Stone Bruises in Horses 101: Causes, Symptoms, Recovery


Few horse owners have encountered a more disturbing problem than stone bruises in horses because it causes lameness. Lame horses will have no choice but to sit idle in the stall or the paddock, and they won’t be able to be enjoyed while on the trail or in the show ring. In some cases, lameness has brought on complex and serious problems like laminitis. In other cases, the lameness happens because of something that might seem minor like a stone bruise. This seemingly harmless injury can bring on a new level of complexity if left untreated.

Most Common Causes of Stone Bruises in Horses

Most commonly, this traumatic event will happen with horses when the underside of the hoof gets damaged. While the hooves of your horse might seem indestructible, they can be more sensitive than what you might be led to believe.

Julie Bullock, a veterinary podiatrist, says that the foot of horses is a living and flexible structure. The wall and the sole will have some room for expanding and contracting, and while the hoof has been made to withstand trauma and concussion, that doesn’t mean that it can’t get injured. You have to be careful to avoid too much impact. Weeks or months can pass without incident, but stepping on a sharp stone could cause trauma that ruptures one of the small blood vessels. This will in turn cause bleeding within the soft tissues. It becomes the sequel to what follows up to the bruising itself.

A Tissue Trauma

Mike Pownall, a DVM, says the bruising process would be similar to if you walked over a stony ground barefoot. When you walk this way and step on a rock in the wrong way, it will inevitably cause trauma, and you will have to take a course of action to address it. Stone bruises should be treated as soon as possible, and you should always examine your horse to detect problems like this.

Sometimes, stone bruises in horses will cause a blood vessel to rupture, but it won’t be enough to create pain for the horse to where he will be lame. At the other end of the scale, you have the severe bruises that can cause lameness, but they can also create an abscess that can be dangerous for your horse if untreated.

Symptoms of Stone Bruises in Horses

One of the ways that you can tell if your horse has a stone bruise is to have him walk on soft ground and then over hard ground. For example, you might have him walk on concrete. If the horse suddenly becomes tender footed, he more than likely has a stone bruise. Should your horse actually have a stone bruise, you will want to give him some time to recover.

A farrier has the ability to use a hoof tester to determine where the stone bruise is located. What you can do is to soak his hoof in Epsom Salt solution and keep it in the easy boot. Also, keep him on soft ground until he shows signs of recovery.

The biggest problem with stone bruises in horses is how many of them will have a proneness to abscesses because of bruises. Unfortunately, this means the pain will grow worse after a time and cause pressure for the abscess. To reduce the risk, keep soaking the foot for 15 to 20 minutes per day. After the abscess has ruptured, the horse will almost instantaneously feel relief from it. However, the foot should be soaked for one to two days to ensure the puss drains so that it doesn’t come back.

Recovery from Sone Bruises in Horses

You should always treat stone bruises like abscesses because it has the potential to become one. The farrier’s knife can remove crud from the surface, which is one of the most common signs that the hoof has been abused. In many cases, stone bruises aren’t serious, and they might cause lameness for a few minutes or up to a few days. However, it depends on how bad the stone bruise was. Some horses have a better ability to ignore it than others.

The biggest problem with treating stone bruises in horses is how you often have to determine if they have one based on gut instinct. Finding them becomes more a matter of experience. In addition, look at if the horse has ridden on rocky surfaces with sharp rocks.

Treating Stone Bruises

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that you can do to treat stone bruises. In fact, the best thing that you can do in this case is to wait it out and make sure that your horse doesn’t go for rides through punishing ground, or it could injure his foot even more. In most cases, the pain will vanish after a couple days. For those in a dire situation, and they need the horse immediately, they can use what’s known as sole numbing paint. This lets the horse perform without any pain. You should wear gloves with this product because phenol can be corrosive to the skin, and it becomes a toxin when taken internally. Keep it capped and safely out of reach of small children.

Protect and Prevent

One of the biggest things that you can do for your horse is to protect him from the problem and prevent it from happening in the first place. For example, you may want to consider some changes to the horseshoes, and you will want to minimize how much time he spends in the stall. In addition, ask your farrier to remove less of the horse’s sole when he trims the horse if he seems prone to this injury. While it won’t look pretty, it will protect his hoof better.

Summing Up

These are the ways that you can treat stone bruises in horses. As the doctor says, however, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure. You want to take measures to minimize the danger like having him wear the horseshoes. Many times the extra metal is all that’s needed to prevent the added ouchiness when he traverses rocky and rough terrain.

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