As the nights draw in and the weather starts to change, we need to start thinking about how to keep our horses going through the winter months.

Common winter lameness issues:

These are commonly seen in the winter months and can be prevented with careful management.

  • Abscesses
  • Mud fever (pastern dermatitis)
  • Lymphangitis
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Laminitis
  • Pulled shoes

As the ground softens, the increased moisture softens the soles and feet of horses. This in turn makes horses more likely to get abscesses if they walk on stoney ground.

Signs of abscesses:

  • Most common sign is non weight bearing lame on the affected foot.
  • Pulse in the affected foot but not present in others
  • heat or painful area on heel bulb or coronet band.

Hardening the feet can help. Using iodine painted onto the bottom of feet, can help harden soles and reduce the risk of abscesses.

Mud Fever (pastern dermatitis):

This is caused by the perfect storm of mud and moisture which allows bacteria which lives in the soil to enter the skin and cause infection. Mud fever can be difficult to treat but usually a combination of topical treatment and careful management controls the problem. The best prevention is using barrier creams or oils to protect the legs against mud and try not to remove the mud with brushing.


This is usually a consequence of infection gaining access from soil into the lower limb.

Signs of lymphangitis:

  • Swelling of affected limb – usually painful to palpation of the inside of the leg
  • Lame
  • Temperature
  • Anorexia (not willing to eat)

Keeping air on legs in winter can help reduce the incidences of this occurring.

Soft tissue injuries:

Damage to ligaments and tendons is common in softer and deeper ground. Ensuring correct and regular trimming or shoeing, fitness are all vitally important in reducing the risk of this occurring.


As discussed previously this is usually linked to Insulin dysregulation caused by either Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) or Cushings (PPID). In the cases of EMS, ensuring the affected horse loses weight over the winter months and doesn’t overly gain over the summer months is vital. In cases of PPID, it is vital that the horse or pony is controlled with the use of regular testing and dosing with Prascend.

Pulled Shoes:

This is one of the worlds mysteries, horses seem to be able to do this at a drop of a hat. However regular shoeing every 5-6 weeks through the winter months should help to reduce incidences of this.