Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Hind Hooves, Toes Worn Off or Toe Dragging

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you notice lameness or other problems associated with this sign.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.

When a horse chronically drags its hind hooves from whatever cause, the toe of the hoof is quickly worn off. This results in a beveled, square and polished appearance to the front of the hoof wall. You may also see or hear the hind hooves being dragged as the horse moves.

This is not necessarily a problem in itself but can be an indication of abnormal movement.

Young, growing horses may do this, and they often grow out it. This can be “normal” for some horses but it can also be an indication of a variety of disease processes, mostly musculo-skeletal problems of the hind limbs. There are particular lameness and neurologic problems which are associated with toe dragging. Horses that are generally weak from any cause will also drag their hind feet.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and look for obvious lameness. Circle the horse both ways in hand. Does the horse seem to place the limbs normally? Move the horse at the trot. Does the toe dragging stop or continue when the horse is more energized?

Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet may perform a general health assessment and will probably want to rule out lameness or neurologic deficit as a cause. A bute trial may separate horses that drag their toes due to pain versus those that are simply “lazy” or move this way naturally.

A horse that drags its toes may benefit from work over poles to encourage lifting of the hind feet and strengthen necessary muscles.

POSSIBLE TREATMENTS or TherapiesTo Lessen or Resolve the Sign

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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