Lameness - Think Pain, Think Injury, Think Riding Accidents

5 December 2018

Equine Positional Release - A Non-Force Approach to Identifying and Treating Lameness

Welcome to the EPR Drum Blog, a series of short writings about holistic horse health and a non-force

approach to working with horses.


Equine Positional Release (EPR) is a system of holistic horse health care. EPR utilises holistic health assessment, holistic non-force manual therapy, including the well being of the horse in the process of assessment and treatment.


During the initial health assessment the EPR practitioner observes the stance of the horse taking notice the overall posture, how the horse stands, the head and leg positions and any obvious postural, behavioural and facial signs of pain displayed by the horse.


Mobile assessment, observing the horse at the walk and trot, allows the practitioner to notice any irregularity or asymmetry or signs of pain in the gait and provides targeted areas to further explore with specific palpation and range of motion exercises.


The most common cause of lameness in horses is pain. Other common causes of lameness include muscular-skeletal restriction, injury and nutritional, neuromuscular or degenerative diseases.


"Lameness is defined as an abnormal stance or gait...a structural or functional disorder of the locomotor system" Merck Veterinary Manual.


"A lame horse is described as having a disorder, defect or loss of function...and has welfare implications if the horse is asked to perform." Professor van Weeren, Equine Veterinary Journal 49.


When we think of lameness is it important consider the horse may be suffering pain, have restricted movement and have some degree of loss of control and reduced function of their body. In particular front end balance and suspension,  hind end power, and the strength and control of the legs and feet may be impaired.


Pain is a signal that something potentially harmful is occurring. Pain is associated with actual or potential tissue damage. Riding or working a horse which is lame, increases the risks of injury or a more serious injury to the horse and increases the risk of riding accidents and rider injuries.


If the horse's behaviour, movement or willingness to work changes, it is important to determine if the horse is in pain, if the horse is suffering lameness and to treat the problem accordingly.


The next article will outline 4 simple EPR techniques which a horse person, rider or trainer can use with their horses to assist with pain management, to help improve the horse's balance, suppleness and range of movement and ultimately the overall health and safety for horse and rider.