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What to do when your horse steps on a nail trail riding

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

You are out trail riding, enjoying the beauty of nature and the excellent company of a trail buddy, when suddenly your horse starts limping after a misstep. Is it just a wrong step or something worse?

You get off to look and find a nail protruding from your horse’s hoof! Oh no!

The dangers of a puncture wound in the hoof are the damage that it can cause and the bacteria the nail introduces into the hoof capsule. You already know that you need to quickly prevent further damage and improve your horse’s prognosis, but what do you do? The risk of infection and abscess is high, and a punctured hoof can have lifelong consequences.

What to do if you horse steps on a nail while trail riding

  1. Get off your horse safely! If you are on the road, check for vehicles and dismount. If you know which side is hurting, get off the other, more stable side of your horse. This is one of the many reasons it is essential to teach your horse to be mounted and dismounted from both sides.
  2. Resist all temptation to take it out yourself.
  3. Prevent your horse from doing more damage to that foot. Hold your horse’s hoof up to see how best to prevent the nail from penetrating further if it is sticking out. You can have your horse stand on a plank or a flat rock while keeping the nail untouched. I appreciate that if you are on the side of the road, you may need to be creative with what you do here. The offending object must not go in any further into the hoof capsule. You’ll want to do all you can to prevent the horse from using the foot.
  4. Call your vet immediately. Yes, even if you are in the middle of the woods. This is critical. You can decide together if your horse can risk a ride home in a trailer or if the vet can come out and help where you are before heading home.
  5. Take detailed pictures of the offending object puncturing your horse’s hoof. The vet will want to see the angle and depth of the wound. This will only give you an idea as the nail can bend and take different routes as it penetrates the hoof, and of course, you don’t know if it is a long or short nail.

The process above is for nails, or pointy objects, that are lodged into your horse’s hoof while you are trail riding and away from the barn. Most other wounds such as shallow cuts, abrasions and similar noncritical issues can be wrapped and treated when you get home, provided you aren’t too far. Otherwise, you may want to arrange for a trailer.

Hoof in the grass - horse steps on a nail trail riding

What happens after your horse steps on a nail

Treating your horse quickly and effectively after your horse steps on a nail while trail riding will influence its prognosis. Its life may even depend on it. It also depends on the follow-up care. Follow your vets’ instructions to the letter as like anything.



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