Lay-Up Prognosis For Hoof Problems

In November, we launched a three-part series called “Plan Treatments And Time For Lay-Ups.” In that issue, we discussed non-hoof related problems, like arthritis, fractures, and tendon/ligament problems. This month we’re focusing on hoof problems, and next month we’ll conclude the series with a section on illness and disease.


• Corns

ACUTE TREATMENT: Remove shoe. Farrier will pare out the area.

ONGOING TREATMENT: Hot alternating with cold soaks of the foot. Keep pared-out area clean. Use alternating heated and cold poultice. When reshod, heels fit full. Soft pad may help.

STALL TIME: Allow 1 to 2 days of treatment before replacing shoe.

PADDOCK TIME: After shod.

WALKING: After shod.

SLOW WORK: May begin when horse is sound again in paddock and shod.

FULL WORK: Within a week, usually.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS: Pain from corns often recurs with any pressure. Avoid this by frequent resets.


PROGNOSIS: Good overall.


• Hoof Abscess (“Gravel”)

ACUTE TREATMENT: Tetanus vaccine. If draining at coronary band, clip surrounding hair. Hot packs, hot poultices, ichthammol. If draining from area pared-out, use hot soaks, keep hole packed with cotton soaked in iodine or ichthammol and cotton.

ONGOING TREATMENT: Continue hot soaks and poultices/packing until drainage site closed or as directed.

STALL TIME: Unnecessary unless unable to keep site clean.

PADDOCK TIME: Encouraged. Improved circulation will mean more rapid healing.

WALKING: Encouraged.

SLOW WORK: When sound, if area is kept protected.

FULL WORK: When area is healed.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS: Area may seal over before infection has drained completely if not soaked and packed. If area does not close over and/or if new openings form on either side of the hoof at the coronary band, the problem may be a “quittor.”

INDICATORS OF HEALING: Return of soundness; drainage site healed.

PROGNOSIS: Good with proper care. Get X-rays if wide infection suspected and/or lameness doesn’t improve.


• Laminitis/Founder

ACUTE TREATMENT: Call vet. Treat for cause as needed. Anti-inflammatories. Do not walk until X-rays are read and feet appropriately trimmed. Keep feet packed with moist poultice. Soft footing, sand or mud best.

ONGOING TREATMENT: There is no standard formula for treatment. Condition of feet before laminitis dictates many aspects of treatment. Get feet trimmed as dictated by X-rays ASAP. Many treatments are controversial. Limited-to-no grain or fresh grass usually, but add a high-quality hay and supplemental protein/mineral source.

STALL TIME: Until pain and tendency of coffin bone to rotate are controlled.

PADDOCK TIME: Once properly trimmed according to X-rays. Soft footing.

WALKING: Regulated walking in soft footing encouraged after acute phase.

SLOW WORK: May resume when horse is sound, pulses to feet are normal and foot has been trimmed properly and coffin bone is aligned with the hoof wall.

FULL WORK: When tolerating slow work.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS: Rotation of coffin bone, infection along white line or through a site of rotation.


PROGNOSIS: Good to guarded but may take 12 months for feet to return to normal.


• Quarter Crack, Toe/Heel Crack

ACUTE TREATMENT: Rest until repaired, keep crack clean with soap-and-water washing, hoof disinfectant. Farrier may patch crack if it is severe or simply groove the hoof wall transversely (perpendicular to the crack) to try to stop progression in mild cases. Bar shoes may be needed with some quarter/toe cracks. Common practice to trim bottom of foot shorter at crack site to prevent weightbearing directly on the crack.

ONGOING TREATMENT: Use small, flat file daily to remove dirt between bottom of crack and shoe and to keep crack elevated off shoe.

STALL TIME: Until crack is properly attended to by farrier.

PADDOCK TIME: After crack is attended to.

WALKING: After farrier care.

SLOW WORK: After crack is properly cared for by farrier. Stop work if crack is progressing or horse is lame.

FULL WORK: Depends on depth of crack. Cracks extending into sensitive tissue cause continuous shear and lameness. Work needs to be limited to that which the horse tolerates without showing any pain.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS: Extension of length and/or depth of crack. Infection.

INDICATORS OF HEALING: Soundness. Crack gets no longer or deeper. Crack growing out.

PROGNOSIS: Good to excellent with correct care.


• Sole bruise

ACUTE TREATMENT: Cold alternating with hot soaks, packs and poultices.

ONGOING TREATMENT: Shoe horse with full pad, possibly with silicone for extra protection.

STALL TIME: 1 to 3 days while intensively treating as in acute treatment.

PADDOCK TIME: After reshod with protection for bruise.

WALKING: Light hand walking and hand grazing after 1 or 2 days.

SLOW WORK: When sound.

FULL WORK: When sound.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS: Severe bruises provide an excellent internal breeding ground for bacteria. Subsolar abscess could develop. Suspect abscess if horse does not improve rapidly. Overly long toes may cause soles to drop, predisposing to bruising again if not corrected.

INDICATORS OF HEALING: Return of soundness

PROGNOSIS: Good for uncomplicated bruise.

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