East-West Arena Construction Blog

Primary Causes of Equine Lameness

Posted by East-West Arena Construction

Apr 25, 2015 12:56:50 PM

Horses literally spend almost all their lives on their feet. Except for brief periods of laying down during certain sleep stages, they even sleep on their feet with legs locked.  For an average-sized horse when standing still, each foot sustains 25 pounds per square foot (psi) of pressure continuously. When galloping, the horse sustains about 500 psi on the feet. That is slightly more than the pressure on a woman's stiletto heel and more than ten times the pressure on an elephant's feet. Because of the small size of the weight-bearing portion of the foot and the half-ton weight of the average horse, equine lameness is a significant risk.

Lameness shows up in an abnormal gait resulting from dysfunction causing pain. This is a common veterinary problem in sport horses and pleasure horses. It can be caused by infection from injury or from damage to bones, joints or soft tissue in the leg, blood clots,  or physical abnormalities which affects gait.


Most often, lameness is caused by such factors as working on poor footing, puddles on the arena surface, or very uneven arena surfaces especially in corners. Wet or slick grass is very risky because it makes the horse stumble. Continuous riding on hard surfaces risks injuring the horse's leg bones. Riding on excessively soft surfaces can increase risk of soft tissue damage. Nails and sharp surfaces account for a significant number of foot injuries. One expert recommends trying the footing surface for yourself to get a feel for how it might affect on the horse. If the surfaces are slick and uncomfortable they may pose dangers for the horse.

Disease organisms concentrate where the horse is confined. Stable cleanliness is very important. Horses kept in small pens or stalls should have their feet picked or cleaned daily to reduce the risk of thrush infections. When bacteria penetrate the frog of the horse's foot, it loses the flexibility it needs to reduce shock on the legs.

A lot of the horse's health depends on the working environment. East-West Arena Construction can help. Contact us.

Topics: Footing, Lameness