Foot pain in horses

The team at the AHT has pioneered the understanding of equine foot pain using a variety of imaging, pathological and biomechanical approaches.

This has led to vital changes in the understanding of diagnosis and pathogenesis of foot pain in horses.

We have completed studies looking at different patterns of radiopharmaceutical uptake (RU), quantitative assessment of radiopharmaceutical uptake and how these are influenced by different disease processes in the foot. We are beginning to better understand that there are probably a variety of different pathological processes that influence the navicular bone, with or without closely related soft tissue structures, such as the distal sesamoidean impar ligament, the collateral sesamoidean ligament and the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT). The insertions of the collateral ligaments of the distal interphalangeal joint and the insertion of the DDFT appear to be sites of major stress, and presence of increased RU may reflect severity of injury and influence prognosis.

We have recognised in many clinical patients that lesions of multiple structures can be identified using MRI. Many of these are likely to have predated the onset of lameness. We are now trying to elucidate better what actually induces pain that causes lameness. We have carried out some pilot studies mapping out the distribution of sensory nerve endings in a variety of structures within the foot in lame and sound horses. However we need to develop this further. We have further ongoing work looking at injuries of the distal sesamoidean impar ligament. We are also trying to understand better the different pathological processes that can result in increased signal intensity in bones in fat suppressed MR images. This is important if we want to know how to target treatment.

This research work is driven by the clinical cases and the questions that arise from their investigation, as we strive to understand better the causes of foot pain, the mechanisms of injury and any possible influences on treatment.


If you have any questions in relation to poor performance or equine lameness in your horse please either speak with your vet or contact us on 01638 751908.