Signs and symptoms – what to watch for

Keeping your horse successfully barefoot often means keeping a close eye on some of the signs and symptoms that your horse’s metabolism is doing well/not coping.  Spring grazing or changes in  diet or environment can often cause issues, so be extra vigilant over these times….  So what should you check for?

Hot/warm coronet band & feet.  Just place your hand on the hoof wall, and a little higher on the coronet band.  If there’s heat you’ll notice it easily as that area is normally cool.  Heat is normally a sign of inflammation in the body, so heat at the coronet band means theres an issue.  The coronet band has the job of growing new hoof horn so if there are problems there, they are worth taking seriously.

Raised pulses: You can check your horse’s pulse -link (warning some dissection pictures) by finding the digital artery just above or below the horse’s fetlock.  Also, I, or any other EP would be only too happy to show you how when we come to see your horse.  So you know what to expect

      1. Not being able to find anything is good.
      2. A faint pulse is ok but worth monitoring.
      3. If you can feel the pulse easily then it is probably too high!
      4. If its ‘bounding/throbbing’ to touch then you have a problem.

Pulses will be raised by exercise and lowered by standing still, so its a good idea to check before exercise, and before and after turnout to see if the grazing is having any effect on them.

Fluid build up: Look for an enlarged belly and/ or puffy eyesockets.  These symptoms could indicate that the kidneys are struggling to extract fluid from the horses system  See how this horse has swelling (rather than a depression) above the eye..?


In this case  She also had heat in the feet and her owner made immediate changes to her diet and environment when we found these symptoms.

If you’re concerned about any of these issues with your horse, then speak to your vet or hoofcare provider for advice.

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