It is important to recognise that not all horses move in exactly the same way and that these differences may not necessarily be classed as lameness. Ideally a horse will move its limbs in a completely straight line and the hind limbs in a separate plane to the forelimbs. Some horses’ movement deviates from this ideal and these deviations are known as gait abnormalities.
At the early stages of a chronic lameness it may be difficult to distinguish between an abnormal gait and a lame horse but your veterinary surgeon will be best placed to offer advice and the best course of action.
Forelimb gait abnormalities
Dishing and brushing
Both of these terms describe abnormal circular motion of the forelimbs during exercise. Dishing describes and outward circular movement whereas brushing describes and inward motion. Brushing can result in potentially serious injury where contact occurs between a leg and the opposite shoe.
Horses with toe-in or toe-out conformations are particularly prone to dishing or brushing and your farrier may be able to help compensate by correctively shoeing.
Hindlimb gait abnormalities
This is a condition where, during walk, the horse suddenly over flexes one or both of the hindlimbs. It is most obvious at the walk but may be present to a lesser extent or completely absent at other paces.
There is no known cause for the condition and a surgical correction is sometimes suggested. However, most horses compete without problems although they are not suitable for dressage.