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Detecting soreness in your horse’s feet

A healthy horse should be able to walk without pain.

A healthy horse should be able to walk without pain.

Healthy hooves are central to the overall physical health of any horse. Whether a working horse or a competitive racing horse, they can suffer foot injuries that can cause pain and render them unable to ride and live happily. Below are a few common symptoms of soreness in horse feet. Keep an eye out for any of these traits:

Bruising

Stone bruises – or bruises that appear on a horse's hoof – are a common sign of injury and are fairly easy to detect. The bruises appear as dark grey or purple-red spots on the soles of a horse's feet, and are especially apparent after a farrier has removed buildup from your horse's feet and hooves.

Bruises are often not serious but may take some time to heal on their own. Some horses can perform adequately on bruises, while others may need a bit more help in the form of rest or treatment. Bruising is often the result of a horse's environment – walking on uneven surfaces such as gravel can cause injury. Bruising usually clears up on its own, but if you notice spots for a lengthy period of time or before a competition, call your veterinarian.

Walking differently

Bruises are often not serious but may take some time to heal on their own.

If you find your horse limping or changing its gait, this may be a sign of soreness. A horse in good condition will walk on the outer wall of its hooves, signaling that the soles of their feet are concave, making for pain-free movement.

A horse that begins walking unevenly or placing the toes of its hooves down before the back may be suffering from flat feet. When the sole of the foot loses its concave shape, more of the sensitive padding will come in contact with the ground, creating soreness.

Hoof cracks

Cracked hooves are a common source of strife for horses, causing pain and discomfort. Quarter cracks – those located on the sides of the hoof – are most common, but they can also occur on the toes. If you notice cracks forming, call the veterinarian for a check up to take a look at your horse's sore feet.

A poor trimming may be the culprit, but painful cracks can be also be caused by working on hard surfaces. These cracks can become infected, making a visit from the vet essential. If infected, the vet will disinfect the affected area, remove any damaged tissue as necessary, and possibly repair the crack with staples or screws.

In all of the above cases, if the issue does not clear up on its own, a visit from the farrier and veterinarian may be in order to determine if your horse has a more serious problems. Ask your vet whether any dietary or supplement changes are in order. A proper diet is an essential part of any horse's health, so keep that in mind as you tend to your horse and help them recover.

You can also include hoof packing as part of foot treatment. Finish Line's Easypack promotes foot health and was designed specifically to alleviate minor hoof problems including stone bruising and stinging feet.