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.
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Always loop your Veterinarian in when your horse develops a hoof issue, to rule out laminitis and other painful conditions.
There are many reasons you may need to pack a hoof. Your horse could have a missing shoe. Your horse could also have an abcess, stone bruise, or your horse worked quite hard on bad footing, or just has sore feet. Be sure that you involve your Veterinarian at the beginning of any hoof distress, as you want to rule out laminitis, which might look like something else.