Objective—To determine the types of musculoskeletal problems that result in lameness or poor performance in horses used for team roping and determine whether these problems are different in horses used for heading versus heeling.
Procedure—Medical records of team roping horses that were evaluated because of lameness or poor performance were reviewed to obtain information regarding signalment, primary use (ie, head horse or heel horse), history, results of physical and lameness examinations, diagnostic tests performed, final diagnosis, and treatment.
Results—Among horses evaluated by lameness clinicians, the proportion with lameness or poor performance was significantly greater in horses used for heading (74/118) and lower in horses used for heeling (44/118) than would be expected under the null hypothesis. Most horses examined for poor performance were lame. A significantly greater proportion of horses used for heading had right forelimb lameness (26/74 [35%]), compared with horses used for heeling (7/44 [16%]). Horses used for heading had more bilateral forelimb lameness (18/74 [24%]), compared with horses used for heeling (4/44 [9%]). Horses used for heeling had more bilateral hind limb lameness (3/44 [7%]), compared with horses used for heading (0%). The most common musculoskeletal problems in horses used for heading were signs of pain limited to the distal sesamoid (navicular) area, signs of pain in the navicular area plus osteoarthritis of the distal tarsal joints, and soft tissue injury in the forelimb proximal phalangeal (pastern) region. Heeling horses most commonly had signs of pain in the navicular area, osteoarthritis of the metatarsophalangeal joints, and osteoarthritis of the distal tarsal joints.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Horses used for heading were most commonly affected by lameness in the right forelimb. Horses used for heeling had more bilateral hind limb lameness than horses used for heading. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;226:1694–1699)