Sore on Four

Hey all,

I’m in the process of trying to find out what tests I need to ask for and am pushing for answers as no one seems overly concerned and I want to be sure I don’t let this go and then find out later it could have been treated sooner!

19 y/o barefoot quarter horse, little to no ‘work’ his life, he’s for trails and we don’t go hard. He does love to blast around the pasture and up for mealtime, though.

Around 8 weeks ago, I noticed he wasn’t wanting to stand for the trimmer. He wasn’t being naughty, but I could tell he was trying to tell me something wasn’t right. I couldn’t tell if it was the trimming or the act of holding up one leg and having weight on the other three. It’s winter here, so the ground is hard as well. He’s got soft footing if he wants it, with choice to move around the dry lot and pasture. He seems careful and short to me, but it’s very hard to tell since it is winter and there is snow and ice on the ground.

A couple weeks ago I noticed he was standing on his toes (forelegs) and pointing a rear. Found thrush in all 4 feet. Started aggressively treating that, daily for the past 12 days to date). I was thinking that could cause him to not want to bear weight on his heels…but he does not react when I press with the hoof pick or dig anything out, etc. What really concerns me is that when he’s standing, still on his toes, his knees wobble. It’s like his ligaments/tendons are strained or hurting. When I ask to pick up a front foot, he snatches his rears up and in toward the opposite hock, down, then switches. Like it’s going to hurt to put weight on them when he picks up a front.

He has seen one vet so far, rears were disregarded and front feet were radiographed, showing thin soles. Vet also commented that he doesn’t have a lot of heel, perhaps need different trimming approach. He did NOT react to the hoof testers at all, anywhere…walked and trotted for the lameness exam.

My gut is telling me it is not his feet or that his feet are causing other pain. I’d like to get ultrasound on all four to be sure, I’m so dreadful it’s something like DSLD or similar, and that he will continue to be uncomfortable until I find someone to listen.

I just wanted some thoughts or to pick anyone’s brain who has seen anything similar on what direction I should maybe be going from here. I am looking for a good barefoot trimmer and other opinions on his feet to eliminate that as a cause for any pain further up the leg. I’m still treating the thrush until it disappears (it has greatly improved to this point in time).

Lack of heel height, thin soles and thrush will absolutely give a horse discomfort and left untreated too long will certainly cause a chain reaction of pain in adjacent areas.

Do you have pics of his feet and can you share the x rays the vet took?

It’s possible its the hard, frozen ground. My mares have come up a bit footsore lately, especially with the fluctuations in the weather causing the ground to go from muddy to uneven and frozen in a matter of days. I know you mentioned he did not react to hoof testers but I think it still could be coming from standing on the hard ground.


I edited my post to add the images. I will get proper pics of his feet on an even surface and correct angles today!

This may sound a little off the wall… But a horse rocked forward on his front feet sounds like hindquarter/hind limb pain to me. The shaking could be fatigue from being in an unnatural position. Could be neurological, could be muscular, could be I’m dead wrong. But definitely insist the vets take it seriously. You know him best!

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My 28 year old TB mare wears winter shoes and pads for exactly this reason. Thin soles and hard, bumpy, jagged ice/mud is the most painful thing to walk on. She wears shoes all year round, but we could pretty much get away with her being barefoot for 2/3 seasons, but definitely not in winter. My soil is clay so summer is hard as a rock…do easier to just keep her in shoes as they work well for her.

I might consider boots or shoes and see if there is improvement before doing a lot more diagnostics. Obviously treating the thrush will help as well, but thin soles are thin soles. Can’t really fix them overnight even if you change the trim (and even then, genetics are genetics.)


The simplest way to find out if his feet hurt or not would be to tell the vet you want his feet blocked. I would definitely do that before persuing other imaging.


Interesting, and actually something neurological crossed my mind since I’ve seen him shake a couple times (like they’d do after rolling or a bath). Never seen him do that without a reason, no recent snow or anything to shake off. BUT I feel like a crazy person picking up on all of the things that are unusual for him, and not knowing if they’re all connected or all separate issues, or no issues at all. Odd he would change his behavior after this long, though!
I do think there is something to his hind end, but like the vet said as well, could be he’s weighting his hind to relieve the front, although I don’t see him in any stance that would suggest it. His fore is under him, on his toes.

Agree! I’ve got front boots on him now, kind of breaking them in so not wearing 24/7 yet. I’m also looking at likely trying Formahoof for him after the thush is all healed up to allow his feet to grow out without having to mess with boots daily. He’s pretty easy on things and right now I don’t think he’ll destroy them quickly.

Have you seen them stand on their toes because of sore feet? I had never seen it before and it has me thinking it’s pain in the heels, or trying to relieve some pressure off the back of the leg.
I am giving front boots a try since I’ve already got them, little each day to break them in and see if that helps his comfort at all, but I’ve just never seen him stand on toes when sore. He’s not really gimpy or tender-footed like usual, but I agree, the mud freezing is so awful to navigate, could have aggravated it since his soles are thin, too.

Good idea to put him in boots. Cavallo also sells insoles to make them softer, which you might want to consider. Or you might even want to go softer and try the inserts for Easy Boot Clouds. I think it will be informative to see if they help once he can wear them full-time after they have broken in.