Common Foot Problems in Horses

Updated April 17, 2017

Foot problems are some of the most serious afflictions that can strike a horse. The foot is the horses most vulnerable spot, a place where it is easy for bacteria to enter the body. Some of the foot problems in horses can be prevented by proper care, some are caused by injury and some are inherited. If the horse starts to limp, holds a leg up off the ground or the foot is tender to the touch, it is time to call both the farrier and the vet.


Laminitis affects the pedal bone, which is attached to the hoof by connecting tissues called laminae. The inflammation of the laminae is called laminitis. When this happens, the pedal bone is torn from the wall of the hoof and constantly rotates withing the hoof. In the worse scenario the bone rotates so much that the tip will go through the solar surface, tears all around and ends up sinking into the hoof. Put the horse in a stall with a deep bed of straw and call the vet. The vet will first relieve the pain then give drugs to improve circulation and anti-toxin drugs as well. Special shoes will be made to support the foot while it recovers. Laminitis can result in a horse being permanently lame.

Navicular Disease

Navicular disease occurs when too much blood and fluid collect in the cavity of the navicular bone, which in turn causes venous hypertension, bone pain and lameness. In involves inflammation of the bursa, deep flexor tendon and navicular bone. Adhesions also develop. X-rays are needed to get a definite diagnosis and then the vet will pick a treatment depending on the cause. Treatments can include resting in the stall, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, special shoes and injections of corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid. Navicular disease is progressive and will lead to the horse being lame.


Thrush is very common. It happens when moisture and anaerobic bacteria get trapped in the hoof, with the results being a bacterial infection. The problem is that the bacteria is very common in soil. The bacteria eat away at the frog bone and if it is allowed to progress to the stage where it gets deep in the hoof, the result will be a lame horse. Keeping the hoof clean, proper shoeing, clean stalls, dry paddocks, good diet and proper exercise are all good preventive measures. Treatments include removing all of the infected tissue, antibiotics, packing and wrapping the hoof and special shoes.

White Line Disease

White line disease strikes during hot and humid weather. White line disease is the deterioration of the inside part of the hoof wall. It can hit one hoof or all four. It causes the loss of the protective part of the foot, leaving it open to bacterial and fungal infections. Treatment includes special shoes, removal of the outer wall to remove the damaged area and the use of medicines such as merthiolate or betadine ointment.


Corns happen when the part of the foot between the bar and the wall of the hoof becomes bruised. The cause is the same as in humans--improperly fitted shoes. If the corn stays dry, relieving the pressure will do the trick. If it becomes infected, a vet has to be called and antibiotics started.

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