Ask The Vet Featured Health & Wellness

Equine Lameness Problems

Answered by Terri Van Wambeke, DVM, Oregon City, Oregon, Courtesy of AAEP

Question: I have an aged gelding that I think had a sprained fetlock as it was slightly swollen and a bit warm to touch. He could barely walk at all. Within a few weeks, he has gotten better but now the hoof is a little bit bigger than the rest and the sole of the hoof has sloughed off. What could this be?

Answer: It sounds like your horse may have developed a subsolar hoof abscess. Often with hoof abscesses, the entire limb will become swollen and warm, there will be heat radiating from the limb and the foot and there will be an increase in the digital pulses to that foot. Subsolar abscesses can make horses extremely lame. They can become so lame that they will not want to bear weight on that limb or use it very tentatively. Once the abscess ruptures the horse becomes more comfortable and that region of the sole will slough off or there will be a drainage hole present with a soft sore spot around it.

I think it would be a good idea to have your veterinarian come out and take a look at the leg and evaluate the hoof to rule out something more severe such as a puncture wound to the foot or a laminitic event. Your vet can also evaluate the fetlock joint at the same time. It is always best to diagnose and treat limb injuries early on. That will give your older gelding the best chance of living out along and comfortable life.

Question: I have two ten-month-old Quarter horse colts that their hooves are splintering at the bottom. Could this this be from the wet conditions or something else? Should I apply a hoof conditioner?

Answer: I think what you are describing are cracks in the hoof wall or chips along the bottom of the hoof. Small or superficial cracks will grow out over time and generally do not cause a problem. Your farrier can trim the feet on a regular basis (every 6-8 weeks) to help. If you are letting your horse’s feet get long without regular trimming, there will be more pressure on the long hoof wall causing cracks and chips to occur. Cracks left unattended and allowed to propagate can cause lameness, due to hoof wall instability, and in some cases infection. Cracks and chips in the hoof wall are more common in the winter, when there is increased moisture in the environment, making the hoof wall softer and weaker. You will want to rule out white line disease contributing the hoof issues you are having. Either your veterinarian or farrier should be able to help with this. White line disease would need to be treated if your farrier is unable to remove the diseased tissue during repeated trimming.

Because I do not have information about your horses housing and what type of weather you are dealing with, I am unable to recommend any particular remedy to your problem. If the feet are too wet, keeping the horses in a dry environment, like a shavings bedded stall, will help dry out and firm up the hoof wall. There are topical hoof products you can use to help horses feet maintain integrity in the winter. Examples are Keratex and Farriers Finish. In addition, make sure that you are providing adequate nutrition for quality hoof growth. In particular, amino acids, Copper, Zinc and Selenium are important for proper hoof growth. Most ration balancers and young horse complete feeds are designed to provide these nutrients. There are oral supplements available (such as Farriers Formula) if you feel your horses need targeted nutrition for hoof growth. You should speak to your farrier and your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your horses.

Question: If a horse has one or more white hooves or a white and black striped hoof, is there proof that the strength of that hoof is compromised?

Answer: There is no difference in the structure of a pigmented versus a non-pigmented hoof. The layers of the hoof wall are the same structure and thickness regardless of the color of the hoof.

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