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Preventing Lameness in Horses: Tips for Optimal Hoof Care & Joint Health

Your horse's hooves and joints not only support their body and help them move around, but they also have many other functions that are vital for your horse. Here, our Ocala equine vets discuss lameness in horses, the importance of hoof care and joint health for your horse, and what a healthy hoof looks like.

Horse Lameness Prevention with Hoof Health and Care

Equine joint care and hoof health are crucial to preventive horse care and help to prevent issues like lameness in horses.

The hooves of your horses are vital as they absorb shock, provide traction, and regulate temperature. This complex part of your horse also withstands the weight of your horse while allowing for speed and agility.

This makes the ongoing care of your horse's hooves incredibly important for keeping your horse comfortable and in peak condition for athletic performance.

Hoof Care for Horses

There are many different ways that you can help keep your horse's hooves in peak performance condition including:

Ensuring Regular Visits With the Farrier

Farrier care is a critical aspect of hoof care. The farrier you choose should be able to make the appropriate recommendations when needed, perform horse hoof repair, shoe your horse with the required shoes, and request a consultation with your equine veterinarian as needed.

You may find that your farrier refers to the process as podiatry as there is more to it than just shoeing. Your farrier will provide your horse with therapeutic hoof care specific to their needs.

Enacting Proper Hoof Trimming

Your horse's hoof will continually grow and require regular trimmings, much like our fingernails. You should look to have them trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks and only by an experienced farrier.

If you allow anyone other than a trained farrier to trim your horse's hooves, it could lead to pain or discomfort for your horse as they may perform improper trimming.

Another issue that a trained farrier can help avoid is lameness. Your farrier will trim each hoof on your in a way that leaves each one perfectly balanced will prevent laminitis and keep your horse's hooves healthy.

Keeping Your Horses Properly Shoed

If your horse is a heavy worker or commonly is walking on hard ground they will need to be properly shod. You should also look to have your horse shod if they have any conditions or issues affecting their hoof or hooves.

If you choose to have your horse shod you will need to ensure a regular schedule for show changes, typically every 6 to 8 weeks. If the shoes are left on too long it can lead to serious complications and hoof damage.

Your equine vet or farrier will be able to share insight on what is best for your horse.

Common Issues Affecting Horse Hoof Health


Thrush is a bacterial condition that typically occurs if your horse has been left standing in manure, mud, wet ground, or generally unclean conditions. Thrush is also a great example to answer the question of 'Why do horse hooves need to be cleaned'?

If your horse suffers from this condition you may notice signs such as a foul-smelling ooze from their frog which can take on a cheesy texture and appearance as the condition worsens.

If left untreated it can lead to hoof damage and lameness. You can treat thrush with an over-the-counter remedy and help prevent this condition by keeping the stall clean and dry.


A puncture can occur if your horse steps on a nail or any other sharp object. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to spot at first as the hole is usually hidden by the time you are picking their feet. In these cases, the puncture only becomes apparent once an abscess has formed.

In the cases where the object is still visible, you should not under any circumstances pull it out. You should wrap the affected foot to protect it and to keep the object in place and contact your equine vet immediately.

Your vet will likely X-ray the foot to get a complete view of the object and the affected internal structures and develop a plan for removing the object safely.


Cracks in your horse's hoof can either be superficial or deep and more serious. There can be several causes for cracks in the hoof including damaged or weak hoof structures, improper shoeing, and abscesses.

If you spot a crack in your horse's hoof you should contact your farrier right away and inform them of the situation. They will recommend the appropriate course of action for the situation.


One of the most common signs of an abscess in your horse's hoof is if the hoof is warmer than normal or if you can feel a strong pulse. Abscesses can have several different causes including punctures, misplaced shoeing nailor even a bruise.

The signs of this condition can be spotted during your usual check-over of your horse and by noticing any lameness. If the signs are noted you should contact your farrier or equine vet as soon as possible to treat the issue before it causes any complications along with increased pain for your horse.

What does a healthy hoof look like?

When your horse has healthy and properly cared for hooves, you'll know. Some of the signs of a healthy horse hoof are:

  • Glossy Hoof Wall
  • Soft and Elastic Coronary Band
  • Distinct Tubule Pattern
  • Free of Chips, Cracks or Flares
  • Wall Thickest Near Toe and Heel
  • Hooves Wider at Ground Than Coronary Band (Adults)
  • Evenly Spaced Growth Rings
  • Heel at a Lower Angle Than the Toe
  • Straight Hoof-Pastern Angle
  • Hoof Proportional to Horse Size
  • Thick, Round, and Low Heel Bulbs
  • Rubbery Frog With Shallow Grooves and Central Sulcus
  • Well-Developed Bars
  • Thick, Flexible, and Concave Sole
  • Narrow White Line, Tightly Connected to Wall and Sole

In Conclusion

To help keep your sports horse performing at their very best you need to ensure that horse hoof maintenance is a part of your horse's regular care. Their hooves are crucial to the overall function of their body and ability to work and move. 

If you have any questions about the hoof care needs of your horse you should speak with your equine vet or farrier.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding animals, or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For the diagnosis of your animal's condition and help to navigate regulations governing the care and transportation of equine animals please contact your vet.

Are you concerned that your horse is showing signs of lameness? Contact Florida Equine Veterinary Associates to schedule a lameness exam. 

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Florida Equine Veterinary Associates is passionate about the health of sport and performance horses. Get in touch today to book your equine athelete's first appointment.

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