Reasons for performing study: Lameness is highly prevalent in working horses, but published reports on the associated pathological abnormalities are lacking. With over 42 million horses in developing countries and the majority used for work, lameness has major welfare implications.
Objectives: To describe the range and prevalence of pathological abnormalities associated with lameness in working horses.
Methods: A standard lameness assessment was adapted for field use in working equids. Data on pathological abnormalities and pain responses in the feet, limbs and spine were collected through observation, palpation, manipulations and gait assessment in working horses from India (n = 110) and Pakistan (n = 117). Lameness at the walk was scored on a scale of 0–4 (sound-nonweightbearing).
Results: All horses examined were lame. Overall, 98% showed a gait abnormality in all 4 limbs and 87% had at least one limb scoring 3 or 4 on the lameness scale. Multiple pathological abnormalities within each limb were associated with lameness, with similar results in both countries. Chronic foot pathology was seen in every horse; 94% horses showed signs of chronic joint disease; 83% had digital flexor tendonitis in at least one limb. Lameness and pathological abnormalities were associated with specific pain responses in the feet, limbs and spine.
Conclusions: The extremely high prevalence of multilimb lameness and its association with pain is of great concern. The multiple pathological abnormalities present in working horses makes lameness complex to address.
Potential relevance: The results of this detailed study of lameness should facilitate the identification of risk factors and the implementation of interventions to reduce the prevalence of lameness in working equids.