What To Do If Your Horse Steps On A Nail

The Problem

Your horse limps into the barn from turnout and you closely examine his lame leg. When you find the head of a nail protruding from the frog, you carefully place the foot down and plan your next move. You may feel compelled to take the following steps:

  • As a caring horse owner you want to eliminate the cause of his pain right away so you grab pliers and yank the nail out of his frog. 

  • Also being a tidy horse person, you make sure to sweep the barn aisle to prevent any tiny debris from getting into the hoof hole. 

  • You clean the foot and begin a soak in warm Epsom salts solution as you place a call to your veterinarian.

Are any of these steps incorrect? Let’s take a look at what could have been an underlying problem.


A Missed Opportunity

You have called the emergency number of your local large animal hospital to have a veterinarian examine the wound immediately rather than risk the possible consequences of a delay, ranging from infection to internal structure damage. But during the veterinary exam, while your veterinarian applauds your prompt treatment and reporting of the injury, he suggests you might have taken a slightly different course of action. What should you have done differently?

Recognizing that we want to address the injury in the most effective way possible, we would offer the following guidance.

A Measured Approach

While circumstances and injuries are always unique, consider taking these steps.

  • Next time, if you know your veterinarian is available to examine the horse immediately, leave the nail in place. This will allow him or her to see the exact location of the wound’s entry site and obtain radiographic visualization of the nail’s location within the hoof capsule.

  • If timely veterinary help is unavailable and you must remove the nail, carefully note how much of the nail penetrated the foot, exactly where on the foot the penetration occurred, and at what angle. Before you remove the nail and if possible, take photos from a variety of angles to show your veterinarian when he or she arrives. Also, save the nail for your veterinarian to see.


Penetrating hoof wounds can be extremely serious, causing infection and direct trauma to vital structures. Knowing a wound tract’s depth and direction can help your veterinarian assess structural damage, choose the best diagnostic imaging study, provide appropriate on-site treatment, and prescribe the proper aftercare.

Carolina Equine Hospital

Did your horse step on a nail? Give us a call at 336-349-4080 so we can help!


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