As we mentioned previously, during the show season, “a horse will be worked harder and pushed farther than any other time of the year to perform at its top level. During this training, the equine athlete may suffer from injuries that will impede their training and overall performance; whether competition or pleasure”. Regardless of your competitive preference, it is important to know when to contact your vet for medical intervention. Is it possible to contact your vet too soon? Simply put, no. More often than not lameness “conditions” are watched for days, weeks or even in extreme cases, months before an owner will contact their vet. As a result, it is often possible that permanent damage may occur thereby reducing or ending your ability to compete as a team.
We stated previously that lameness in a general term is an alteration of the horse’s gait, caused by a variety of issues. We also mentioned that lameness is “scored” either on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 depending on the veterinarian. Below you will find a defined system for scoring lameness that was developed by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Level 0: Lameness not perceptible under any circumstances.
Level 1: Lameness is difficult to observe and isn’t consistently apparent, regardless of circumstances (e.g., under saddle, circling, inclines, hard surface, etc.).
Level 2: Lameness is difficult to observe at a walk or when trotting in a straight line but consistently apparent under certain circumstances (e.g. weight-carrying, circling, inclines, hard surface, etc.).
Level 3: Lameness is consistently observable at a trot under all circumstances.
Level 4: Lameness is obvious at a walk.
Level 5: Lameness produces minimal weight bearing in motion and/or at rest, or a complete inability to move.
More often than not, horse owners will not contact their vet about lameness until it has reached Level 3. In order to reduce the amount of recovery / healing time, it is important to try and diagnosis the lameness and its cause as early as possible, preferably between Level 1 or Level 2. If you suspect that your horse is starting to show signs or symptoms of lameness, please do not hesitate to contact us for an evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment means less pain for your horse and can put you back in the saddle up to 50% quicker.