Nerve blocks and intra-articular anaesthesia are used extensively as routine methods in lameness evaluation. The method is based on the assumption that the technique itself does not change the movement pattern. The aim of this study was to carry out a quantitative kinematic study to confirm or reject the hypothesis that high palmar digital nerve block (HPDN) and intra-articular fetlock joint anaesthesia (IAF) influence significantly the movement pattern of the horse.
Seven Standardbred horses trotting at 4.5 m/s were recorded at 240 Hz on a treadmill before and after anaesthesia by use of a ProReflex video system. Time variables, segment and joint angles were calculated. The high palmar digital nerve block (HPDN) resulted in a longer stance time and caused a greater fetlock joint angle range and greater maximal pastern joint angle. No systematic differences in time and angle variables were observed after intra-articular fetlock joint anaesthesia (IAF). In conclusion, HPDN but not IAF affects locomotor pattern in sound horses. Distal limb proprioception is important in normal movement, while fetlock intra-articular proprioception is apparently not. Interpretation of the effect of HPDN in lame individuals should incorporate more variables than maximal overextension of the fetlock joint.