Great Lakes Equine
by Dr. Liz Odyniec

My horse isn’t lame… is he?! \ by by Dr. Liz Odyniec \


As the snow continues to pile up outside, many of us are dreaming of warmer weather when we can happily hit the trails, start that new young prospect, or get the show season underway. While it may seem far away now, springtime will be here before we know it and with spring comes vaccines, dental exams, fecal floats, and, ideally, soundness exams.

What is a “soundness exam” and why should it be a regular part of your horse’s spring check-up? A soundness exam is an overall evaluation of your horse’s way of moving to check for any gait asymmetry or lameness. Your veterinarian may be able to pick out slight abnormalities in your horse’s movement even before you feel him “lame” under saddle, and we can recommend diagnostics or treatments that can improve their gait. An evaluation before there is a significant lameness is the best way to prevent or treat injuries before they become a problem. It may also save you money – if I see your horse has slightly decreased range of motion of his neck I may recommend a chiropractic adjustment or a joint support treatment such as Adequan to help improve his condition before he gets sore enough that he needs neck injections.

Another benefit to regularly scheduled soundness exams is that they allow your veterinarian to develop a working knowledge of your horse and their specific movement. Does your horse always hold his left hip slightly higher than his right? Does he struggle with maintaining the left lead? Knowing your horse’s “normal” is valuable information for me as a veterinarian if I am evaluating them for lameness in the future.

What does a soundness exam involve? A soundness exam looks similar to a lameness exam. We will palpate all limbs, the neck, back, and SI, and watch your horse walk and jog in hand on straight lines and circles. We will also perform flexions. We may even watch your horse go under saddle. Hopefully we say your horse is moving normally and the exam is done! If we find anything concerning we can discuss diagnostics (such as imaging) or treatment options, just as we do for a lameness exam.

Oftentimes these exams are requested when a horse isn’t performing to his normal standard – if your champion jumper is suddenly stopping at fences or your 1D barrel racer is running seconds slower than normal, for instance. These evaluations are very important for horses being ridden for pleasure, as well! No matter your discipline or level of work, if you know your horse is sound and healthy you can enjoy your ride stress-free.

When should my horse have a soundness exam? I suggest scheduling a soundness exam before you increase your horse’s workload. A great time to have your horse evaluated is when your veterinarian is coming out for spring vaccines, as you begin to prepare for the upcoming riding season. Having a soundness check at the end of your season may be beneficial as well since you will have more time to treat your horse or give him time off if needed. This is also a great way to ensure that your horse is handling the current workload well and adjusting your plans for next season accordingly. Simply let our front office staff know if you would like to add an evaluation to your next wellness appointment and they would be happy to schedule it.

Concerned about soundness? Make an appointment today.

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