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


Lame with Snow, Ice or Mud Packed into Soles


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, and can walk around on ice balls for extended periods, while others with "thin soles" or chronic sole soreness become severely lame rapidly and become resistant to move.

  • 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.

your role


What To Do

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 after removal of ice or hard mud, their soles may be bruised. Talk to your vet about giving your horse oral medication to temporarily relieve the pain and inflammation.

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

your vet's role

If, after removal of the material, lameness continues, your vet may need to conduct additional diagnostics to identify and treat the problem causing lameness.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is there digital pulse or heat in foot or feet?
  • Is the horse still lame even after material has been removed from the sole?
  • Has your horse been lame in the past?
  • Is the horse shod?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Can you get the feet cleaned out?
  • Can you change management to improve the situation?
  • Can your farrier place snow pads of some kind in the future or might you consider leaving the horse

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)

Very Common
more treatments

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP