Mystery Lameness

7 steps to follow when your horse presents with a mystery lameness.


What should you do when your horse’s mystery lameness defies diagnosis? Our experts suggest that you:

  1. Seek a second opinion.
  2. Get a more in-depth lameness exam.
  3. Pursue additional diagnostic techniques.
  4. Investigate tack and rider issues.
  5. Have a qualified equine dentist check teeth and bitting.
  6. Look for behavioral issues.
  7. Consider getting a chiropractic evaluation. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommend using the services of a licensed veterinarian educated in chiropractics.

Testing a horse for hoof lameness
Keep track of the problem with a diary, and note what’s going on when flare-ups occur. For example, does the lameness seem associated with a mare’s heat cycles or a change of feed? Is it better or worse with exercise or with rest? Does it get better or worse at the beginning or midway through the shoeing cycle? Could a certain sport or activity (such as jumping or quick turns) be a trigger?

Suggestions provided by Daniel B. Slovis, DVM; Tia Nelson, DVM; Carter E. Judy, DVM, Dipl. ACVS; and Steve Adair, DVM, Dipl. ACVS.

Back to Inside a Lameness Exam >>


  1. my horse had an abscess that took forever to eventually heal and it seemed like he was always lame to some degree. He is a percheron, with alot of weight to bear on those hooves, but with rest, soaks, poultices, wraps and alot of patience and love….we are getting there.


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