what to do with a permanently lame horse

Strategies for Dealing with a Permanently Lame Horse – Supportive Care and Mobility Enhancements

by | Jul 20, 2023 | Blog

Lameness in horses is an unfortunate and often heartbreaking issue, characterized by altered gait or movement, usually as a result of pain or discomfort. While some instances of lameness are temporary and can be treated with proper rest and medication, a permanently lame horse requires a different level of care and understanding.

Understanding Permanent Lameness

Permanent lameness is a condition in which the horse is persistently lame, and the cause of the lameness cannot be cured or completely mitigated. This may be due to chronic diseases such as arthritis or navicular disease, irreversible injuries, or severe and unmanageable hoof problems. These horses may find it challenging to walk, trot or canter comfortably, which significantly impacts their quality of life.

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Addressing Permanent Lameness

A permanently lame horse demands a strategic and compassionate approach. Not all horses are the same, and the strategy you employ should cater to your horse’s individual needs. The main goals are to alleviate discomfort, maintain optimal health, and improve the horse’s ability to move as much as possible.

Providing a comfortable living environment is crucial. Consider a stall with extra padding, for example using a Stall Mat, to reduce pressure on your horse’s limbs. It is equally important to ensure the availability of accessible water and feed sources.

Nutrition is vital in managing lameness, as obesity can worsen the condition. Provide a balanced diet that promotes ideal body weight and supports joint health. Consider products like Purina Equine Senior Active Horse Feed, specially formulated for older or lame horses, to provide essential nutrients while minimizing weight gain.

The horse’s hoof care is another major consideration. Regular farrier visits are paramount to maintain hoof health and manage pain. Using hoof boots, such as the Easyboot Cloud Hoof Boot, can provide added comfort and support when necessary.

Supportive Therapies and Treatments

In addition to environmental changes and basic care, therapeutic treatments can help manage the discomfort associated with permanent lameness. These treatments include physiotherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic work. They should always be carried out under the supervision of a professional.

Veterinary prescribed anti-inflammatory medications can also be helpful. Joint supplements such as Nutramax Cosequin ASU Plus Joint Supplement can support joint health and reduce discomfort, but should only be administered after discussing with a vet.

Another therapy to consider is equine-assisted hydrotherapy. The Horse Gym USA Water Treadmill is an excellent product that aids in non-weight-bearing exercise, promotes circulation, and enhances overall mobility.

Keep in mind that each permanently lame horse is unique, with distinct needs, preferences, and thresholds of pain. Hence, while these strategies are general recommendations, it is crucial to customize them to your horse’s individual condition. Regular consultations with your vet and a team of equine health professionals will ensure that you provide the most appropriate and compassionate care for your permanently lame horse.

Maintaining Social and Mental Wellbeing

Just like humans, horses are social animals that thrive in the company of their peers. Therefore, maintaining your horse’s social and mental wellbeing is a key aspect of dealing with permanent lameness. Even though your horse may not be able to run and play with its mates as before, ensuring they still have social contact can significantly boost their morale and quality of life. A simple grazing muzzle like the Tough 1 Easy Breathe Grazing Muzzle can be a useful tool to let your horse safely graze alongside their friends.

Moreover, toys such as the Jolly Mega Ball or Jolly Ball Horse Toy can provide mental stimulation and entertainment. These can help keep your horse occupied, prevent boredom, and even provide light exercise.

Training and Exercise

Regular, light exercise is still beneficial for a permanently lame horse, provided it doesn’t cause additional discomfort. Light movement can help maintain muscle tone and flexibility, prevent weight gain, and even alleviate some of the discomfort associated with chronic lameness. Walking your horse or using equine treadmills at a slow pace can be an effective exercise strategy. Always consult with your vet or an equine physical therapist to develop an exercise plan that is safe and suitable for your horse.

Massage and physiotherapy tools can aid in your horse’s mobility and help them relax. Tools like the Equilibrium Therapy Massage Pad can be used to provide regular massage sessions, while the Weaver Prodigy Athletic Boots can support muscles and joints during movement.

Keeping Track of Progress and Adjusting Accordingly

It’s important to regularly monitor your horse’s condition and keep an open line of communication with your vet. Lameness can fluctuate, and the level of care required can change over time. Be prepared to adjust your strategies, the level of exercise, the intensity of therapies, and even diet as required.

Understanding and Acceptance

Dealing with a permanently lame horse can be emotionally challenging for the owner. It’s vital to understand that your role is not to cure but to provide a comfortable and enriching life for your horse, despite the limitations. This understanding, coupled with a supportive community of fellow horse owners and equine professionals, can provide the emotional strength necessary to navigate this journey.


A permanently lame horse can still lead a fulfilling life with the right care, attention, and strategies. By optimizing their environment, nutrition, hoof care, and implementing therapeutic treatments, you can significantly improve their quality of life. Moreover, ensuring their mental wellbeing, providing light exercise, and monitoring their condition regularly are crucial to their overall care.

The strategies highlighted in this article can provide a helpful starting point, but remember, each horse is unique. Always tailor your care strategies to suit your horse’s individual needs and consult with your vet or equine professionals to ensure you’re providing the best possible care. As always, your love, patience, and understanding are the most vital factors in enhancing your horse’s life, irrespective of their physical limitations.

About The Author

<a href="https://www.equiniction.com/author/issabella-m/" 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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