Q&A Questions and Answers:
Our 14 year old Tennessee Walking Horse stumbled yesterday and drew her right hind leg up like a chicken wing. My wife was on her, so I hopped off my horse, ran over and helped her dismount quickly without letting the horse move. I thought she had broken a leg or something. Anyway, I started going over the leg and found no sensitive spots and after a couple minutes of my rubbing the leg good, she had her weight back on the leg. I walked her around the arena for several minutes with no indication of favoring or limping. I mounted her and rode her around the arena for several minutes with no issues. Is it normal for a horse to cramp up? We had only been riding for about 15 minutes. If yes, what's the best way to prevent this?
If I'm visualizing that "chicken wing" motion correctly, there are three possibilities that come to mind. One is the spastic movement called "stringhalt." Somehow, I tend to doubt that, since stringhalt is less frequent in warm weather and is more often seen while backing or turning. Certain toxic plants can trigger stringhalt, but it's usually more than a one-time event.
The second possibility is a mild colic. When a horse gets a bellyache (aka colic), it will sometimes kick at the site of the pain. Again, I have doubts about that being the cause, because it also tends to be more than a one-time event.
The third -- and to my mind most likely -- cause is a painful insect bite. Just as we will slap at a mosquito or deer fly bite, even the most well-mannered horse will reflexively kick at an insect sting. [Note: This is what it turned out to be.]
If this continues, and you eliminate these three possibilities, you'll need to call your vet in to do a little more in-depth probing.
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