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Written by: Jessica Konopinski
Published on: 01/10/2024
So, what’s the deal with stone bruises? Maybe you’ve noticed them on your horse before and thought nothing of it. Just like humans, horses can bruise (more easily than you probably ever could imagine). Most stone bruises may not be of concern, but more often than not horses can be in more discomfort than what they are visibly showing us. In order to confirm your stone bruise is not causing more serious complications, here is some knowledge on how you can recognize and treat stone bruises before they become a bigger issue.
A horse's hoof wall is made of keratin otherwise known as a protein. While keratin is a strong material, it also has the ability to provide enough flexibility so that when a horse is moving it can expand and contract. In addition to expanding and contracting, the hoof provides traction, shock absorption and blood flow. 
Hoof and stone bruises can be seen on the outer layer of the hoof and underneath on the sole of the foot. These are typically of more concern since horses are bearing more weight on the area. The sole is typically more sensitive since it is composed of softer tissue causing more soreness and pain. 
When a stone bruise develops into lameness this means that the blood vessels within the hoof are experiencing trauma. This trauma can manifest into the blood vessels rupturing which can further lead to the blood ‘pooling’, putting more pressure on the hoof. This also creates more risk for infection or an abscess. 
Stone bruises can occur for a range of reasons, some preventable and some not so preventable. The most common causes of stone bruises are from everyday interactions including the banging against rocks, fence boards, stall walls, doors, or while loading onto a trailer. Other causes include riding on hard surfaces, improper shoeing, stuck debris under the hoof, excessive standing on hard or damp surfaces and lack of exercise.  
There are a bunch of different ways and techniques to treat and prevent stone bruising. If your horse is known to experience chronic hoof bruising, it may be time to reach out to your veterinarian to determine the cause. Some reasons a horse may be more susceptible to bruising can be due to their conformation, thin soles or their environment.  Discussing solutions with your veterinarian such as changes in shoeing for better support and prevention of bruising may be in your horse's best interest.
Some immediate actions you can take if you notice your horse has a stone bruise is by first cleaning the hoof. In order to prevent infection, cleaning the hoof and applying an antimicrobial wound spray can assure that bacteria is not affecting the area. Next, providing rest in case your horse is experiencing soreness and performing hoof soaks can help in the process. As always, consult with your veterinarian for their personal recommendation and if they approve a foot soak, using epsom salt or a medicated hoof soak can aid in treating any potential infections. 
Preventing stone bruises can be tricky since we are dealing with large animals with minds of their own. Generally, keeping your horse out of environments with an excess of rocks and stones can help. If your horse has to be in these conditions, consider purchasing a pair of protective hoof boots. Regular exercise, a healthy weight and proper shoeing will also ensure your horse will be less susceptible to developing chronic stone bruises.
Jessica is a brand consultant who brings awareness and intention to equestrian and pet platforms. As a former collegiate equestrian athlete and animal lover, Jessica leads with passion and experience through her writing and brand work for companies who advocate for creating a difference in their space. When she's not riding her horse or walking her dog (with iced coffee in hand), you can find her sharing her love for health and wellness with others and integrating these practices in her everyday work.