What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Hind Hooves, Toes Worn Off or Toe Dragging


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.

  • 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.
You also might be observing
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your role


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.

your vet's role

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.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Do you notice any sign of injury?
  • When did you first notice this problem?
  • Do you notice any lameness?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Is the problem present on both hind limbs?
  • How is the horse's weight or body condition score (BCS)?
  • Describe the type of exercise and riding that you do with your horse.
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • What are the results of a "bute trial"?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

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Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP