How to do a fast daily leg inspection on your horse.
Your horse’s legs are a vital part of his health, and it can take only a few minutes a day to make sure all is OK.
- If you find something during your horse’s daily leg inspection, it’s often in the very early stages and you can nip whatever it is in the bud. All you need is your hands, eyes, and a few minutes. I start my leg inspection of the horses first thing in the morning during the first chores.
- As I toss hay, feed buckets, fill water buckets, you can do a visual exam of the legs. For horses that tend to stock up at night, remove the standing wraps (if you use them) at this point and see how the legs look. My technique for inspecting legs is shown in the videos below.
Start high! Use both hands! Memorize those legs!
First, pick the hooves during your daily leg inspection.
- This gives you a chance to make sure the shoes are where they are supposed to be. You may also notice if your horse is unwilling to lift a hoof, or there is a foreign body (nails and screws are bad) in the hoof.
- If your horse is barefoot, it gives you a chance to check for chips or snags along the hoof edges. Any new cracks can be seen, too.
- This is also your chance to make sure there is no discernible heat in the hoof. Heat in the hoof could be nothing, or it could be an abscess, or it could be laminitis. Finding these things early lets you intervene early and increases the chance of a positive outcome.
- Heat, tenderness, soreness, and unwillingness to turn or walk are signs of laminitis, but also of hoof bruises, hoof abscesses, and even fractured coffin bones.
Check for heat. Compare to the other hooves. Take action if those feet are warm or hot!
Check your horse’s digital pulse – most horses have a barely noticeable digital pulse. A more noticeable pulse can indicate trouble in the hoof. Act now!
Do a quick rundown of the legs and tendons.
As you are grooming, you can go over the legs once again more thoroughly in the proper light. I tend to inspect my horse’s legs from the elbow and stifle down, as you can find shoe boils in the elbows that way. Use both hands on each leg and look for the following:
- Heat – compare to other legs and different areas of the same leg
- Swelling – heat and swelling go hand in hand, one may be more obvious
- Possible windpuffs or a change in existing windpuffs
- Cuts and scrapes – even little scabs, watch out for cellulitis
- Bugs and ticks
- Areas of tenderness
- Dry/flaky skin
- Anything new
- Any skin that’s irritated and may be the early stages of equine pastern dermatitis (EPD)
Get to know those tendons!
Everyday stuff like scrapes or bugs can be taken care of easily.
- You will need to decide if swelling, heat, or tenderness warrants a call to your veterinarian. These are often signs of soft tissue injuries, which can be as simple as a tiny cut that gets swollen or a major tendon tear.
- Any heat in the hooves and/or a strong or different digital pulse warrants a call to your veterinarian asap. I promise your horse will thank you – these are signs of massive pain in your horse’s hoof!
- I always repeat this process after a horse is exercised before you move on to icing, poultice, wrapping, or whatever is the plan for that day! For more discussion on post-exercise leg care, visit this awesome article!
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Sore No More Liniment Bottle – pick your size
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
Durasole – for hoof hardening