Grading the Lameness

Grade 1.

    The lameness is not recognizable at the walk, but is evident at the trot.  Usually, with a forelimb lameness, the horse's head drops down when the sound foot lands and raises up to its regular height when the affected side lands.  There may be an asymmetry in the gluteal rise with hind limb lameness.  There also may be an audible difference between the landing of the sound foot versus the lame foot (i.e. the horse lands with less weight on the lame foot).  Grade 1 lameness' are most typical in chronic, nonprogressive diseases.


Grade 2.

    The lameness is barely perceptible in the walk, and very apparent at the trot.   Head movements, although not often visible at the walk, become obvious at the trot, with some head and neck lifting as the lame foot hits the ground.  This is an attempt to reduce the weight bearing on the affected limb. 

Grade 3.

    The lameness is apparent at both the walk and trot.  Head and neck lifting are obvious with the forelimb lameness and with a hind limb lameness, head nodding is apparent when the opposite forelimb hits the ground.

Grade 4.

    With this degree of lameness, the horse will not place the foot completely flat during weight bearing.  They will be reluctant to jog.

Grade 5.

    This is a nonweight-bearing lameness.  This is often associated with fractures, subsolar abscesses, severe tendonitis, and septic arthritis.