Occurrence.—This condition is a myoclonic affection of the hind leg which is discussed in works on theory and practice under the head of neuroses, but the cause or causes have not been established. Theories that heredity is responsible have their supporters and advocates of hypotheses attributing it to disease of the sciatic nerve, patellar subluxation, fascial contraction of various muscles, “dry spavin” (tarsal arthritis), iliac exostoses, disease of the foot and contraction of the hoof, are on record in veterinary literature. This ailment affects old horses more frequently than it does young and is seen in all breeds of animals including mules.
[Illustration: Fig. 52—Spring-halt.]
Symptomatology.—This disease develops slowly, and progressively increases in severity as a rule, but does not ordinarily constitute cause for rendering an animal unserviceable. While the affection is sometimes bilateral (occasionally affections of the forelegs are reported) and the extreme flexion of the legs in the spasmodic manner which characterizes spring-halt, cause great waste of energy during locomotion, yet such cases are rare. Usually the ailment is markedly evinced when subjects are first taken from the stable, but as they are exercised the manifestation diminishes, and in many instances it completely subsides. The condition is generally more noticeable when the subject is made to step backward. In some animals there is marked abduction at the time flexion occurs and in singular instances the spasmodic contraction is so violent that the subject falls to the ground as a result of the peculiar flexion of the leg.
In severe cases of “scratches” or chemical irritation of the extremity, the legs are abnormally flexed in a manner which simulates spring-halt, but because of the evident injury of the parts this is not likely to confuse. Since all facts concerning etiological agencies are surrounded with so much obscurity, classification does not lend any particular assistance in the consideration of this ailment.
Prognosis.—One cannot intelligently give a prognosis in these cases if forecast is expected to state the exact course following treatment. However, in a general way, cases of recent affection are thought more favorable than are those of long standing or in old animals where myositis and other muscular and fascial affections exist owing to years of hard service.
Treatment.—No known line of medicinal treatment is of service, nor is any particular surgical operation to be considered dependable for obtaining relief. Operations of almost every conceivable nature have been tried with the hope of securing recovery in spring-halt but under no condition can the practitioner as yet be reasonably certain of effecting permanent relief in any case. Treatment is, therefore, entirely empirical.