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Detecting & Addressing Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Horses

Racing, jumping, eventing and dressage require much from a horse's body. Weakness in the hind end can limit performance and be dangerous. Here, our Ocala equine vets share the signs and causes of hind leg weakness in horses and how it can be treated.


Sudden Lameness in Your Horse's Hing Legs

A horse's strength and coordination are compromised when it suffers from a weak hind end. Depending on which rear leg is most affected, the horse will shift its weight to the opposite diagonal front leg to maintain balance. It takes at least three points on a plane to be stable. By standing this way, they remain stable while shifting the weight away from the injured limb. 

The Importance of Prompt Veterinary Care

Unfortunately, without prompt veterinary care, the added pressure on the stronger limb will result in stress and the potential for injury. When diagnosing the issue, the vet will perform a physical examination, a lameness evaluation and the necessary diagnostics. When performing lameness evaluation, the vet may have your horse perform circle and trotting in a straight line to determine where the lameness appears. They will request that you work the horse under the saddle to accentuate issues further. While lameness presents itself differently in each horse, some common signs are toe dragging, reduced leg movement or a horse may begin twisting their hind leg when walking. Some horses may have hind-end weakness of lameness with no swelling. So, watching for other signs is vital.

Potential Causes of Weak Hind Legs in Horses

While there are many potential causes of hind leg weakness in horses, some of the most commonly seen issues are:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA)
  • Osteochondrosis (Osteochondrosis Dissecans or OCD)
  • Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Disease
  • Upward Fixation of the Patella (Weak Stifle)
  • Soft Tissue Injuries

Diagnosing Hind Limb Lameness in Horses

Your vet will administer a nerve block to isolate the lameness prior to performing any diagnostic imaging. We often perform on-site stall-side imaging using our portable radiographic X-ray machines, ultrasound, and other diagnostic technologies. The technology we use will depend on the target area.

If your horse requires advanced diagnostics and care, we often recommend transporting them to our equine hospital. At Florida Equine Veterinary Associates, we leverage advanced tools to help diagnose your equine athlete's medical issues. We offer various services, from digital radiology to ultrasound, endoscopy, and standing diagnostics.

With our diagnostic imaging capabilities, we can efficiently produce diagnostic data about your horse's condition and provide immediate treatment options. 

Treatment Options for Conditions Affecting the Hind Legs

Suppose your horse is diagnosed with a medical condition affecting their movement and weight bearing. In that case, we will develop a well-rounded treatment plan targeting all areas of their health and well-being. Our goal is to help your horse achieve optimal health while maintaining their range of motion and quality of life. Some of the commonly used treatment methods include:

  • Health Supplements
  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)
  • Injections (Adequan, Corticosteroids)
  • Surgery
  • Chiropractic Adjustments
  • Strength Training
  • Physical Therapy
  • Integrative Therapies

Integrative Therapies at Florida Equine Veterinary Associates

Horses can acquire a variety of conditions that need treatment, from joint or tendon injuries to inflammation, arthritis, and other health conditions.

Our team offers numerous equine therapeutic treatments designed to help manage pain, speed healing, and reduce inflammation and scar tissue that may impede recovery.

Whether it's administering acupuncture treatments for musculoskeletal disorders, shockwave therapy to help your horse regain mobility, or another treatment option, we are here to help your horse perform at its best.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding equine animals, or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For the diagnosis of your animal's condition and help to navigate regulations governing the care and transportation of equine animals please contact your vet.

Is your horse having issues standing or moving around? Are they showing signs of pain? Contact our veterinary team at Florida Equine Veterinary Associates today to schedule a lameness examination.

New Patients Welcome

Florida Equine Veterinary Associates is passionate about the health of sport and performance horses. Get in touch today to book your equine athelete's first appointment.

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