Many individuals mistakenly believe that a horse's hooves are solid. In fact, a horse's hooves are made up of very hard skin and are, in fact, flexible. When a horse moves, its hooves will flex ever so slightly. The frog is the soft, almost rubbery, area under the foot which pumps blood into the tissues inside the foot. Whether or not a horse needs shoes depends on where the horse spends the majority of its time and how often it is worked. A horse's feet must also be inspected on a regular basis in order to ensure that they are clean and healthy.
If a horse seems to be favoring one leg over another or if it appears to be standing awkwardly or spending a great deal of time lying down, it may have a medical condition known as laminitis. Laminitis is often caused by a change in diet such as eating excessive amounts of grain or springtime grasses, or by spending an inordinately large amount of time on a hard surface. If caught early, a change in diet and corrective shoes may be all that is necessary for a horse to get back to its previous health.
Thrush is also a common ailment experienced by a great number of horses. This is often caused by standing for an extended period of time in a moist or unsanitary area. The easiest way to prevent this condition is to ensure that a horse's stall is clean and dry. Bruising can also occur to a horse's feet after stopping or pounding on a hard surface. In many instances, the causes of sore feet in horses can be prevented by careful and thorough maintenance of the horse's feet and stall. Shoes can also prevent damage to the horse's hooves, especially if the horse spends a great deal of time working or being ridden.
Any owner that suspects that his or her horse is suffering some level of lameness due to sore feet should immediately seek medical attention for the animal. The pain and stress caused by conditions such as laminitis or founder can be very detrimental to a horse's well-being. These conditions can be extremely painful for the animal. Providing a horse with plenty of exercise and well-balanced food are important to preventing not only foot related problems, but a host of other common ailments as well. If a horse has been shoed, the shoes should be inspected regularly to ensure that they are doing their job properly.