Ask the Vet: Hoofs

Answered by, Rochelle Lewis, DVM, New Zealand Courtesy of

Question: For a horse with a significant goose step, right fibrotic myopathy of the semitendinosis, what does the science say about shockwave therapy vs. laser surgery? Is there effectiveness of either?

Answer: Sorry to hear about your horse and thank you for your question. Fibrotic myopathy occurs when scar tissue forms within the muscle tissue, preventing normal muscle function and therefore, most commonly results in a gait abnormality. The success of treatment depends a little bit on how long the scar tissue has been present, what the nature of the initial injury was and whether other structures were damaged, and to what extent/how many muscle groups are affected. In my experience, shockwave sometimes alleviates the condition, but the effect sometimes seems transient and also is more effective in the early stages of the condition. Repeated treatments will be necessary but have resulted in good success in some cases.

In severe cases, surgery is recommended, although it is worth remembering that any surgery will create scar tissue of its own. Hence, why this treatment modality is most commonly reserved for severely affected individuals or those where a gait abnormality prevents them from continuing their career.

However, the incision made at the surgery is pretty small (usually <2 inches) and an experienced surgeon who is familiar with the procedure can fairly easily transect the band of scar tissue without creating much in the way of additional trauma, and thus yield a good result with minimal downtime and minimal complications in recovery.

Question: When a horse is trimmed too “short” and is lame afterwards, what is actually causing the soreness? If the shoe is fitted properly and not touching the sole, why would the horse be sore?

Answer: There are a number of reasons why a horse might be sore right after shoeing, one of the most common of which is too much sole pressure as you mentioned.

Other possible reasons include a hot or close nail (a hot nail is directly touching the sensitive part of the foot whereas a close nail has just been placed a little closer than it should be to these sensitive bits and the pressure from that nail on the tissues of the foot causes pain). The is also mild laminar pain due to concussive force of hammering in the nails (more common in horses that have had laminitis episodes in the past). Sometimes overtightening the clenches can cause some pain from excess pressure as well.

If the farrier has had to take off a lot of foot or has placed a different type of shoe to the horse’s last set, some horses will experience mild pain for a few days due to the angle change and mechanics of the foot: a bit like someone who feels sore legs the day after wearing high heels for an evening and they aren’t used to them! Different angles of the feet change the loading pattern of not only the bones of the foot but the soft tissues of the foot and whole limb, and this causes soreness in some horses as they adapt.

There are a few horses out there that have been shod appropriately, no big changes, nails all correctly placed, properly clenched and no sole pressure that are still mildly footsore, but usually diminishes in a few days. It is comparable to when you have forgotten to trim your fingernails for a while and finally do, then the tips of your fingers feel odd for a while! It is probably a similar feeling for these horses, and partly due to a change in mechanics of the foot. It may also expose areas of hoof wall and sole that are less keratinised and therefore, more sensitive. The hoof becomes harder when it is directly in contact with the air, so these newly exposed areas are slightly softer and take a few days to harden into normal horn like tissue.

* Reprinted with permission of the AAEP. To view the entire article please visit  then click Horse owners, Ask the Vet