Horses are part of an ever growing industry, with over 600,000 horses in the UK, 1.4 million riders and 5 million people with an active interest in the equine industry*. Most people acquire a horse out of choice, so if you make this decision you should think carefully before going ahead. A horse needs lots of love and care, including regular worming, vaccinations and dental care. Owning a horse is time consuming and can be costly; not only will you will need to consider where you will keep your horse, you must also consider the ongoing costs of owning a horse which include accommodation, bedding, feed and healthcare.

In the unlikely event that your horse goes missing it is going to be very difficult for anyone to know who it belongs to, unless your horse carries some form of permanent identification. It is wise to get your horse microchipped or freezemarked, this will avoid heartache in the long run, should your horse go missing or is stolen.

Horses are herd animals, and thrive on being together with other horses. Don’t forget that your horse will need somewhere to graze, a stable for warmth in the winter time, a constant supply of water, feeding daily and regular exercise. It can cost hundreds of pounds a month to care for a horse, including accommodation, food, veterinary care and insurance; there will be other costs, including buying tack and rugs and extra livery charges when you go on holiday.

Horses can live into their thirties, over this time your horse will need lots of care and attention. Being able to provide all of this will ensure you and your horse make the most of your time together.

* Research conducted in 2004 by the Henley Centre for DEFRA and the British Horse Industry Confederation.

Humans aren't the only ones who can get corns, horses can suffer from them too! Dry corns, moist corns and infected corns are all causes of lameness seen in shod horses.

What are corns?

Corns are a type of bruising usually seen at the angle of the bars and hoof wall on the inside of the front feet. Corns are a hoof injury caused by impact and appear as a red blemish because of damaged tissues and blood vessels.

Corns can be dry, moist or more seriously infected.

  • Dry corn: this is bruising between the sole and sensitive internal tissues of the foot. As a result, the sole becomes thin over the seat of the corn and the blood vessels leak into the newly formed horn.
  • Moist corn: this is a more severe bruise causing an inflammatory response and serum (fluid) accumulates in the horn of the sole making it appear wet.
  • Suppurated corn: this is an infected corn and will require immediate veterinary attention.

What causes corns?

The major cause of corns in horses is incorrect shoeing.

Generally, corns are common in the following circumstances:

  • Shoes that are fitted too short and tight.
  • Shoes that have been left on for too long causing the hoof wall to grow over the shoe.
  • Long toe/low heel due to poor trimming or poor conformation.
  • Dirt and debris may find their way in between the shoe and sole causing bruising and corn formation.
  • Horses that work on hard or stony ground may be more susceptible to bruising and corns.

How will I know if my horse has a corn(s)?

Lameness is a common sign of corn development and you may notice that your horse is landing toe first to avoid heel contact with the ground.

Your farrier may discover a corn when your horse is shod; they usually appear when the old horn of the sole is pared away to reveal the new growth.

How will my vet diagnose corns?

Your vet will use hoof testers around the area of the seat of corn to identify where the pain is. Your horse will respond by snatching his foot away if he feels pain; there won't be pain over the rest of the sole, unlike general sole bruising.

Your vet may also check your horse's digital pulses; if they are raised this is another indication of pain the foot. Your vet may also check the feet to see if they are warm; a warm foot can also indicate pain.

In more complicated cases your vet may use x-rays to rule out any other causes of pain in the heel area, such as sidebone, navicular disease or pedal osteitis.

Can corns be treated?

If they haven't already been removed, your horse should have its shoes removed to prevent further damage.

The treatment for dry and moist corns usually involves trimming the area to relieve pressure, and soaking the feet in Epsom salts can help to decrease inflammation. Rest and poulticing will help to decrease recovery time.

A suppurated corn will need more extensive treatment and usually involves opening the area up so any infection can drain out. The area can be treated with an antibiotic solution and then poulticed to draw out any remaining infection through the hole.

If your horse isn't up to date with their tetanus vaccinations, your vet will administer a tetanus antitoxin injection which will provide your horse with immediate protection against tetanus. Tetanus, caused by Clostridium tetani, is an environmental bacteria and is commonly found in soil, therefore foot injuries are at particular risk from the disease.

Once the infection has resolved the hole that is left will need packing, usually with iodine-soaked swabs but this will depend on the size, shape and location of the hole, and bandaged to ensure infection doesn't return while the hole heals up. Your horse should be kept stabled on clean, dry bedding until the hole has completely healed up.

Once healed your horse should be shod by a qualified farrier that is familiar with shoeing horses with corns. It is likely that your horse will need a special shoe, such as a bar shoe, that will take pressure off the heels by transferring it to the frog. A horse with low heels is usually more prone to developing corns; therefore, measures to improve the heels will reduce their recurrence.

How can I prevent my horse from developing corns?

The key to preventing your horse developing corns is regular and proper hoof trimming and shoeing; correctly fitting shoes will not cause any problems.

If your horse naturally has thin soles and/or poor foot balance, in particular long toe/low heel conformation, it is essential that your farrier corrects and maintains correct balance. The use of remedial shoes, such as bar shoes may be needed in horses with severe imbalances.

It is also wise to avoid too much hard work on hard ground.