Hoof (foot) care, shoeing and lameness

The equine foot is a very sensitive area and must be examined frequently. A well fed, strong animal is no good if a hoof is bad.

The Equine Hoof

The foot of equine animals consists of three bones, the long pastern, short pastern and the pedal bone. What we see of the hoof is the wall of the hoof and underneath is the sole.

Keeping the hoof healthy

The animal should be made accustomed to having its feet picked up. Clean the sole of the hoof from mud and dung. If these materials are not removed the moisture they contain may cause infection of the sole of the hoof. Dress (cover) the wall of the hoof regularly with grease or oil to keep it moist. This will prevent the hoof from cracking.

The Importance of Shoeing

The wall of the hoof grows like the nail of your finger. It is worn away as the animal walks. When animals walk or work on hard surfaces such as concrete, tar or mountain roads the hoof may be worn away more quickly than it grows. In this case shoeing the animal protects the hoof. If an animal is shod the shoes should be removed every 6 weeks so that the extra growth in the hoof can be removed. Shoeing and oiling the hoof stops it from splitting. Contact the farrier (horseshoe maker) every time you want to shoe the animals or if the animal develops lameness because of a problem with the shoes.


  1. Lameness is an abnormal walk and is caused by injury or disease. Remember that it can be difficult to discover where the lameness is and what is causing it. To identify the lame leg you will need to:
  2. Halter the animal and ask someone to lead the animal around for you.
  3. To check the front legs ask your helper to trot (faster than walk) the animal towards you when a lame animal will be seen to nod the head as it trots. The head is raised as the lame leg touches the ground.
  4. To check the back leg have the animal trotted away from you. Watch the back of the animal and you will see it rise as the lame leg hits the ground.
  5. Examine the lame leg for any heat, swelling or pain.
  6. Lameness is usually caused by a problem with the foot.

Treating lame animals

You should ask for veterinary advice but you may be able to do something about the problem.

  1. Sometimes lameness is caused by the sole of the hoof becoming infected. The sole is painful and pus (yellow secretion) is formed. Clean the wound and apply tincture of iodine. Leave the animal to rest and do not work it.
  2. A crack in the wall of the hoof can cause lameness and is cured by oiling the hoof and correct shoeing.
  3. The bottom of the foot can be infected and becomes wet, black and smelly. This is called thrush and is seen in animals kept in wet conditions. Cut away the infected material and put formalin or tincture of iodine on the area