Hard, uneven ground can pose a problem for horses’ hooves – whether it be rock, gravel or even packed dirt. …

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by Tab Pigg

One problem in particular is sole bruising, which can occur any time a horse’s feet comes in contact with tough surfaces. Since horse owners may not be able to see bruising until after the healing process has already begun, it’s important for owners to be mindful of their horses’ stomping grounds and provide the proper support to avoid injuries or discomfort.

Causes and Symptoms

Horses can experience different kinds of bruises. There are two minor types of bruising that develop either when a horse repeatedly walks on hard surfaces, or when a horse steps on hard objects protruding out of the ground such as rocks or pine cones. Both of these bruises typically form at the front of the foot, and tend to be relatively simple to prevent, manage and keep from harboring worse consequences.

Other types of bruises, like crescent-shaped bruises, can be more detrimental. These develop internally, up in the apex of the frog. Many times, this occurs because horses are experiencing a bout of laminitis, and the laminas are not being held as tightly due to inflammation. This allows the bottom of the coffin bone to bump the sole and cause bruising. When this happens, hard ground can make the condition worse, so it’s crucial for horse owners to be aware of key symptoms to avoid more serious conditions or injuries. Some symptoms of bruised feet include:

Discomfort – If a horse is visibly uncomfortable when walking, it could be a sign that the horse’s feet are bruised. For example, horses may walk hesitantly, at a slower pace or steer clear of anything hard and instead find soft spots.

Over Trimming – Over trimming increases susceptibility to bruising. If horse owners trim the feet too short, it’s important to provide horses with the proper support to keep the horse’s vulnerable feet from bruising.

Age – Horse owners with more senior horses may need to err on the side of caution when it comes to bruising. As horses get older, the soles become flatter, and thus are more prone to bruising than younger horses. If an older horse seems especially uncomfortable, it could be a sign that it is suffering from sole bruising.

sole bruising

It’s key to remember that once bruises on a horse’s feet become visible, they have already begun healing and it’s too late to provide the horse with the comfort it needed previously. Furthermore, bruises may not be visible at all if they form later in the shoeing cycle, perhaps about three weeks in. Horse owners should anticipate where they will ride their horses in the upcoming weeks to ensure they take necessary precautions and keep their horses comfortable during rides.

Preventing Bruising in the Feet

To avoid sole bruises, hoof care professionals can start by leaving the foot a little longer when trimming. For example, if a horse has a 3 ½ inch hoof that needs to be trimmed, taking the hoof down to 3 ¼ inches as opposed to three can keep the hoof from becoming overly vulnerable to the ground. Using wider-webbed shoes can also help to float a horse’s feet over the hard ground and center its weight. If a horse needs even more support to avoid bruising, hoof care professionals can use pour-in pad materials to protect the sole and add additional comfort.

For shod horses, products like Equi-Pak CS can help prevent bruising. Equi-Pak CS is a fast-setting, soft pad material that bonds directly to the sole and frog and protects the sole from abrasive ground surfaces. The material also helps widen the bulbs and distribute weight evenly throughout the foot.

Equi-Pak CS

For barefoot horses, Sole-Guard serves as a firmer pad material that distributes a horse’s weight evenly across the entire hoof-bottom. It helps to relieve pressure on the hoof wall, and protect the feet from the hard ground.

Talk with a farrier or veterinarian about how to maintain healthy hooves and avoid bruising, and how pour-in pad materials can be a helpful tool to provide extra hoof comfort.

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