Positive flexion test, what are your thoughts on the whole procedure? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 04-05-2012, 05:43 PM Thread Starter
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Exclamation Positive flexion test, what are your thoughts on the whole procedure?

Hi, so I got a vet check on a horse just the other day and she's was passing all her tests until we came along to the flexion test. She was fine in all legs except her front left leg and even then it was only for a few paces after being made to trot on and then it disappeared. She is only 7 and hasn't had much heavy/hard work. The vet was telling us that she could be fine and have no lameness issues or it could escalate into a fully lame horse.

I was researching online and there is ALOT of speculation of these flexion horses. Most people believe that only the minority of horses will pass this test and the majority will fail. I had heard cases of horses being brought who failed this flexion test and they were never lame. I've heard people say that if that was us being hold in a crouch position and then asked to run off we would do the same because our joints would be sore, so it's really not a big deal and we are asking the horse to much by doing the flexion test. Others say if it's done by vets and it comes up positive then don't go near buying the horse. It's all quite confusing.

So I am wondering what are your thoughts on flexion tests? Have any of your horses had them and failed and you still went ahead and bought them? How did it turn out? I just would love to know more about it. Thanks :))))))
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post #2 of 12 Old 04-05-2012, 05:55 PM
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As a 4 year old, my mare was having soundness issues on her left foreleg. Flexion test came up positive. (Duh, my mare was limping every time I rode her) and after months off of riding, she's never had issues in that leg again.

I personally don't put much thought into them. When I sit down for awhile and then get up, I take a few awkward steps too. I'm only 23.

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post #3 of 12 Old 04-05-2012, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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ok cool, thanks.

does anyone else have other opinions? I would love a wide range of experiences to hear back from :)))
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post #4 of 12 Old 04-05-2012, 07:37 PM
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I have seen horses not pass the test and been bought (for a lower price due to the positive test) and not have any issues, but I have also seen people decide against buying bc of the test in those situation I am unsure what those horses went on to do.

I think something to consider is the fact it wasn't all four and wasn't full blown lameness, she worked out of it after only a few steps, did the vet recommend X-rays? Or were X-rays done on that leg?

I love the theory that almost all humans would be lame if it was done to us.. I would probably fall flat on my face ;)

I think it really comes down to you.. How much did you like the horse? Do you have other options? Is everything else perfect? (in that case I would buy it) but if you have other options, horses that are equally or only a touch not as nice but pass with flying colors maybe go for one of those, it really is up to you and how comfortable you are with the horse, the seller and the amount of work your hoping the horse will do, is it more of a pleasure/pet or full blown show horse?

Last edited by Jumperforjoy; 04-05-2012 at 07:39 PM.
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post #5 of 12 Old 04-05-2012, 07:49 PM
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I tried a mare this past fall and she had a positive flexion. It wasn't really a big deal, but we had the vet look at her legs anyway. As it turns out, the vet found a rather curious indentation. We had the vet x-ray that leg and turns out she had severe arthritis. But on the flip side, my OTTB failed his flexion test, but he's never been unsound in his life (knock on wood) even after his 7 year racing career.
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post #6 of 12 Old 04-05-2012, 07:58 PM
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I have never had one come up positive, but.....my thought on the whole process is-every horse will have flaws. The vet is there to help you make an intelligent decision as to whether it is something you want to risk.

You have not said how she will be used, which to me makes a difference, but-at 7 with a positive flex-honestly-I would probably pass, or at least do x-rays to determine what the issue is.

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post #7 of 12 Old 04-05-2012, 10:00 PM
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I have as much faith in a flexion test as I have in the person doing it. You can 'crank' any horse's joints tightly enough to make the horse lame for several steps. If a person does a lot of flexion tests and knows how much pressure most horses can take without becoming 3-legged lame, then the test has a great deal more credence than when someone does few of them or flexes a horses so tightly that it will always come up lame for several steps.

That being said, I like hock and stifle flexion tests better than fetlock and knee tests. I think fetlock and knee tests are most useful when the horse is very touchy and tries to jerk a leg away while it is still being flexed -- especially if the horse shows great discomfort when the joint is not being flexed very tightly. In those instances, the horse almost always x-rays with bone chips or major arthritic changes.

I never do flexion tests on any horse without also doing hoof tests with testers.

All in all, we have found many problems that were subsequently x-rayed after failed flexion tests and real problems were found. We have also found precise problem spots with nerve blocks. This has been especially true when we had a horse that traveled 'off' but not lame. We blocked one foot and the horse was dead lame on the other. It is hard to tell what is wrong when both feet or legs hurt the same.
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post #8 of 12 Old 04-05-2012, 10:12 PM
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Flexion tests are hit and miss. Their "accuracy" is heavily dependant on the person giving the test, if they are "accurate" (in a sense of actually detecting leg problems) at all. My friend bought a horse 15 years ago who failed his PPE flexion test. He didn't take a lame step his entire life.

Certain vets fail more horses than others. A friend's horse pasted her flexion test with flying colors at one vet's office, but failed at other. That vet who failed her also failed several other horses who have no leg issues.

My horse has never failed a flexion test. However, she has known issues with her right front leg. Huh.
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post #9 of 12 Old 04-06-2012, 02:45 AM Thread Starter
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ok thanks heaps! :)
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post #10 of 12 Old 04-06-2012, 06:35 AM
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Some good points have already been made.

I'll go a little further and say flexion tests are almost never valid in isolation; and are most valid in combination with other diagnostics.

So a mild positive reaction to a flexion test on one foreleg with no other findings on PE or xray would not bother me. Mild positive reaction to a flexion test in combination with any other signs or symptoms or signifigant findings on xray? That's a red flag.

I also always insisted on the vet assistant or me doing the flexion - as someone stated earlier, the person performing the flexion can introduce a large variable of severity.
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