Horse Twisting Hind Leg When Walking

Horse Twisting Hind Leg When Walking: Causes and Treatment

by | Jun 21, 2023 | Equine Health, Equine Treatment

Every horse owner treasures the unique movements of their equine companion, from the powerful leap over a jump to the gentle canter across the field. But what happens when those movements become strange or unnatural? One such issue can occur when your horse starts twisting its hind leg (also known as “wringing hock”) when walking. It’s not a common sight and can be understandably alarming. This article aims to provide horse owners with detailed information about this problem, possible causes, and how it can be diagnosed and treated. In addition, we’ll cover some useful products that can help manage this condition and maintain your horse’s health.

Identifying Unusual Horse Movements

Differentiating between natural and abnormal movements in horses is crucial for every horse owner. Knowing what is usual for your horse will enable you to notice when something is amiss. Horses are well-coordinated animals, with their movement being smooth and graceful. When a horse is twisting its hind leg when walking, it tends to present as an unusual rotational movement or a visible effort to lift and move the leg.

To effectively monitor your horse for abnormal movements, routine observation is key. Pay particular attention when your horse is walking or trotting, as these are the times when irregularities like a twisting leg will be most apparent.

Possible Causes of Hind Leg Twisting

A variety of factors might cause hind leg twisting. Common causes include injuries, neurological issues, or poor shoeing. An injury to the horse’s hip, stifle, or hock can result in a twisted gait. Neurological disorders, such as Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) (this book is a good resource on EPM if you want to learn more), can also cause abnormal leg movements. Incorrectly fitted or worn-out horseshoes can alter the natural movement of the horse’s leg, leading to twisting.

Less common causes could include congenital deformities, infections affecting the nervous system, or muscular dystrophy. Age-related factors might also come into play. Older horses can develop arthritis, leading to stiffness and unusual leg movement.

It’s important to use the right products when it comes to your horse’s shoeing needs.
Related: Six Different Types of Horse Shoes: Uses and Where to Purchase

Role of Veterinarian in Diagnosis

In case of abnormal movements, a timely visit to the vet can save your horse from unnecessary discomfort and prevent the condition from worsening. Veterinarians play a crucial role in diagnosing the cause of hind leg twisting.

The diagnosis process might include a thorough physical examination, neurological tests, and possibly imaging tests such as radiography or ultrasound. Advanced cases might require a CT scan or MRI. The vet might also inquire about your horse’s history, including its diet, shoeing, and any recent injuries or changes in behavior.

Equipping yourself with the right veterinary tools can assist in the early detection of problems. Consider the 3M Littmann Stethoscope, renowned for its quality and reliability. It can help you monitor your horse’s heartbeat and breathing, alerting you to any irregularities that might necessitate a vet visit.

Abnormal leg movements in horses, such as hind leg twisting, can be a sign of underlying health issues. However, with diligent observation, proper veterinary care, and the use of appropriate products, these issues can be managed effectively, ensuring the wellbeing of your equine companion.

Video demonstrating a horse displaying leg twisting / wringing of the hocks:

Medications for Treating Leg Twisting

When it comes to treating hind leg twisting in horses, a range of medications may be deployed depending on the underlying cause. Pain-relief medications, known as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), like Equioxx, are commonly used to alleviate discomfort. Muscle relaxants may also be employed to ease any muscular tension contributing to the twisting.

If the root cause is neurological, veterinarians might recommend specific treatments like antiprotozoal therapy for conditions such as EPM. It’s crucial to follow the vet’s instructions regarding medication dosage and administration.

However, bear in mind that all medications can have side effects. NSAIDs, for instance, can cause gastric ulcers and kidney damage with long-term use. Thus, it’s essential to use them under the guidance of a professional.

Management and Long-Term Care

Effective management of leg twisting goes beyond medication. It often involves making lifestyle changes, focusing on diet and exercise, and considering non-drug treatments like physical therapy.

An optimized diet can help maintain your horse’s overall health. Feed supplements containing glucosamine or chondroitin, like the Nutramax Cosequin Equine Powder, may support joint health. Regular exercise, without putting excess strain on the horse, can aid in maintaining muscle strength and joint flexibility.

Physical therapy can also play an integral role in managing this condition. Simple exercises can help improve the horse’s balance and coordination, thus minimizing leg twisting. Equine massage might assist in reducing muscle tension and improving circulation. For a great at-home option, the Equilibrium Therapy Magnetic Hind & Hock Chaps is a fantastic tool that provides a relaxing massage. Always consult your vet before introducing new tools such as this therapy tool.


Hind leg twisting in horses can indeed be a daunting issue to encounter. However, with an understanding of the possible causes, symptoms, and treatments, managing this condition becomes far less intimidating. As responsible horse owners, it is our duty to monitor our equine companions for any unusual behaviors, initiate timely intervention, and provide necessary long-term care.

Remember, early detection of abnormalities can make all the difference. By staying vigilant, you can ensure the health and happiness of your horse. Moreover, equipping yourself with the right tools and products can ease your journey in managing these issues.

Never underestimate the value of professional veterinary care. Your vet is your most significant ally in diagnosing and treating health issues like hind leg twisting. Always consult them regarding any concerns about your horse’s movement or overall wellbeing.

In the end, it’s about creating a safe and healthy environment for your horse to thrive in. While hind leg twisting can pose a challenge, it is by no means insurmountable. With proper care, attention, and the right resources, your horse can lead a comfortable and fulfilling life.

About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Issabella Mitchel</a>

Issabella Mitchel

Isabella is a remarkable equestrian and racehorse trainer, hailing from the horse capital of the world, Kentucky. Growing up in the heart of bluegrass country, she developed a deep affinity for horses from an early age.

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