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Lameness Evaluations

Dr. Sotela has focused her continuing education on the sport horse, thus furthering her knowledge in biomechanics, lameness, imaging, treatments, prognosis, management, and rehabilitation. She prides herself in being a part of keeping your horse in top condition using the latest technology available for accurate diagnosis and treatment.


A lameness examination will always include a thorough understanding and review of your horse's medical history. The evaluation typically begins with full body palpation of your horse to identify any areas of heat, swelling, and/or soreness. Confirmation is assessed as well as shoeing and hoof tester response. Horses will then be examined in motion; a dynamic evaluation in hand (straight line and lunge) and or under saddle. The under saddle evaluation is especially helpful when dealing with poor performance or subtle lameness. Flexion tests are then performed. These tests help to identify areas of soreness or asymmetry by applying stress and pressure to specific joints and assessing subsequent changes in gait.


If there is an appreciable and consistent baseline lameness, diagnostic nerve and/or joint blocks may be utilized to accurately pinpoint the region causing the asymmetry. Local anesthetic is applied systematically from the lowest site on the horse’s leg upwards. This is important because nerve blocks temporarily desensitize all structures below the level they are placed. Intra-articular blocks on the other hand are joint specific and can be used individually. When utilized appropriately nerve and joint blocks can aid in accurately isolating the anatomical location and source of the horse’s lameness or asymmetry.


With the help of manual and visual examination, as well as nerve blocks when needed, an area of interest is identified. Diagnostic imaging can then be used to assess the area in detail and aid in an accurate diagnosis. Cavallo Veterinary Services uses on-farm advanced diagnostic devices including digital radiographs (x-rays) and ultrasound. Digital radiographs provide detailed imaging of bones, joints, and the boney insertion points of the tendons/ligaments. Ultrasound allows imaging of soft tissue structures including tendons, ligaments, bone surfaces and the soft tissue components of joints (menisci etc). In the unlikely event that results on-farm are inconclusive, your horse may be referred for additional advanced diagnostic imaging including bone scan, CT, or MRI. Dr. Sotela has excellent working relationships with multiple referral hospitals offering these imaging modalities and will stay in direct contact with you and the hospital of your choice throughout the entire process.


Lameness is defined as any alteration of gait, but can also include changes in attitude or performance, usually associated with pain. The purpose of the examination is to isolate the source of the lameness to one or more anatomic locations. Knowing the exact cause of lameness will result in a more direct treatment plan. It is best to have a lameness examination performed sooner rather than later to prevent further injury and potentially save time and money. Lameness can result in poor performance, for information on other factors leading to poor performance, please click here.


It is very important that our clients understand the process so that a decision can be made together to best treat our patients. Dr. Sotela welcomes questions and will design a treatment and rehabilitation plan with your input and needs in mind. These exams are thorough and taking our time to listen, observe and evaluate the complete presentation is key. Thorough reports and notes allow for consistent accurate medical records for either future comparison or optimizing various veterinarians working together on cases.

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