Causes of Lameness in Horses Front Legs

Jessica McDaniel
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How to Tell Lameness in Horses on its Front Leg(s)

Horses are big animals and they can take a rather large shift in weight off of a front leg if it suddenly gives way. Therefore, it is easy to see that a horse that is limping 100% of the time on its front leg is probably not going to be well off if you start riding it and that injury is never going to heal. If the lameness is only evident when the horse is carrying a rider or taking a step, it might just get better on its own. But, if the lameness is apparent when the horse is standing around, it could be that you are facing a long term issue, whereas a horse might get over the problem if you just get it some exercise.

To be on the safe side, call the vet to come and have him look at the horse. The vet will need to take a look at the leg, probably squeeze it and if there is a sprain or strain, he'll need to shoot some cortisone in the tendon.

To avoid lameness problems, horses are often provided with shoes which help them to engage with the ground faster or increase the hoof level thus helping the horse take larger steps and move around with greater ease.

Causes of Front-Leg Lameness in Horses

These will be some of the most common causes for front-leg lameness in horses. However, just because the tooth issue is rare doesn't mean you shouldn't take it seriously. When a horse is able to pull the foot off the floor, then that is a sign that there is something current that is causing discomfort.

A sore tooth causes the horse to chew constantly, which means you will see the horse's face nearly always facing towards the ground. The chewing will produce a lot of extra saliva that is usually destroyed by the continual chewing. The creation of the extra saliva is the reason the affected horse will have a wet, shiny face.

For more information on front-leg lameness, try reading this article. It overviews most causes of lameness of the front legs.

Note: Altered photos of the horse's teeth have been used to improve his communication with you.

Hopefully this article answered your question on what is wrong when a horse bites its front legs. Your horse problems will usually turn out to be fairly easy to solve. You just have to put a little effort into finding the answers.

Traumatic Injuries

The most common cause of lameness in horses is orthopedic injuries. This can result from fractures, joint trauma, and dislocations, and includes fractured sesamoid bones, suspensory ligament injuries, and navicular disease in the front limbs.

Most orthopedic injuries and infections present with pain, swelling, heat, and tenderness in the affected limb or area and will not cause lameness until the infection progresses further. A digital pulse exam may also reveal decreased blood flow to the affected area and an increase in the temperature of the limb.

In order to discover if a lameness in the front legs is due to an orthopedic injury, a veterinarian will perform a range of tests, including x-rays and bone scans. These tests not only confirm the diagnosis, but also give information regarding the location and severity of the damage.

Lameness in Horses: Hoof Injuries

Lameness in front legs in horses usually means something is wrong with the hooves.Hoof injuries include cracks, soreness, bruises, infection—the list goes on and on. In fact, hoof trauma is the leading cause of lameness in horses. Here are some of the common causes of hoof trauma and lameness:

  • Stampede: Stampedes can cause anything from bruises to broken bones. A lot of injuries in horses are sustained from stampeding, and the horses just keep going regardless. When a horse is running at this speed, it has no option, and he must keep going. It’s impossible to stop.
  • Jumping: Hoof trauma can result from a horse throwing a shoe on take-off from a jump. Another common injury is when a horse puts an excess amount of weight on the jump and a fault in the landing causes it topple over.
  • Fell Running: Fell running is a bit different from standard racing. The horses on fell running are bred to jump over obstacles, and this is one of the reasons that lead to hoof problems.
  • Frost & Ice: If the hooves are tender and sensitive to the touch that means there’s frostbite. Frostbite will result in sensitive hooves that cannot carry weight, nor can take a horse full juice.


Lameness in front legs is the most prevalent cause of horse lamenesses. Horses with arthritis will show signs of pain and stiffness in the neck, withers, crest, and shoulder areas while moving. The joints in the front leg may be involved, and once your vet checks the joints in the legs, the conclusion may be that the cause is arthritis.

A horse with arthritis usually moves and acts differently. There's a lot of loss of action and reluctance when it comes to the leg. This is because of the inflammation of the joint cavities, which make the synovial fluid inside sticky.

The treatment of arthritis can vary from one horse to the other, but you can expect that it will be a long and prolonged process. Horses may need anti-inflammatory drugs that may take time to alleviate the pain. You would also need to ice down the area, and once the pain starts to become tolerable, the horse can be started on some slow exercise routines.

Many aged horses tend to have arthritic symptoms as arthritis usually develops with age. Before showing lameness, the horse would have an achy feeling around the joints, but this is usually hard to detect.

Treatments for Front-Leg Lameness in Horses

Lameness in the front legs is very common in otherwise healthy horses and can be extremely frustrating to deal with. There are many different things that can cause front-leg lameness and therefore there are many potential treatments.

Here are some potential causes for front-leg lameness along with corresponding treatments:

Fractures and soft-tissue injuries: These types of injuries will be accompanied by some degree of swelling, bruising, and/or heat in the affected leg. As a result, these injuries are usually obvious and therefore can be dealt with.

To help alleviate pain and promote healing, these injuries should be rested. Keep your horse in a smaller area or in a small stall.

Depending on the severity of the injury, surgical or other invasive treatments may be an option.

If you have a horse injury book, you can look up your horse’s injury to see what treatments can be performed.

Fractures: Click Here to learn the most effective home remediation techniques for dealing with fractures in horses.

Laminitis: If a horse's laminae are exposed, the horse will be lame on all four legs. This is why it's important to either shod or boot your horse to protect against this.

If your horse is lame on its front legs due to laminitis, then immediate treatment is needed to prevent the condition from worsening.


Which is the Best Horse Supplements?

After close inspection of each of the horse supplements on the market, one supplement stood out above the rest. The best horse supplement on the market is Accelerated SoluTrac Biofoam Horse Supplement. This mix of essential ingredients provides your horse with the best chance to achieve its full health potential. It does so naturally with key ingredients like Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Horsetail, Chondroitin Sulfate, Glucosamine, and Bovine Colostrum, which are all proven to increase joint strength, support joint growth facilitation, and naturally activate the body’s own healing process. You may have found a cheaper supplement, but you won’t find a healthier supplement than Biofoam.