Physical Check (Looking for Injuries, Swelling, Lameness)

STEVE: I typically recommend that most owners have a routine to where they can go in and have a way that they look over their entire horse to make sure everything’s perfect before they go use them for day-to-day training, competition, and what not.

ALEX: Yeah, I definitely agree. As a professional trainer, we had a routine every morning where we’d look at horses. We’d actually feel their legs, we’d feel for heat or inflammation, we’d see how they would walk. We might take them out of the stall and see how they trot, to see how they’re moving. Also, and not just from a professional standpoint, but anybody should always keep their eye on their horse to see how they’re laying down, how they’re resting, and how they’re acting in the stall; if they’re resting a limb, or check for heat or inflammation. There should be a checklist to go through.

If there is a warning sign, that’s when we would call Dr. Allday, and say, “This is something I hadn’t seen before,” or “This is something that’s gotten worse. We think we need to do a complete physical examination because we need to get to the root of the problem before it becomes a real serious issue.”

STEVE: When I’m asked to do a physical examination on a horse, I have a very, very regimented routine that I’ve done the same way for basically the last 25 or 30 years. I like to look at the horse cold, as a blank page. I don’t like to get the history because it’s important for me not to have a prejudiced or a biased point of view as to what the problem necessarily is. What I’ll do is I’ll look at the horse cold, do my physical, even go so far as to watch them travel, meaning that I’ll watch them walk, look at the bounce of the feet, look at the way they hit, their swing pattern of the limb, whether it’s wing in, wing out. Then I’ll trot them on a line, straight, backwards and forwards. Then of course, if they show a deficit, sometimes I’ll even put them in a circle both directions, clockwise and counterclockwise.

Then at that point in time, I’ll get a complete history of what they have suspected, what they have treated, what an owner has looked at before. It gives me a complete, comprehensive idea of how this horse has progressed to this point. A lot of times, what can happen is it’s not necessarily what I need to look at that needs to be readdressed, sometimes it just tells me that you know what you don’t need to do. You need to move into another area. If it’s the same limb and you’ve been treating the same problem and the horse is still lame, that’s probably not the problem. You need to be looking elsewhere.

ALEX: The main goal here is the prevention of problems from happening. We want to look at the preventative side of things. If there is a question mark, there is a concern; we’re going to call a Dr. Allday.