Caudal hoof pain and hard footing

My horse has been pretty foot sore for about a week after being turned out barefoot on frozen ground. I had a vet out today who checked him with hoof testers. The soles were definitely sore, and then the vet said that the heels were sore with the testers too. This, of course, is panic-inducing. But before I start counting out tablets of isoxsuprine and kissing my long term riding future goodbye, I figured I would ask…couldn’t the frozen be the cause of the sore heels? Perhaps there aren’t any navicular issues at all, but the horse is just sore from acting stupid on frozen ground. Maybe just keep him on soft ground and treat with magic cushion, etc.?

Wouldn’t x rays verify if you had navicular changes or not? Seems like that would be the easy answer. Take images so you know what you’re dealing with?

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IIRC, X-Rays are actually not very good at showing navicular issues. Ultrasound would be a little better, MRI much better but pricey of course.


How long has he been barefoot? IME yes, the hard frozen ground can cause them to be footsore. My horse went through it this year. I ended up packing his feet for a week or so until we got some snow to provide a little cushion.

I personally would probably pack his feet for a few days and see if that helps before dishing out for X-rays.

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I’d put boots on if you have them for relief. If not, magic cushion and tape on some Styrofoam pads and soft bedding. Then x-ray the foot to measure sole depth and check navicular. You can get some a pretty good idea from a set of x-rays whether navicular issues need to be farther evaluated.

My guess is horse got sore on soles, possible bruised the sole, and rocked back on heels to protect soles and now those are sore, plus probably had a trim where farrier/trimmer cleaned out a bunch of sole that should have stayed in this winter craziness. I only let farrier shape up the hoof wall in this ice age winter we have been having and not touch the bottom of the foot. Frozen ground is no joke.

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What @luvmyhackney said… never let the farrier/trimmer touch the bottom of the foot with a knife unless they are cleaning up some over grown bar, and never ever let them take sole at the toe on a horse like this.

Cloud boots are excellent for this type of thing… I would not immediately go down the road to navicular, there are many things that cause “Heel Pain”… if you are truly worried about it you can have xrays done but right now I would be more focused on why he came up sore after being turned out on frozen ground. Thin soles? Long toes/low heels? Thrush?

Correct diet and trim are very important… what’s the diet? and if you can get us some pictures like these, that will help us steer you in the right direction :slight_smile:,hoof%20you%20are%20looking%20at.

Well, of course.

Unless you have nothing but fluffy perfect snow, there are lots of ways snow/ice can hurt their feet - stepping through the crusty/icy top layer, uneven snow/ice where it has thawed and refrozen, not to mention frozen manure balls in their stalls and in turnout that may appear unexpectedly.

I would definitely assume that if you just took shoes off this horse that this is an environmental issue.

Why did you take shoes off?

My TB mare wears shoes almost solely for frozen mud fall season through frozen mud spring season. She is very comfortable in turnout now even with a lot of uneven snow/ice ridges, while my others (all barefoot) have to walk carefully in some areas.

Thank you all for your responses! I know he has thinner soles and have been using durasole to toughen the soles up. He had been on stall rest for an injury, which is why the shoes came off, and has only recently been able to be on turnout. With the deep freeze over much of the US, he hadn’t been turned out for a few days, and my guess is that he ran around once he was able to be turned out and over did it on the hard ground. Winter is very hard on my guy in general.

And I agree that it seems obviously true that hard ground could cause sore heels, which is why I was so surprised that the conversation with the vet started taking the turn to navicular syndrome with just hoof testers.

This was helpful and reassuring. I will try magic cushion and look into Cloud boots. From the reviews I have seen, those boots seems like they will help him feel better while he recovers.

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Easy care just released a new boot called the Sneaker… it’s cheaper than the Clouds and might work just as well.

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Stall rest for an injury plus turnout on hard ground is not a good combination. What is his sole thickness? Did a vet conclude he was well enough to be turned out based on his feet and despite his enthusiasm? Can you reduce his turnout area while he recovers? You can easily put up holds and tape electric fence to contain him.

I’d consider xrays if your vet is considering navicular syndrome. At the very least you can rule it out… or in. Information is the discerning horse owner’s best friend,

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Yes. Especially if it froze suddenly and you have places of mud where it was all upheaved and uneven ( like at the gate or where they come and go often).

If it was covered with some snow they won’t see to pick their way through like usual and can come down hard where they shouldn’t. Not saying that is what happened, but it is a possibility.

I missed the part where he had shoes before.

A barn-mate purchased a horse with shoes and her new “farrier” suggested pulling the shoes in the freezing winter ground. Her horse developed laminitis in her first week of horse ownership. Months and months of stall rest.

Some horses just need shoes to be comfortable. Yours might be one of them. I’d get a good farrier (or consult your old farrier) and consider shoes again that support that heel. I’d imagine your vet suggested that.