What is it
Stringhalt is a condition of the digital extensor tendons of the hindlegs. Research is ongoing but the prognosis is poor. However, it also does not necessarily mean the horse is in pain!
As a horse moves the hindlegs are raised alternately with sudden high action as though the horse is reacting to a sharp pain in the foot. This is more extreme when the horse is turning or backing up. It can affect both hindlegs equally or one might be worse. Occasionally the forelegs are affected but this is more unusual and some horses show more extreme action than others.
This is not a common disease, although I have known a horse with it. The cause is not definitely known, although, toxicity is thought to cause the condition in some horses. The origin of the condition seems to be neurological and not muscular. Nerve damage would cause the inappropriate muscle reaction seen in the limbs. This could be from an injury to the back, neck or leg and in these cases the stringhalt may improve as the injury heals.
Degenerative joint disease or disorders of the cartilage could be the cause.
Call the vet who will examine the horse. X-rays or ultrasounds can help to identify any problems.
When the condition is suspected to be caused by toxicity (a dandelion like plant is suspected) the horse should be removed from the pasture. These horses are more likely to recover. For other causes medication can help in some cases but is not a long term solution.
In most cases prevention would be difficult, the plant mentioned does not always cause the condition when eaten!
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