Incidence, causes and outcomes of lameness cases in a working military horse population: A field study



Reasons for performing study

Lameness is a common problem in the horse. Despite this, information on the incidence of lameness in horses in the UK is restricted to studies of lameness in performance horses, racehorses or referral hospital populations.


To determine the overall incidence and common causes of lameness in a working horse population and incidence, duration and outcome of conditions observed.

Study design

Prospective questionnaire study.


Questionnaires were used to record lameness episodes in 294 horses in an equine military establishment. Information recorded included age, years of service, type of work, causal lesion, time taken to return to work and outcome. Lameness problems could be reported by any staff involved in the horses' care and were diagnosed by a veterinary surgeon or qualified farrier. Trends between lame and nonlame populations were compared using Chi-square analysis. Lameness diagnoses were grouped and analysed by disease category.


Completed questionnaires for 273 horses were analysed. The mean monthly incidence of lameness was 2.1%, equivalent to an annual rate of 25.4 cases per 100 horses per annum, with a mean of 1.2 lameness episodes per horse in the lame population. Horse age and duration of service were not significantly different between lame and nonlame populations. The most common diagnoses were cellulitis (18.6%), skin wounds (16.3%) and foot/shoeing problems (11.6%) and 88% of cases had returned to previous levels of work by the conclusion of the study.


This initial field study showed that lameness is a common occurrence in this working military horse population and the majority of cases make a full return to work. The most common causes of lameness identified in this study and outcomes of these conditions differ from existing literature.

Potential relevance

This study highlights the need for further studies of lameness in the wider horse population.