Veterinarians at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital answer your questions about sales and healthcare of Thoroughbred auction yearlings, weanlings, 2-year-olds and breeding stock.

Question: What, if any, special considerations should owners have for wintertime hoof care?

Dr. Craig Lesser, Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital: Winter in Kentucky, aka mud season, can have some challenges when it comes to your horse’s feet. Feet tend to start growing slower and are often saturated in mud without a chance to dry out. This can result in a variety of issues that you should keep an eye out for. 

White line disease is a mixed anaerobic bacterial infection that occurs within the hoof wall. Mild infections can be picked up by your farrier and can be treated without much change in your horse’s work. However. in more severe cases radiographs and large resections may be necessary to open the infected area up to oxygen and allow for debridement and treatment of the infection. 

White line disease debridement

Bruises and subsolar abscesses are also very common in the winter due to the changes in weather and temperature. The hard to soft ground can soften feet and make them more prone to concussion-related injuries, and this constant swelling and contracting can open areas for infections to fester. Horses with abscesses present acutely lame and once drainage is established, they return to soundness quickly. However, it is very important to protect the abscess tract from filling back up with mud or your horse may re-abscess. 

Retracted soles are often a problem with thin-soled feet. They result when mud builds up in the sole and eventually builds enough pressure to force the cornified sole up into the soft tissue structures of the sole of the foot. This can lead to seroma or abscess formation and if not treated properly they often lead to severe complications. 

While we don’t usually get much snow in Kentucky, horses in more northern regions can have issues with snow and ice building up in their shoes. The formation of large balls of ice on the bottom of a horse’s foot can make it difficult for horses to walk. Many farriers will add snow pads to help with this, but nothing is as helpful as ensuring you pick out your horse’s feet daily. 

Abscess with septic pedal ostitis

Horses with softened feet that are turned out in the mud are also more prone to losing shoes. An increase in the number of lost shoes as well as the decreased growth can make a farrier’s job more difficult this time of year. 

It is vital that you check your horse’s feet daily and make sure to pick them out so they have a chance to dry and recover. If not, it could lead to some much scarier conditions such as canker, septic pedal osteitis, or even quittor. 

Dr. Craig Lesser

Dr. Craig Lesser, CF graduated from Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2015. Following the completion of an internship at Anoka Equine, he moved to Lexington to complete a podiatry fellowship at RREH and has continued there as an associate. As an extension of podiatry, Dr. Lesser has an interest in lameness and imaging. 

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