Why is your horse is sore after a trim or shoeing?
When a horse is sore after a trim, this is your horse’s way of telling you that something is wrong. This “something” could be major; it could be minor. It’s time to do some detective work and looking at the much bigger picture. Hoof problems often link to systemic conditions of the horse, only showing themselves in the hooves. So many clues…
The pink coloring along the hoof wall is bruising. This horse was trimmed too short.
Is your horse sore after trimming or shoeing?
First, it’s essential to notice that your horse is sore after a trim. Somethings you may see or feel:
- Shorter steps – your horse looks like he’s walking on eggshells, in the literal sense.
- Reluctance to walk on hard ground – you may see this when walking your horse from soft ground or from mats to a firmer surface.
- Behind your leg while being ridden – there’s hesitation to your horse under saddle, a disinclination to move forward.
- Stilted movement – when turning, your horse is doing a 59-point turn instead of just turning.
- Unwillingness to have hooves picked – Your horse doesn’t want that extra weight on the other legs as you lift one to pick it out.
- Limping or lameness – sometimes it’s evident that there is a soreness, but lameness can be from non-hoof problems, too.
- A change to weight shifting patterns – your horse may decide to shift weight more frequently or not at all, including the front hooves.
Sometimes barefoot is best, until it’s not.
Reasons a horse is sore after a trim or shoeing
Sore hooves after a trim may be a fluke or a sign of something else. Let’s start with the most straightforward explanations.
Trimmed too short
- A horse whose hoof walls are trimmed too short can create two main problems. The hoof wall may become too short, and the horse’s body weight rests on the sole. It may also be that too much sole was removed, creating an overly sensitive area.
- Sometimes, a too-short trim ends up with bruising along the edges of the hoof.
- The hoof is a structure created by genetics and influenced by the environment. Horses with thin soles, contracted heels, long toes, club feet, and other “less than ideal” conformations are disadvantaged in the hoof comfort department. Trimming and shoeing may expose the hoof to more discomfort.
Something is brewing
- Sometimes a hoof trim helps bruising, laminitis, and abscesses rise to the surface. Or, there is a hoof condition that is healing and wasn’t ready for a trim.
Too much stomping
- Horses that stomp from flies or habit may find their hoof wall getting tiny cracks and showing more wear than usual. The continuous jarring action on the earth can also create hoof bruises and damage internal structures.
Rough transition from shod to barefoot
- When a horse has his shoes pulled, it can be shocking. Hoof parts that were once covered are now exposed, and things get tender. It’s valuable to plan a transition to barefoot with your farrier to minimize any soreness. You may need a few shoeing cycles with a different (and less) trimming so that the newly barefoot hoof has more growth.
- A balanced diet with adequate nutrients for the hoof gives your horse’s hooves protection from the inside out. It’s more than just a biotin supplement; there must be proper amounts of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fatty acids. Dietary needs may change with the seasons, especially if your horse has access to pasture.
- For horses with metabolic issues like pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), diets with high sugar can exacerbate hoof soreness.
Pasture is great for most horses – but horses that are usually sore after a trim may need muzzles and some more investigative work done.
- Your horse’s living conditions and exercise routine may create sore hooves. Hard ground is just that – hard to live on. Mats, shavings, and sandy earth need to be available.
- A horse that exercises on hard ground has that concussion amplified, especially when jumping. Your horse may experience this daily or more infrequently, and a recent trim might make this more obvious.
Underlying metabolic dysfunction and laminitis
- Metabolic disorders are a complex cascade of hormones and body functions that ultimately affect insulin levels and processing of sugars effectively. An unfortunate side effect of this insulin dysfunction is the increased risk of laminitis.
- One of the signs of EMS is laminitis. EMS is a broad umbrella term used to describe conditions including obesity, laminitis, and insulin resistance (IR). Often, a bout of laminitis is the first sign a horse has EMS, although your vet can do bloodwork to determine laminitis risk factors, such as PPID and IR.
- Sub-clinical laminitis is when a horse appears to be somewhat laminitic. There is a general discomfort in the hooves, but thry can carry on with daily living and exercise. You may not even notice this. After trimming, the soreness is more evident.
X-rays can help determine if a horse has sub-clinical laminitis.
Helping the horse with sore hooves
It is logical to provide supportive care if your horse is sore or lame. While the goal is to alleviate pain, go one step further to rule out any system changes that put your horse at higher risk of ongoing hoof soreness or lameness.
Things to do immediately:
- Talk to your farrier and vet – for new and ongoing soreness problems. Your vet can diagnose what’s going on and rule out more severe hoof injuries. Your farrier can help you execute the treatment plan.
- More shavings can make your horse more comfortable, so of course, do that.
- Opt for “soft” turnouts – avoid the hard-packed ground and rocky areas. Sometimes a grass pasture after rain is ideal, but not if laminitis is a risk factor and your horse can mow a lawn in minutes. Also, grazing muzzles are an option.
- Use hoof packing – packing or hoof poultice soothes the soles. You don’t usually have to cover it with a boot or wrap; most packing stays put if you smash it on the sole and then add shavings to “seal” in the filling.
- Hoof boots – there are dozens of styles of hoof boots to use. There are styles for turnout, riding, and laminitis support. Use a style that fits well and provides enough cushion for comfort. For more rigid boots, you can use hoof packing and a few diapers in the boot for added squish.
- For sore hoof soles, using a hardener may help in the short term. If sore soles are a consistent problem, shoeing and trimming changes are necessary.
These super-squishy boots are great for the horse with sore hooves.
Long-term support for when your horse is sore after a trim:
- Talk to your vet and farrier. You know, the team. It’s vital to determine if your horse is a laminitis risk to help prevent future soreness – and worse.
- Pads and pour-in hoof packing protect the sole and add cushion. There are varying degrees of cushion, depending on the formulation used.
- Your horse may need a glue-on shoe for a bit. Barefoot horses may benefit from such a temporary shoe, glue-on or otherwise.
- Diet changes are beneficial for the laminitis-prone horse. Reducing your horse’s overall NSC consumption reduces that cascade of sugars and insulin dysfunction. Keep your horse on a forage based-diet with low-sugar and low-starch feeds, and minimize access to pasture. Add grazing muzzles to slow pasture eating speed and reduce the volume of consumed grass.
It is not normal for a horse to be sore after a trim. Take your horse at his word and get to digging up the reason.
How to help the hoof sore horse!
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Durasole – for hoof hardening
Cavallo Simple Hoof Boot for Horses, Black – thick-soled hoof boot for riding and hoof wrapping.
EasyCare Easyboot Glove Soft Hoof Boot – these boots are designed for riding, not hoof packing, and have a more precise fit.
Hoof Wraps Brand Bandage – Affordable wrap for hoof protection