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Discovering that your performance athlete, pleasure horse, or pasture pet is lame can certainly be a worrisome and sometimes frustrating situation. Like you, Ranch Docs wants your horses to be sound and pain-free—so that riding in whatever discipline you choose can be as fun and as safe as possible for both horse and rider.
Working up a lameness is truly an art and a science. It is often difficult to schedule a precise block of time for completion of a lameness examination. Some lamenesses are fairly straight forward and can be completed in a timely manner, while other lamenesses are very subtle or may be in anatomical areas or structures that are difficult to access or conclusively pinpoint as the source of the problem. Some of these lamenesses may take several hours or even several visits to complete all of the required diagnostics. All lameness examinations begin with a thorough history and basic physical examination before proceeding to a hands-on assessment for evidence of heat, swelling, asymmetries, or other abnormalities. Hoof testers are first applied to the structures of the foot before a series of flexion tests and temporary diagnostic nerve blocks with local anesthetic are employed to systematically begin—literally from the ground up—to identify the anatomic structure(s) responsible for the lameness observed. Once an area is isolated as the potential source of the problem, we can gain further diagnostic and prognostic information about the lameness by performing digital x-rays and/or ultrasound.