Lame horses are more common than we think
If you visit a stable, it almost seems normal that 2 or 3 horses are walked in hand by people. It’s the common advice of a veterinarian to walk an injured horse 3 times a day. But should this be common practise in every horse(wo)mans life? It’s time to dig deeper into the injury phenomenon. Over the past year’s many studies has been conducted concerning injuries in horses. The outcome of these studies are alarming!
What is an injury?
An injury is a deviation in the locomotion, such as an irregularity, asymmetry or lack of fluency in the movement, which causes the horse to perform at suboptimal level.
How common are injuries?
The risk of a sporthorse in the Netherlands getting an injury is very high. A study concerning 520 Dutch sport horses covering all disciplines, showed that lameness is the numbre 1 reason for horse to unvoluntairy (by owner) end their careers.
Over a period of 15 years (1995-2009) 45% of the sport horses registered by the KNHS became lame. 2/3 of these horses (30%) came back into the sport after recovery, 1/3 (15%) never returned. Of the horses followed during their recovery of a tendon injury 25% came back to full functionality.
Lamenesses are most often caused by tendon injuries, after that comes wounds and on third place arthroses. The average age of a Dutch Warmblood horse who receives a tendon injury is 8.7 years, for race horses the average age is 5.2 years.
Older horses have a higher chance of getting injured compared to younger horses and the bigger a horse the more often they becoming lame. A horse of 12 years old has 33% more chance of receiving an injury than a 7-year-old horse. A 170 cm high horse has 15% more chance of getting an injury than a 163 cm high horse.
In a British study, with 2554 dressage horses, 33% of them had been lame once in their carriers. Most common were front leg lameness. On an average the horses were out of training for 3 months and it took them on average 5 months before they were ready for competitions.
Notably is that horses on a higher level were more often injured. On average 24% of the horses were lame in the past two years. In the past two years 50% of the horses on Grand Prix level became lame twice. 33% of the small tour horses also had an injury two times in the past two years. It seems like the risk of receiving an injury is higher when it comes to higher level in dressage.
A study on the relationship between race performance and superficial digital flexor tendonitis (SDF-tendon) revealed that in a period of 1-10 years 11-30% of racehorses got a SDF-tendon injury. Most of the horses with a SDF-tendon injury needed at least 9 months to recover before they were back at their original level. In extremely cases the recovery period could be up to 18 months. 20% of the race horses never fully healed and never came back to the race track. Of the 80% of the race horses who recovered 53% were injured again within 3 years. This study showes that even after recovery the risk of a problem reemerging is high.
Owners do not recognize injuries
All the figures we used above are of owners who recognized the lameness and went to the clinic. There are also many cases in which the horses are lame, but the owner doesn’t recognize it. This group of owners seems to be bigger than we thought.
In 2014 ‘healthy’ horses were investigated in England. A veterinarian scored 46% as being lame or so stiff that it affected their locomotion. All of the 506 owners that participated in this study tought that their horse was in good condition. That makes you think right!
In the Netherlands the results are no better. A research with 3000 ‘healthy’ horses veterinarians found that 31% of the horses had a painful back, 14.5% of the horses were irregular and 4.8% of the horses showed lameness.
Saddle slip as indicator for hind leg lameness
Hind leg lameness is very hard to detect for horse many owner. researcher found that a slipping saddlesis a good indicator of injuries in the hind legs. So maybe it is not always the owners posture that make the saddle slip, it can also be caused by the horse.
English researchers saw a relationship in 12% between lameness and a slipping saddle, especially in horses suffering form a lameness in the hind legs. In 54% of the horses with a hind leg lameness the saddle shfted position. In horses with a front leg problem only 4% showed a slipping saddle. Notably was that the saddle didn’t move on healthy horses or on horses with back pain. After the administration of painkillers 97% of the saddles stayed straight on the horse, when it didn’t before
This blog is part of the investigation into the economic effects of injuries on the horse industry. Because injuries do not only cause owners a lot of heartache, it also causes the industry a lot of money. On the exact numbres we will report next year. The IPOS rein sensors are able to detect injuries in a very early stage, by changes in the biomechanics of the horse. We provide owners with information on injuries in a very early stage, so that he/ she/ we can prevent worse.
Belt van der A.J., Dik K.J., Barneveld A. (1994).Ultrasonographic evaluation and long-term follow-up of flexor tendonitis/desmitis in the metacarpal/metatarsal region in Dutch warmblood horses and standardbred racehorses. Vet Q. 1994 May;16 Suppl 2:S76-80.
Greve L. and Dyson S.J. (2014), The interrelationship of lameness, saddle slip and back shape in the general sports horse population, Centre for Equine Studies, Animal Health Trust, Kenford, Newmarket, Suffolk, UK. Equine Veterinary Journal 46 (2014) p 687-694
Greve L. and Dyson S.J. (2013), An investigation of the relationship between hindlimb lameness and saddle slip, Centre for Equine Studies, Animal Health Trust, Kenford, Newmarket, Suffolk, UK. Equine Veterinary Journal, (2013)
Murray R.C., Walters J.M., Snart H., Dyson S.J. en Parkin T.D.H. (2009), Identification of risk factors for lameness in dressage horses, , Elsevier, The Veterinary Journal
Omeara B., Bladon B., Parkin T.D.H., Fraser B. en Lischer C.J. (2010), An investigation of the relationship between race performance and superficial digital flexor tendonitis in the Thoroughbred racehorse, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Equine Veterinary Journal, New Zealand
Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-oosterbaan M.M., Genzel W. and van Weeren P.R. (2010), A pilot study on factors influencing the career of Dutch sport Horses, Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.
Visser E.K., Neijenhuis F., de Graaf-Roelfsema E., Wesselink H. G.M., de Boer J., van Wijhe-Kiezebrink M.C., Engel B., en van Reenen C.G.(2014), Risk factors associated with health disorders in sport and leisure horses in the Netherlands, , Livestock Research, Depertment of Animal Welfare, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Lelystad, the Netherlands