Examination of a series of lameness cases in Texas revealed insights into why owners of 200 cutting horses sought treatment at the Texas A&M Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Two hundred cutting horses were presented for evaluation with poor performance being the more common complaint (58%) compared with lameness (42%). All of the horses were lame in at least one limb and 81/200 were lame in multiple limbs. Typically the lameness was mild (median grade 2, scale 0-5). Limb flexion highlighted the presence of lameness in most (60%) of the horses. Most of the horses (80%) underwent diagnostic anesthesia (nerve and/or joint blocks) and diagnostic imaging (88%) including X-rays (91%), ultrasound examination (31%), MRI (9%) or bone scans (6%).

The most common presenting complaint is that horses would not reverse direction to stay on individual cattle during cutting. Lameness was more common in hind limbs (67%) compared with forelimbs (33%) with the stifle being the most common site for lameness affecting 25% of horses. Suspensory ligament desmitis, arthritis of the hock joint and navicular pain each affected about 15% of horses. All other specific causes of lameness affected less than 4% of the animals. Interestingly, soreness during palpation of the thoracolumbar (back) muscles was reported as the most consistent physical exam finding, present in 70% of the horses examined.

After a lengthy discussion of the results, the authors concluded veterinarians should be alert for lameness, particularly of the stifle joint, when presented with cutting horses with a complaint of poor performance. In addition, it would seem attention should be paid to palpation of the thoracolumbar muscles during the physical exam as comorbidity that may indicate the presence of hind limb lameness in cutting horses.

Swor TM et al. JAVMA 2019;619-625

Read more Research Journal entries from Dr. Albert Kane in the September/October 2019 issue of American Farriers Journal.