nail in hoof

What to do if your horse steps on a nail or screw


  • A “street nail” is a nail or screw or another foreign object in your horse’s hoof. If there was ever a time to hesitate about calling your veterinarian, THIS IS NOT IT. Make the call, right away.


  • A nail in the hoof can be life-threatening, for so many reasons, so it’s time to call the veterinarian ASAP.


two small screws in the palm

Even a tiny screw can threaten your horse’s life.


First, a little background. If your horse steps on a street nail or screw, there’s a tiny, tiny chance that no structures will be harmed.


  • In which case your horse will likely be back at work in a week or so.


  • If the offending object hits the laminae, the coffin joint, the navicular bursa, any of the bones, the tendons and ligaments and their respective sheaths, or any other soft tissue, it’s time to get serious about treatment and get serious FAST.


The structures inside the hoof, when punctured, start to inflame.


  • This can trap bacteria, and create a nasty infection and often sepsis, a body-wide infection. Infections in the hoof often require surgery, and even specialized shoeing to keep manure, urine, shavings, dust, etc. out of the wound.


  • Because all of the internal hoof structures must move and slide along each other, the result is severe pain after a puncture, even without an infection.


  • When you have a horse with debilitating pain and/or infection in one leg, the other leg takes the brunt of your horse’s weight, which can lead to laminitis and founder in the un-punctured hoof.


  • The results of such accidents are often euthanasia because of the resulting laminitis, which can take days and weeks or longer to develop.


Act fast by calling your veterinarian. Do not wait.


  • Your veterinarian will instruct you on the best course of action for your horse, which may include pulling out the offending spike, or leaving it in.
  • If the nail or screw is poking out, and your horse steps on it again, the nail could go deeper and cause more damage.


  • If your veterinarian tells you to remove the nail or screw, note the depth so that your Veterinarian can see how much of the nail was in your horse. Also, draw a circle around the puncture with a permanent marker.


  • If the nail is flush with the bottom of the hoof, your veterinarian may have you leave it so radiographs can be taken.


  • You may need to move your horse, or your veterinarian may have you leave him as is. If you do need to move him, find a clean surface, with no shavings, no manure, no dirt, no dust.


  • The tricky part of punctures is that the puncture sites are tiny, and close quickly, sealing in the inflammation and possible infection.


  • Add to this the difficulty in treating infections in the hoof, and your horse can easily develop laminitis.


Reduce the risk of street nails by buying a large rolling magnet.


  • They are also called magnetic sweepers. I like the magnets that roofers use, they are about 3 feet wide on wheels and you can push them around!



long magnetic sweeper for the barn

The magnetic sweeper.



bottom of a magnetic sweeper for nails and screws in paddocks

The magnetic sweeper is great at picking up even tiny shards of metal. Use the magnet often!


Even if you have never worked on your fences or had anyone doing construction, I suggest using your magnet in all of the areas that your horses live on a regular basis.


  • Arenas, paddocks, even stalls. After a rain, a deep tilling, or a spring thaw, the earth will naturally “throw” stuff up. I magnet swept my horse’s paddocks the other day and this is what I found (photo below). The triangle-looking thing seems to be the clamp from a set of jumper cables. The paddocks are over 4 years old, and this thing just appeared! Super scary.



metal found in horse paddocks


go shopping button for horse products

If you want to pick up one of those handy magnetic sweepers and get to treasure hunting, here’s a quick link for you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, and there is no extra charge to you! I greatly appreciate your support.

36” Rolling Magnetic Pick-Up Sweeper with Adjustable Long Handle, Floor Cleaner

Thank you!