drag their hind legs because of lameness, poor conformation or foot balance, or an unsteady or unbalanced gait. If you are worried that your horse is dragging a hind leg it is important to get a full veterinary evaluation to identify and treat the underlying cause.
We would love to hear your thoughts on horse dragging hind leg possible causes and treatments! Do you have a horse with a hind leg lameness problem that you are struggling to get to the bottom of? Or perhaps you’ve got some questions about the best treatment for a horse with a poor or unbalanced balanced gait? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
How can I help my horse's back leg stiffness?
If your horse has back leg stiffness, you must ask first ask your veterinarian to help identify and treat any underlying causes. They will then discuss suitable treatments and rehabilitation programs with you, including a potential referral to a physiotherapist.
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What are signs of wobblers in horses?
Wobblers in horses is a neurological syndrome in which the spinal cord sustains gradual damage. This initially manifests as alterations to the gait and movement of the horse, which may be mistaken for lameness. One of the common first signs of wobblers in horses is changes to the movement of the hind leg, such as dragging the toe.
What are the symptoms of wobblers in horses?
The classic symptoms of wobblers in horses include the characteristic wobbling gait. This can make the horse appear sedated and in some situations, they will even fall over.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE