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How To Treat Lameness in Horses and Ponies

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There are many causes of lameness in horses and ponies and it is important that the rider examines the legs and hooves immediately there is any sign of discomfort. In many cases of intermittent lameness, the cause may be related to the onset of rheumatism, or it may be the beginning of navicular disease. Ideally, any horse that has been ridden during the day should be checked over at ‘evening stables’ when muscles and tendons have had a chance to cool down.
The most common form of lameness is due to sprained or strained tendons, a symptom of which is heat in the foreleg. The cause is overwork and treated by complete rest and the application of cold water from a hosepipe for 30-40 minutes at a time, three times a day, until the swelling/heat has subsided.
Mud fever is an inflammation of the heels, legs and sometimes belly, caused by mud and wet that has removed the natural oils from the skin. Can be treated with an equine lotion from the vet.
Cracked heels is dermatitis or inflammation of the skin in the hollow of the heel in the hind legs caused by insufficient drying of the legs after washing, clipping the hair from the hollows, and standing in dirty stalls or boxes. The symptoms are a stiffness or soreness when first leaving the stable as the pastern joints become swollen and painful. This is a job for the vet.
Laminitis is an inflammation of the sensitive laminae under the wall of the foot, caused by fast work on hard ground, or not enough exercise. If severe, it will cause structural changes within the hoof. Must be seen by a vet who will prescribe the correct treatment.
Navicular disease is a corrosive ulcer on the navicular bone, mostly confined to the fore-feet, and caused by concussion, too much strenuous work, or it can be an hereditary weakness. A symptom is pointing the foot when in the stable to rest it. Must be attended to by a veterinary surgeon.
Despite their strength and apparent resilience, horse and ponies are high maintenance animals. Check legs for cuts and grazes and pick out hooves daily to prevent minor ailments from developing into painful problems.


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