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 Post subject: Churchill Hock Test
PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2015 2:49 pm 
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To diagnose lameness, one of the first things to scrutinize are the hocks! Below is the best hock test I have ever seen and it was formulated by Dr. Churchill, a wizard!

The below are selected summaries from a journal article outlining Dr. Churchill's methods and reasoning for this special type of hock test:

"The average race horse is a more emotional animal and may resist examination. Therefore, at the race track, horses are best examined in their own stalls, in familiar surroundings and preferably with their own grooms on the lead shank. To examine a horse accurately, it must be relaxed. Sometimes hand feeding during the examination facilitates relaxation. An examination that is performed with the horse twitched or having a chain under its lip is really not satisfactory. It pays to take time to gain the horse's confidence. Don't blame the horse for being wary!"

The left hind leg is picked up and supported by the right hand. The fingers of the left hand are curled around the medial face of the hock joint with the thumb across the anterior surface. With the left hand in this position but using only the index and middle fingers, pressure is applied to the posterior aspect of the head of the medial splint bone. This test is a specific for hock lameness, if the horse FLEXES and ABDUCTS the leg. Digital pressure should also be applied to the area of the cunean bursa in search of sensitivity. Now the leg is supported with the left hand and the hock test repeated with the fingers of the right hand on the posterior aspect of the head of the lateral spint bone.

"If positive, it indicates a problem within the hock joint anywhere from the tibio-tarsal articulation down to the tarso-metatarsal articulation. It is not a spavin test such as the hock flexion test. The hock flexion test, at least for me, is almost useless in the diagnosis of lameness because a positive test can mean anything from trochanteric bursititis to sesamoiditis. It can be used as an aid in cases were a horse is not visibly lame. Then when the test is applied to each side of the horse it may help decide which hind leg is involved."

"The hock test described earlier in which pressure is applied to the head of the medial splint bone depends upon referred pain for its efficiency. I did not devise this procedure. It came about as a result of examining many thousands of horses for hind leg lameness. It gradually became apparent to me that pain over the head of the medial metatarsal bone was a constant finding in all types of hock lameness. It is my opinion that the alteration of the horse's gait is partially responsible for producing this pathognomomnic sign. By landing on the outside toe, excessive strain is placed on the medial structures of the tarso-metatarsal articulation including the second metatarsal bone. The same phenomenon is observed in the front leg. Excessive wear on the outside branch of the shoe of the front foot goes hand-in-hand with soreness of the medial splint bone of the same leg, including chronic splint formation. In early cases of hock lameness, pain over the medial metatarsal must be produced by extension from other areas of the hock. I strongly encourage you to try this test for hock lameness and not give up until you have perfected your technique. It is not something that you can learn to do in five minutes, but you can, once it has been learned, save yourself hours of time."


Me, talking here: I have found this test to be very valuable in detecting hock lameness, particularly if it is rather obscure. Note that Churchill says that this procedure has to be learned and you cannot go out and expect creditable results the first time out. You should practice this technique on every horse you come across and become accustomed to the various responses such a test may produce in individual animals.

In my own words without Churchhill's anatomical jargon, let me run you through this test one more time:

Taking the left hind leg, you should pick it up and with the right hand, hold the flexed hoof in the palm of your right hand. I like to be in a squatting position so that I can rest my right forearm/elbow on my right knee/thigh while doing this examination. This cuts down on the examiner's muscle strain and allows you to concentrate on applying pressure to the inside head of the splint bone with the opposite hand. OK, with the left leg being supported by your right hand, you take your left hand and place the thumb on the front part of the flexed hock with your index & middle fingers curling around over the inside lower portion of the hock--over the very top portions of the inside splint bone--you then apply intense finger pressure to this part of the splint bone. If the horse is positive for hock soreness, he will attempt to straighten and carry to the outside that hind leg. If he is negative for hock lameness, there will be no response. Repeat on the opposite hind leg. I have long ago acquired hock bones from a dead horse to study on my own and know the structure of that joint as intimately as possible. I suggest you should do the same. It helps educate your fingers to what is felt under the skin.

I have created a new webpage more illustrative of how to do the CHURCHILL HOCK TEST and it can be accessed at:

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