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Horse lame on lunge, sound under saddle?

My 4 y/o has a mild hind end lameness on lunge line (RH tracking left, LH tracking right). It’s much more obvious at a slow trot (practically disappears when moving out) and in downward transitions, and unnoticeable under saddle.

Flex tests were unremarkable, negative to hoof testers, no heat or swelling.

Has anyone had a similar experience? No diagnosis other than “growing pains.” :confused:

If it wont break the bank you might want to take a picture of his hocks.

How is he presenting the lameness? Not tracking up equally? Severely short, or only slightly short on the outside hind? My horse seems to track up better with the inside hind on either direction when lunging. I have films of my guy and he is old with an almost fused right hock so I am constantly nit picking his stride and willingness to move forward.

Not tracking up on the inside, and in trot-walk transitions his hind end completely falls out from under him (however, he isn’t exactly balanced on his own yet, so that may be irrelevant).

I’ve been riding him through it for past week and he seems to have improved…but still doesn’t feel 100%.

Does he back up willingly. Does his tail go to the side when you lift a leg.
Does he get up and lie down with ease? Does he lunge unsound on one rein and sound on the other…the lunge circle is smaller than a ridden one.

With a young horse it might be worth considering a bone scan if the issue is tough to pinpoint. You would want to keep ridding him to hopefully encourage the hot spots to light up. Hock or neck come to mind.

Sounds to me like weak stifles, but I’m no vet.


So rather than a reluctance to take weight, it sounds as though there is a reluctance to extend the hind legs, which the outside leg on a circle should do.

Before I went to bone scans, I would go to blocks and/or ultrasound.

Yep, got a pony like this. He is about 20 now but presented when he was about 15. Moves horrible and short and stiff when jogging slowly less noticeable when moving out more. His started after a little time under saddle as well. We took him to the university and had him flexed, blocked, xrayed. He had a little hock arthritis but nothing to concerning. Could never figure out what was wrong with him. He was older so we let him retire here. He is happy and fine. If he were younger I may have went further with MRI, or ultrasounds but already 3k in we decided to just let him be. Good luck with him. I hate the tricky lamenesses.

You can do nerve blocks on the lounge.

I have the same thing, not tracking under the left hind when inside the circle, tracking equally at walk and nobody sees or feels something under the saddle

That’s a fairly common presentation for a high hind suspensory injury. While that is certainly possible, it’s not super common in horses that young/with light workloads. I’d still want to block it to see what you’ve got. It could just be weakness in the stifles - but I wouldn’t want to settle on that without doing some blocks.


Can you share a video?

Couple of things. As with horses, it could be anything, really…

The unreactive to flexions, + lame on lunge, that’s a fairly typical presentation for hind end suspensory - even in a 4 y/o. I see them often enough in young that it doesn’t surprise me anymore, especially if they are in dressage training, aimed for testing, etc.

How are his hind feet? Front feet? Good balance, is he shod, what is the angle like? I’ve seen a lot of inconsistent lamenesses caused by NPA up front and/or hind.

Stifles, typically, react to flexions - and are very easy to feel undersaddle, and tend to be the same or worse on the lunge. They can blow out through transitions and buckle, but I think if it’s serious enough to hurt the horse, that it is very obvious through feel in the tack.

I would definitely be bringing out the ultrasound. I’d also consider some things, like kissing spine and SI pain; sounds early, but both of these fit the “lamer on lunge, inconsistent hind lameness” profile.

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Oh, I hope it s not a hind suspensory, the horse has been 6 months really light work but it could be, you never know

“Growing pains” is a very old, general term referring to vague temporary discomfort of unknown cause in still growing youngsters, it’s not a diagnosis nor would it make it hind end “fall completely out from under him”. A high suspensory might because it hurts even if they don’t “limp”, so would trouble higher up like old pelvic or hip injury ir SI issues. Maybe the vet doesn’t want to persue it or maybe you were clear can’t afford it so he didn’t look further.

I don’t buy the awkward youngster excuse if it’s chronic as this sounds. Horses get hurt tripping and falling in tne field, rolling over something like a tree root, getting cast in the stall or up against a fence and we never know a thing happened to them because we don’t see it. Horses off the track sometimes have accidents with the starting gate at a training facility and nobody outside those there at the time ever even knows let alone shares that.

Often nobody knows what has happened to make a horse NQR or outright lame, that doesn’t mean nothing happened or we are at fault in any way. It just means we need to consider the horse hurt itself somehow despite our best efforts

Hiw long have you had this horse and where did you get him?

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Not to discount an injury, but are you sure this isn’t “just” a stifle weakness issue? Bi-lateral slipping stifles - not quite to the point of locking - could present this way.

Is he in a butt-high growth stage?

I’ve been riding him through it for past week and he seems to have improved…but still doesn’t feel 100%.

How so?

I’m trying to imagine how a hind suspensory would change which leg was (seemingly) unsound based on the direction. If the unevenness is uniform each way, I might be suspecting generally weak stifles, or something higher up in the SI that was not allowing him to bear weight evenly on the inside leg.

Seen a few with high suspensories on both sides found via ultrasound, best guess was extremely deep footing somewhere along the line in the horses past on those. There was another that showed 4 rounds at 3’6" plus a Medal and a regular Eq in deep mud and came home with a tri color and double suspensory. My barn scratched as did most others. Horse was retired, years later showed up as a 3’ Hunter with a different show name in another state under new, unsuspecting ownership. Lasted less then 6 months, they were shocked at the past damage the ultrasound discovered plus learning he was 5 years older then represented.

You never know what’s in their past. Some sellers honestly don’t either and the horses aren’t telling. Last few years have seen a lot more SI and pelvic/hip issues getting diagnosed then suspensory trouble behind though. Think that’s probably due to better diagnostics and ability to image that area.

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