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Horses stumble for many reasons; reasons as as simple as being overdue for a trimming and as serious as having suffered a brain injury. That’s why Tia Nelson, a farrier and equine veterinarian in Helena, Mont., believes that in most instances of chronic stumbling, a farrier should call in a veterinarian to examine the horse.
“The first thing I do is make sure there is no neurological basis for the stumbling,” she says. “I make sure the horse is not ill and does not have West Nile virus, encephalitis, EPM or some sort of spinal trauma or other issues that would make him uncoordinated.”
If the horse seems healthy, Nelson proceeds with a thorough lameness exam.
“I have a hard time buying the idea that a horse stumbles because he’s lazy or not paying attention. Most horses don’t like to stumble,” she says. She believes stumbling is usually a sign of something wrong with the foot or the trimming and shoeing.
“It is not at all uncommon for a horse to function reasonably well with a lameness because he’s tough or has a lot of heart,” she says. “As soon as you address the lameness, the stumbling stops. It’s like having a rock in your shoe; you aren’t able to move as well as you would without it.”
Nelson believes stumbling can also be the first sign of some other problem.
“Typically, the horses I see that are stumblers have heel soreness that is often…