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"Referred" Lameness

A "referred" lameness is defined as an artificial precipitation of gait deficit(s) that occur in one limb as a product of gait deficit(s) in one or more of the other limbs.

For example, a horse might "drop onto" the left thoracic (LF) limb in an attempt to underload a severely affected right pelvic (RH) limb. In this case, the horse uses one half of the diagonal pair of limbs to favor the other half of the same diagonal pair. By counter-levering onto the LF limb, the horse is effectively able to underload the RH limb. Of course, "falling" into the LF limb gives the appearance of being lame in the RF limb. Whether the horse bears less weight on the RF limb (relative to the LF limb) or more weight on the LF limb (relative to the RF limb) the appearance is the same.... that of favoring the RF limb.

View the video footage below:




This horse has a primary lameness in the RH limb. To learn the source of the RH lameness click HERE.

In an attempt to improve comfort in the RH limb, the horse transfers her weight from the RH limb to the LF limb (the other half of the diagonal pair). The transfer of weight causes the mare to overload the LF limb, resulting in a visible head nod that is evident whenever she places the LF limb on the ground. As a result of compensation, the mare bears more weight on the LF limb relative to the RF limb.

This, in turn, produces a referred (or artificial) lameness in the RF limb.

The mare's RF lameness disappeared pursuant to successful treatment of the RH problem.



In most cases, primary pelvic (hind) limb lameness will generate a referred thoracic limb lameness on the contralateral (opposite) side of the body. For example, primary LH lameness will often produce a referred RF asymmetry. By contrast, most primary thoracic limb gait deficits (if severe enough) will result in referred pelvic limb lameness on the ipsilateral (same) side of the horse's body. A severe RF lameness might induce artificial RH limb gait anomalies, for instance.

The concept of "referred lameness" is an important consideration during motion analysis of the horse, as it is the responsibility of the examiner to accurately identify both primary and secondary sources of asymmetry. In many cases, the referred (or artificial) lameness is more easily depicted and often the reason that initially prompts the client to seek veterinary consultation.


If you have any questions regarding Referred Lameness in the horse please call our office at (678) 867-2577. We look forward to serving you!
THE ATLANTA EQUINE CLINIC: 1665 Ward Road, Hoschton, Georgia 30548 - ph. 678-867-2577

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