Hoof lameness - need COTH wisdom

Horse is a 26 year old TB, in moderate work 3 - 4 days a week, weather dependant.

Last sound ride was on Dec 31, he was very fresh and forward, but moving out very well. Farrier did his feet Jan 1, I rode again on the 2nd. He felt a little hitchy in front, but not lame. The next day, he was head bobbing lame on the front right. There was some heat in the hoof, but the rest of the leg was cold and tight.

Vet came out Jan 5. Lame on front right in both directions, lower limb flexions were positive, but given his age and how he was presenting, the vet wasn’t concerned. When hoof testers were applied to his heels, he was very reactive. Vet pulled the shoe, tested every other part of his hoof, only reaction was from the heel. Instructions were to treat it like an abscess; poultice to see if anything comes out, then, sugardine to get the hoof hard again, work on getting him sound again. Pouticing didn’t draw out anything, but his lameness was improving day by day. By Jan 11, he was completely sound again, both directions. Called farrier to get the shoe back on.

Shoe back on Jan 13. Walking back to the paddock, I noticed he was walking a bit tenderly, but I thought he needed a day to get used to having the shoe back on. Didn’t see him the next day, which now brings us to day. Got on to ride, walk felt good, but trotting head bobbing lame once again. The arena footing is very nice fibre footing, and he was more sore leaving the arena then he was coming in.

I’m frustrated and stumped. Clearly something about having a shoe on is making him sore. He’s had this farrier for 4 years and never had a problem, and he’s had a wedge pad on that foot for a little over 5 years, so I don’t think he’s stepped on something that’s bruised his foot. My only guess is that on the 31st, when he was feeling himself, he whacked himself. Thoughts? I’m waiting on a return text from the farrier.

Do you think the wedge pad could be contributing to the pain? Perhaps the hoof has undergone some changes that another approach is needed. Maybe the farrier could watch your horse working and maybe have some thoughts on what could be causing the pain and if any adjustments are needed with the shoeing. Good luck and I hope you see improvement soon!

It sounds like you need a different farrier.

It has been a long time but I have seen abscesses that refused to blow. Could be time for trying NSAIDs and antibiotics if it still presents like an abscess.

Also if he really bruised himself but no abscess, that can take a long time to heal. And the shoe could be bothering the bruise.

Otherwise the possibilities include all sorts of things that could require MRI.


Its very possible. The only other change that happened during the last shoeing was that square ice corks were put on, but those are no where near his heel. In the crossties, he keeps bending his knee in a way to take weight off his heel, so I really do think that’s where the problem is. There also isn’t a lot of snow right now, so the paddock is full of frozen hazzards.

Thank you!

Fingers are crossed for an abscess! have you ever seen one blow from the heel? Yeah, I did read that bruises can take a while to heal, so hopefully he just needs more time.

Unfortunately an MRI isn’t in the budget.

I would go ahead & do an xray. I am still working on rehabbing my horse who we played the bruise/abcess dance with, it was taking too long, I finally said do the rads - & it was a coffin fracture. I wish I had done the rads sooner, it is absolutely worth $150 or so & cheaper than multiple vet visits.

Fortunately, bone is now healed after 4 months in small pen, just have to work through the rest of the healing & rehab process. I hope it’s nothing like that for you, but a simple xray can give a lot of information quickly & fractures can be startlingly easy to miss (this horse never had heat or swelling, never any dramatic lameness, even vet thought it was just some gnarly bruising for a while).


My boy did go sound after a less then a week of having the shoe off, the soundness progressing each day leading up to total soundness. I don’t think a fracture would present that way, but you are completely right in suggesting x-rays. Going that route was on my mind today.

I’m glad your horse is healing well!

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One of my horses gets mildly lame every once in a while when he is shod. We have done loads of X-rays and conceded that he is simply sensitive to the banging of the hammer applying the nails. I switched farriers and who I use now seems to take more care and he does well, almost every time he is shod at this point. Just a thought… but maybe this is it?

I have seen abscesses blow from the heel. Were the ice studs on before the initial injury or just after the second showing?

If he did injure his DDFT for example, I wonder if the studs caused him to torque it again.

He also had positive flexions. So the thing to do is usually block the foot. Perhaps one half at a time. Then move up the limb if lameness not gone. X-ray might let you see an abscess. It could at least rule out some other things. But we can only image so much in the foot absent MRI. Bloodwork might help you figure out if it’s a stubborn abscess. If you can’t figure it out then you can treat it like it’s one of the worse possibilities, which means stall rest. If an abscess blows, yay. If not…

It’s possibly the wedge itself. There are many ways the wedge could contribute to lameness. Applying pressure to underrun heels, stressing soft tissue…

Try to shoe the horse without the wedge. Or, better yet, get a new farrier. There are very few instances where I would find in acceptable to have a horse in a wedge for 5 years straight.

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@dressageponyperson - the reason I switched to this farrier was because my horse was lame after each shoeing with the old farrier. The lameness stopped with the new farrier, so the reason why it had been happening was never figured out, so maybe its in old issue coming back to haunt him.

@IPEsq - He only had the ice studs for a day before he went lame, but torquing something is a very real possibility. Playing out in the paddock, he is a spinner. But, today he’s actually pretty sound. Fingers are crossed that he stays that way.

@No1 - The wedge was actually a vet’s idea. I used to board and work at a dressage barn and she had pretty much all the horses in a wedge to correct their way of going. His hoof lands inside to outside, so she thinks the wedge will correct that. 5 years ago he had a suspensory strain and thats when the wedge went on, vet said the rock of his foot is what contributed to the strain. The old farrier always went along with what the vet said, but the new farrier doesn’t agree. He’s says you cant change the way the foot wants to land, and to trim the hoof to support that.

The wedge did come off when I first started with the new farrier, but he came up lame again a few months later. Not sure if it was a reinjury, but the wedge went back on at the vets insistence, and he’s been sound ever since (excluding age-related issues that were solved with injections). This vet thinks every injury is related to the foot, so I’ve been using a vet from a large practice that services the rest of the barn - I’ve used this vet before, so she knows my horse well.

Ok. Keep the farrier, ditch the vet.

Wedges don’t actually help suspensory pain at all. As far as correcting medial/lateral imbalance, the farrier is right. You should fix that with trimming.

All of this aside (and without actually seeing the horse’s foot) it still seems logical to me that if the horse went more lame again with the wedge and shoe on, it’s probably one of those things causing the issue.

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I’m glad to hear that you saw some improvement today in your horse. I hope it continues!

This… a wedge only puts more strain on the suspensory. You can use a bar shoe to move the heel back, but not a wedge to raise the heel.