An investigation of risk factors for foot-related lameness in a United Kingdom referral population of horses

Rebecca S. Parkes, J. Richard Newton, Sue J. Dyson
The Veterinary Journal
May 2013

Lameness relating to the foot of the horse is common, but the majority of information concerning risk factors for injury is anecdotal. The objectives of this study were to investigate risk factors for foot-related pain in a referral population of horses, with particular reference to injury/disease of the podotrochlear apparatus (PTA), by comparison with the remainder of the clinic population. It was hypothesised that there would be an increased risk of foot pain associated with breed, work discipline, age, height and bodyweight (BW). A retrospective study of all horses examined at a referral centre between 2001 and 2010 was performed using univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses.

There were 4618 horses investigated, 1132 of which had foot pain. There was increased risk of foot pain in multivariable analyses (all categories combined) in horses aged 6–9 and 10–15 years (OR = 1.60 and 1.72, respectively), compared with horses <6 years old, in show jumpers (OR = 1.44) compared with dressage horses, Thoroughbred cross-breeds (OR = 1.53) compared with Warmbloods and in horses with a BW:height ratio in the upper two quartiles (3.45–3.71 or >3.71; OR = 1.55 and 1.44, respectively), compared with the lowest quartile (<3.19). Racehorses had reduced risk for all types of foot pain combined (OR = 0.13) compared with dressage horses. Risk factors for PTA injury were age (10–15 years, OR = 2.12; >15 years, OR = 3.36, compared with <6 years old), BW:height ratio (>3.45–3.71 (OR = 2.75), >3.71 (OR = 2.06), compared with <3.19) and Thoroughbred cross-breed (OR = 1.73) compared with Warmbloods. Show jumpers had an increased risk of PTA and other injuries (OR = 2.29) when compared with dressage horses. Age, breed, work discipline and BW:height ratio influenced the risk of foot pain, but other factors probably also play a role.