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Stringhalt

What is stringhalt?
Stringhalt or springhalt is an involuntary, greater-than-normal flexion of the hock while the horse is in motion and may affect one or both hind limbs.
How is this caused?
The true cause is unknown, but the condition is associated with nervous disorders, degeneration of the sciatic and peroneal nerves which supply the muscles of this area, and affectations of the spinal cord. At any rate, the condition is considered to involve some pathology of the lateral digital extensor muscle.

How does stringhalt affect the horse?
The effects are quite variable, but the disease is easy to diagnose from the signs. Because the syndrome is erratic, it is often not obvious during examination. Stringhalt is apparently not painful and does not cause lameness in the usual sense.
Some horses show a very mild hyperflexion of the hock during walking, while others jerk the leg up so violently that it strikes the abdomen and then pounds to the ground. Some horses show signs at each step, others only occasionally. In nearly all cases the signs are exaggerated when the horse is turning or backing. It usually is most noticeable after the horse has rested. The flexion may increase in cold weather and decrease or even disappear in warm weather. This syndrome is not characteristic of any particular breed or breeds of horses.

Does stringhalt prevent the horse from being usable?
Although regarded as a gross unsoundness, stringhalt may not materially hinder the horse's capacity for work, except in severe cases where the constant concussion gives rise to complications. The judgment of a veterinarian will be valuable in deciding whether or not a horse may continue to compete in horse show performance classes. The veterinarian may or may not consider treatment of the syndrome necessary.

What is the treatment for stringhalt?
It is a surgical procedure to cut the tendon of the lateral digital extensor muscle. This may alleviate the condition and involves removing a section of the tendon and sometimes part of the muscle. The prognosis after surgery is guarded to favourable.

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