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


Seems Sore in Feet, Especially on Hard Ground or Gravel


Sore footed horses or horses that try to avoid hard ground or gravel may be experiencing sole pain due to a recent trimming, navicular syndrome, sole bruising, or laminitis.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
    • If severe and obvious lameness is visible at the walk.
    • If digital pulse is obvious in the limbs.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.
    • If you do not notice digital pulse or heat in the feet.

your role


What To Do

Whenever you are faced with a horse that seems sore in their feet, 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 weight on the bearing limb. You may find gravel or hard packed material in the soles of the hooves. Remove this with a hoof pick.

Assess your horse for lameness at the walk and carefully assess their feet, feeling for heat or a digital pulse, and share your findings and concerns with your vet.

If this behavior is immediately following trimming, it may be reasonable to rest and monitor the horse for a few days. If there is not an obvious explanation for this apparent soreness, it should be investigated by your veterinarian. Talk to your vet about giving your horse oral medication to temporarily relieve the pain until they can evaluate the horse.

What Not To Do

Do not force your horse to walk, exercise or work on hard ground. Do not exercise or ride the horse if it is lame.

your vet's role

Your vet's emphasis may be on ruling out the serious disease laminitis. Failure to promptly diagnose and treat laminitis could be a disaster. The vet assesses general health, and does a lameness exam to try to determine the cause for the behavior.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Have your horse's feet been trimmed recently or shoes pulled?
  • When did you first notice this problem?
  • Has the feed or management changed recently?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • How does your horse look on softer ground?
  • Has anything changed with respect to shoeing or trimming?
  • Is there heat or digital pulse in the feet?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

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

Very Common
Less Common
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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)

Very Common
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP