Your trimmer was here yesterday and today your horse is sore. What gives? There is nothing more frustrating than arriving at the barn with all your gear, ready to ride, and finding your horse tenderfooted. I’ve been on both sides of this equation as both owner and barefoot trimmer. When my horse first went barefoot, I just made a habit of giving her a few days off after a trim, because she was sore every single time. I didn’t know at the time that that isn’t normal!
Reasons for Soreness After A Trim
-Your horse is transitioning from shod to barefoot. This process takes time and there are many factors that determine your horse’s soundness. Horses may come out of shoes very tender, though this is not always the case.
-Your horse has an ongoing issue that is causing them pain. This could be founder, bouts of laminitis, thin soles, thrush, crushed heels…the list goes on. If you know your horse has a chronic issue, sore days are to be expected for a time.
-Your horse has dietary, nutritional, or lifestyle needs that are not being met. If your horse does not have access to enough turnout, their joints and feet are not getting enough movement. If their diet is high in sugar, they most likely have inflammation in their body and that will translate to their feet. If the footing you’re riding or lunging on doesn’t suit the current condition of their feet, they may become bruised and tender, whether or not they are in shoes. If they are deficient in certain minerals, you will notice it in their feet – either in the quality of their hoof wall, the function of their hoof capsule, or persistent infection in the central sulcus or collateral grooves.
-Your horse is brewing an abscess. This may or may not have anything to do with their recent trim.
-Your horse has been trimmed too aggressively. Perhaps too much material was removed in one trim and your horse needs a few days to adjust. A supporting structure that they needed (sole, wall, bar, toe callous, etc) may have been trimmed too much. Or perhaps the trim itself was appropriate for the foot, but that limb is adjusting to the change. Sometimes with long term imbalances, the body needs time to adjust, just like the foot.
What to Do
- Alert your trimmer! We need to hear about this. Feedback is essential for our relationship with both you and your horse. If you’re concerned, we’re concerned. We make decisions during each trim to help your horse heal and grow healthy feet. Sometimes what works for one horse does not work for another, so we need all the information to trim accurately and with your individual horse in mind. Even if the soreness is severe and you decide to call your vet, let your trimmer know as well.
- Decide what action, if any, to take. Your hoofcare provider or vet can offer advice for your specific situation. Wrapping feet with diapers, vet wrap, and duct tape can also provide some temporary padding. There are many products you can place inside a wrap like Rebound for soreness. Boots can provide immediate relief. I like Soft Ride Comfort Boots and EasyBoot Clouds for therapeutic purposes. You can also use regular boots (Scoot Boots, EasyBoot, Renegades, etc) for turnout for some cushioning, even adding pads if they fit. Depending on the severity of your horse’s soreness, pain relief medication or homeopathy may also be appropriate.
- If soreness after a trim becomes a pattern, share your concerns with your trimmer. It’s my opinion that your horse should be comfortable and sound after trims unless you’re in the recovery process with a chronic issue. Pay attention to your horse during their trims. Are they offering you any clues? Consider looking at the rest of their lifestyle if you know the trims are not the issue.
Common but Not Normal
It is not normal for your horse to be sore after every single trim, unless there are other issues going on that you and your hoofcare provider are already aware of. If you decide to get a second opinion or try another hoofcare provider, let them know about your concerns. I always appreciate understanding what my clients want ahead of time. Everyone has different priorities. Some owners don’t mind their horses having a few days off after a trim if their trimmer is working hard to change an imbalance quickly. Other owners don’t mind the process taking a little bit longer if their horse’s comfort is their focus.
If you are dealing with any period of soreness, it must be addressed. Don’t let your horse limp around in the pasture for days without offering relief of some kind. That could mean a few days off, softer footing, wrapping, booting, or pain medication. One of the most common stories I hear is that owners attempt to go barefoot, have the shoes pulled, watch their horse limp around for a trim cycle or two, and then put shoes back on. Whatever is best for your horse is up to you, but your horse needs some extra support if they are tender.