The digital pulse is one way to get an instant reading of your horse’s hoof health! This pulse is found at the fetlock, and often reflects pain and inflammation in the hoof. Generally speaking, you may not be able to feel the digital pulse if the hoof is healthy and uninjured. However, as inflammation sets in, the pulse begins to strengthen and can often be strong to the point of bounding. This could be a sign of an abscess, a bruise, or laminitis. Your Veterinarian should always be called for any signs of hoof distress to rule out laminitis and start treatments.
The inside, lower portion of the fetlock has the pulse.
The step by step instructions:
Run your fingers down your horse’s lower leg tendons, keep your pointer and middle finger on the inside of his legs.
As the tendons curve down and to the back, you will feel a soft squishy spot on the bottom portion of his fetlock joint. It's about the size of a walnut or smaller.
If you roll your fingers back and forth across the , you should feel some guitar strings. That's the digital artery going down the leg and into the hoof.
Press lightly to feel the digital pulse, knowing that if you press too hard, you will not feel anything.
Look for heat in the hoof also!
It’s always a good idea to check the digital artery during your daily grooming routine. This establishes a baseline for your horse, and any deviance from this normal baseline is your first heads up that something is going on in the hoof. Don’t wait to call the Veterinarian!
You should also be checking the hooves for heat - another sign that inflammation and pain is inside the hoof. It’s easy - and only takes a tiny amount of time.
The horse’s hoof is an amazing structure, with layers and layers of tissue and function. The hoof wall is the barrier between the bones inside, as well as the soft tissue structures that hold your horse up!
The hoof wall is a changing structure, as is grows about 6 to 9mm a month. In a year’s time, most horses will have totally regrown their hoof wall. The majority of tissue in the hoof wall is keratin, and it’s about 25% water. If your horse is shod, the horse shoe nails go through the hoof wall.
In some parts of the county, the frozen ground is a welcome occurrence! Bugs are gone, snow might be coming, and the earth gets a time to rest. BUT - you horse’s hooves might not appreciate it so much.
Frozen ground is wickedly hard - harder than any concrete or asphalt road. It also likes to freeze rocks into place, creating little spikes in the ground. Your horse won’t be able to kick them out of the way, so tripping is a risk, as are nasty bruises from landing on one of those - even at the walk.
It’s almost inevitable that at some point, your horse will need his hooves soaked or iced. Common reasons for soaking a horse’s hoof include an abscess, white line treatment, or even icing for hoof bruises or laminitis. The best way to get this done is also the easiest way - with a Soaker Sack.