How do you know if your horse has a bruise on his hoof?

Basically - you don’t.  Your Veterinarian can help you figure it out, and come up with a treatment plan that makes you and your horse happy and comfortable.  The problem with hoof “stuff” is that many things look like many things - so it’s impossible to say what’s what without your Veterinarian.  


Your first hint that something is wrong with your horse’s hoof or hooves:


  • Tender footed
  • Walking gingerly, especially on hard surfaces
  • Heat in the hoof
  • Strong or bounding digital pulse


What these things are a sign of:



Because a few of these things are life threatening (nail in the hoof, laminitis, puncture wound), do NOT mess around and wait to call the Veterinarian.  You should also know that some seemingly minor things can lead to bigger and more horrible complications, not to mention some huge Vet bills.  Also know that your Farrier is awesome at his job, but his job does not include diagnosis, treatment plans, medications, or working with the soft tissue of a hoof. 



Notice the pinking border along this hoof.  That's a bruise.  :(


Bruises can show up as a hot pink, red, or purple coloration.  Some bruises are not obvious.  Sometimes your Vet will need to pull a shoe, trim some of the hoof, or do a bit more digging if an abscess is suspected. Bruises in your horse’s hoof are similar to a bruise on your leg - lots of broken blood vessels, swelling, pain.  


Hoof bruises also run the gamut from totally mild and not lame, to horribly painful and very lame.    Some bruises take a few days to heal, others take weeks.  Some are caused by bad footing, some are caused by a rogue rock, some are caused by a frolic down a hard and unforgiving surface, some bruises are the result of a too short trim.  


Treatments include stall rest, time, anti inflammatory agents, icing, hoof packings like magna paste, protective boots, or padded shoes.  


Boots and boot inserts/pads can help your horse be more comfortable!


Complications can include abscesses and even laminitis.  Horses that are plagued with hoof bruises may have underlying causes, like thin soles or low grade laminitis.  Bottom line (bet you thought this article wouldn’t have any bad jokes…) is that sole bruising stinks - and it’s best to get your Veterinarian involved as soon as possible. 

What has your experience been with hoof bruising?