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Equine Health Resource

Lame with Snow, Ice or Mud Packed into Soles

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

  • If the horse is still lame several hours after material has been picked out of sole.

Many times during snowy or wet weather, I have gone out to see a horse that could not walk, and found that their feet were packed with snow, ice, or mud. This can put severe pressure on the soles and can cause lameness. It is usually more of a problem for shod horses. Some horses tolerate this condition well, while others with “thin soles” or chronic sole soreness become severely lame.


Whenever you are faced with a horse that is having difficulty walking, always start by trying to pick up the feet and inspect them. In some cases, with multiple feet involved this may be very difficult because the horse resists putting additional weight on the lame limbs. Use a hoof pick to remove the mud or ice. Hard packed ice or frozen mud may be difficult to remove.

If your horse is still sore after an hour or two, their soles may be bruised. Talk to your vet about giving your horse oral medication to temporarily relieve the pain and inflammation.

To prevent this condition, try spraying Pam cooking spray (or use Vaseline or Crisco) on the sole of the feet, or cover the soles in duct tape. This is mostly a problem for shod horses. Pulling shoes will help prevent this problem. In the future, talk to your farrier about the variety of shoes and pads available that might reduce the buildup of snow or mud on the sole. Leaving the horse barefoot in the winter may be the best option.


If, after removal of the material, lameness continues, your vet may need to conduct additional diagnostics to identify and treat the problem causing lameness.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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