What is wrong with my horses feet?? Farrier and vet stumped

Apologies if this is in the wrong place, I’m a newbie! Also typing on mobile so my formatting may be weird.

The horse: 17.3 hh OTTB gelding, 8 years old. Off track for 4 years, owned by me for 3, in full time training for about 1 year (eventing).

His diet, up until December: 6 lbs Purina Senior, 2x daily, with horse guard, Redmond rock mineral salt, soybean meal, flax seed, canola oil, and super sport at night. 20lbs Timothy and 20 lbs Alfalfa 2x daily. Full turn out on a grass field, stalled at night.

My horse has always had thin soles (typical Thoroughbred) but has tolerated the muddy, wet winters in the PNW relatively well. This past year, we thought we finally had his feet to a point where it was no longer a concern, until all of a sudden, right around Dec 1st, he started to display laminitis. He developed a strong DP in the RF with heat in both feet, and his soles became…mushy. He has been lame off and on on the RF. I immediately put him on stall rest and took him off all sugar. His diet since December 1st has been beet pulp, oil, and soaked all hay, and that is it. I also began painting his soles daily with iodine in an effort to harden them up.

Usually we had him on a 6 week shoeing schedule, which worked perfectly. As of Dec, his feet had stopped growing completely. My farrier was out today (Jan 22nd) and he has developed absolutely no new foot growth since before Dec 1st.

About two weeks ago, he became quite lame on the RF. I began treating him for an abscess (packing with magna salt and soaking in Epsom salt) to no avail. After no improvement, I had my vet out on Monday to XRay. His coffin bones dont show any sign of sinking or rotation, but there is evidence of disintegration at the bottom of the coffin bone.

Vet told me to pack his RF for another 48 hours and have the farrier out today (Wed) to see what he thinks and then aggressively try to dry the feet out.

My farrier pulled the wrap off, and with it came pieces of his sole. The bottom of his RF is now just exposed nerves and flesh. However, his foot has cooled down and his DP is less apparent.

Since he is 12 weeks out, my farrier decided to pull his LF shoe to see if he couldn’t work on that foot. He pulled the shoe, and when he rasped on the foot, it started gushing blood. His hoof wall was so incredibly thin that the slightest scrape went right to his blood vessels. My farrier immediately put the shoe back on (as my horse is unable to be without shoes) and had me rewrap it, and then called my vet, who is stumped. It literally seems like his feet are rotting off the bone.

I called called Oakhurst Equine Hospital in Oregon and they were very alarmed, and I am hauling him in Monday to be seen. However, I was hoping maybe someone on the world wide web had seen something like this before and have some ideas. I’m very very worried and am very upset. Any help is appreciated!

I have no ideas but just wanted to say that sounds terrifying and I hope new clinic has some answers for you.


Omg! Have you drawn blood to check for infection? Any discharge from the feet? When he first presented with signs of laminitis, did you do any treatment like IV DMSO, heavy NSAIDs, etc?

I have not drawn blood yet, but I’m assuming that Oakhurst will be doing that. No discharge at all, which is what I was initially hoping for - but nothing comes but blood. I’ve had him on 2 g bute daily (with breaks every few days to protect his gut and prevent toxicity.)

What about his selenium levels? Shedding the hoof capsule is one of the symptoms of selenium poisoning.


That was one of my initial thoughts, too, but my vet said he isn’t showing a single other symptom of selenium toxicity and he hasn’t been consuming enough to have reached toxic levels. He doesn’t get injections either

I would’ve thought selenium poisoning too. Worth a test. It’s not complicated to pull blood and send it off to test, just to see what may be going on. If it’s nothing, then fine, you’re out some money, but at least you definitely know.

Or some sort of infection.

Either way, no hoof, no horse. And this is literally no hoof. I would not wait until Monday. I would bring him to a clinic now. So much can go wrong so quickly. Especially with something so odd that you have no clue about what the actual cause is.

I don’t know if it is possible to over treat a hoof with the soaks, salts, and all that… Or maybe it retained too much moisture and is literally rotten. I’ve never heard of such a thing, but it is not impossible I imagine.


Hoof capsules do also fall off in laminitis.


Really? Interesting. I did not know that.

Either way I’d think immediate vet/clinic attention would be a good idea. Just to make sure that everything is properly handled to give the best possible outcome.

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Where does your hay come from? There are some areas of the country that have enough selenium in the soil that consuming hay grown there is enough to cause toxicity. Not in all horses, because they all absorb slightly differently, but some will pop with it.

”‹”‹”‹”‹”‹”‹An error at the mill could also = too much in the feed?

Very much agree that a selenium test is a good idea…don’t NOT test the horse because it looks okay on paper.

How terribly scary, really hope you’re able to find some answers quickly. I’ve read of laminitis horses sloughing hoof capsules and regrowing them, so there is hope if he goes that way.


I would take him to a specialist at the best hospital you can ASAP. I wouldn’t experiment with things either.

Could it be hoof canker? I doubt it since you say there is no growth, but that does cause mushiness.


Monday, like in five days? As others have mentioned, I wouldn’t wait that long. Sounds like a situation that could go downhill fast. Can you get him admitted earlier?


To specialist / clinic NOW !

Jingles & AO ~



Who are you seeing at Oakhurst? Sylvia is the best, hands down, IMO, for farrier issues. She also runs the Farriers Forum they have monthly.

Who is your farrier – and more to the point is he willing to travel to the vet with you? This is important, because you need someone who 1) will work hand in hand with your vet and 2) capable of handling this situation. If the answer to these is no, PM me and I will share the name of my farrier who does work out there, with Sylvia, he also attends Farriers Forum and frankly is amazing. And not too proud to think he knows it all.

I agree with others, this is a 911 situation and you need to be seen sooner rather than later.

PM me if you like.


I want to second this point. It goes the other way too. I know of a horse that lives in a low selenium area, eats the same low selenium hay as the rest of the barn, same grain as the rest of the barn and his levels when tested are always on the high side of OK.

Do test your horse OP.


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Yes test for selenium and for infection (such as canker). Bloodwork is so easy and quick to do.

Just because he didn’t rotate doesn’t mean he didn’t have laminitis. Old guy at my barn recently had a bout of mechanical laminitis in one foot. Protocol is IV DMSO for several days and high (4+ grams) of Bute per day until under control, then DMSO is stopped and Bute is slowly weaned (like minus 1/2 gram every few days). Yes that’s very hard on the system but it is life saving effort.

I don’t know that I’d want to wait to haul him anywhere in case this continues to get worse. If it’s an infection, you want to get on treating that ASAP. If it’s from laminitis, then the hoof could recover but he will need specialized care.


Echoing everyone about testing selenium levels.

I had a horse start sloughing chunks of sole and bleeding. It turned out to be a subsolar infection. We treated aggressively with antibiotics and he wore a hospital plate until he had grown enough sole back to protect the foot. He was hardly lame (though sore, obviously, if the bad areas were poked) but it was caught before the infection reached the coffin bone. It doesn’t sound like this is the case for your horse, but given the lack of protection your horse currently has around his foot, I would imagine antibiotic therapy may be prudent. Exposed nerves and vessels would make me very concerned about potential for infection.


@Obsidian Fire I am seeing Dr Sylvia, I spoke with her directly on the phone yesterday. My farrier, luckily, is phenomenal and has been working very closely with my vet thus far and will be accompanying me to Oakhurst. He also attends their Farrier Forums! Great guy.

As for everyone else, thank you all very much for your advice! I’m running blood work on him, hopefully we get an answer soon. He is currently under the care of a team of great people, and I will update as soon as I have news.


No suggestions on cause, but perhaps a set of therapeutic boots might be in order? Thinking that holding a nail might be more work than such thin and compromised hoof walls can reasonably handle right now. Easyboot clouds are very very helpful for painful feet, and I’ve heard good things about SoftRides and the Cavallo Transport Air boots for comfort.

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This seems like you have an emergency in your hands?

Trouble with waiting any longer is that, if he gets worse, may not even be able to travel safely.

Guess that your vets know best and if they say it can wait, what do we know, we don’t, they do.