Shoe boils on your horse’s elbow


Large squishy swellings on your horse’s elbow might be a shoe boil, but as with all things horse, any unknown lumps and bumps should be checked out by a veterinarian, just to be sure.


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large swelling on elbow of the horse

Tah-dah! This is a large shoe boil. Thanks to Diane D. for the photo!


What is a shoe boil?


  • A shoe boil is a fancy way of describing a soft squishy swelling on or very near your horse’s elbow.


  • They are commonly caused by the heel of the hoof or the heel of a horseshoe squishing into the elbow while your horse is laying down.


  • This action is irritating, and sometimes the area of the shoe boil fills with fluid or blood over time, creating a seroma or hematoma. A seroma is a pocket of blood plasma that leaks out of damaged blood vessels. A hematoma is similar but is a pocket of actual blood that has leaked out of damaged vessels. This seroma or hematoma is what you feel and see, around the elbow of your horse.


  • Very often shoe boils feel like pudding under the skin. Your horse will move normally, and in some cases, the boil will decrease in size after exercise.


  • Most shoe boils on horses are benign. But horses are horses, so there’s always an exception to the rule.


  • Occasionally a shoe boil becomes infected, likely through a small cut or abrasion to the skin where the heel of the shoe or hoof rubs your horse. In that case, a call to your veterinarian is mandatory – fever, lameness, and big bad infections can follow.


horse resting in pasture with front legs tucked in

Check out the front hoof – tucked up against the elbow. 


Options to deal with shoe boils


  • You can have them drained, and in some cases, this is the best choice. This reduces the look of the boil and takes the swelling down. The downside is that your horse now has a needle hole in which bacteria can enter, possibly leading to infection.


  • You can also try and prevent further irritation to the elbow area, which allows the squishy fluid to drain and heal. You can accomplish this by using a boil boot, which is a hard-ish donut that is secured around the pastern of the offending leg.


  • A side note here – the leg with the shoe boil is not always the leg that is doing the damage – you may need to spy on your horse while he’s resting to see how he tucks his legs.


  • You can also help matters by adding more bedding where he likes to sleep, this allows for some cushion.


catalog photo of pastern ring for shoe boils

You can find shoe boil boots in some stores, or order online!


For a complete guide to leg and hoof grooming, this article has you covered!


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Cavallo Simple Hoof Boot for Horses, Size 3, Black

This style is great to protect the hoof, but is not soft and squishy for laminitis cases.

02/20/2024 06:17 pm GMT
EasyCare Glove Hoof Boot

These boots are great for protecting barefoot horses.

02/20/2024 08:12 pm GMT
Whinny Wellies from Sox For Horses

Tough, weather-resistant covering for wraps and bandaging.

Silver Bells - Sox For Horses

For hoof protection when equine pastern dermatitis is a risk.

$12.82 ($3.20 / Fl Oz)
02/21/2024 01:07 am GMT