Katie Hennessy

Identifying Equine Mobility Problems

Having a regular veterinarian is vital for responsible horse owners. Creating a relationship with your vet for routine health care is essential because when something is wrong or you have an emergency, they will be there to help guide you. If you notice that your horse is having trouble moving around, there could be a serious problem. Polk Equine routinely helps horses deal with the following issues.



The most common lameness problem we see is foot abscesses. A horse can step on a root or stone causing a bruise, which can then lead to the formation of an abscess. Bacteria infiltrate under the sole of the hoof and become sealed off, resulting in an infection pocket. If your horse is showing signs of sudden extreme lameness without a wound or swelling on the leg, this may be the cause. Your veterinarian can use hoof testers and perform nerve blocks to help guide a diagnosis. 


Most abscesses can be drawn out with a poultice or a soak in warm water with Epsom salt. Bute can also help relieve pain so the horse can put pressure on the affected foot.


Routine hoof care will reduce the chance of abscess. Daily hoof checks to remove gravel and clean out the feet also will help.


Punctures and Lacerations

Superficial scrapes and abrasions can generally be treated at home with a first aid kit. Call your veterinarian if the wound is through the skin, near a joint, or a puncture wound.


While you wait for the veterinarian, a simple laceration can be cleaned with warm water or saline solution and bandaged. Use a clean bandage and apply pressure to stop the bleeding, and don’t risk pulling off the clot by checking under the bandage frequently. Do not apply anything topically before your vet takes a look.



A chronic issue that can cause lameness is arthritis. It can cause problems at any age, sometimes the result of an athletic career or an injury. It can manifest as lameness, resistance to training, or a change in behavior.


While painful, arthritis is not an emergency, there are many potential treatments, including joint injections, joint supplements, laser therapy, anti-inflammatory medication and acupuncture. 


Arthritis can be managed to avoid having to retire a horse, but regular support and joint health can help prevent or reduce the effects of arthritis. Your vet can guide you in selecting an appropriate joint supplement or treatment during a routine checkup, so make sure that you maintain a regular schedule for visits with the vet to preserve your horse’s health and well-being.

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