Corns in Horses

Jennifer Rice, DVM
By Jennifer Rice, DVM on May 24, 2023
Horse hoof picking

In This Article


What Are Corns in Horses?

A hoof bruise can be defined as a traumatic injury that results in hemorrhage (bleeding) into the sole of a horse's foot. The influx of blood into the sole causes added pressure that results in pain to the horse. You may also see discoloration of the sole due to a bruise, just like you would see with any other type of bruise.

Corns are a specific type of bruise on the sole of a horse's foot. This type of bruise occurs on the sole between the hoof wall and the bars (extensions of the heel that run towards the frog) of the hoof. Corns most commonly affect the medial or inside aspect of a horse's front foot, causing lameness. A corn can occur acutely (suddenly) or chronically (over time) depending on the underlying cause.

Corns may be classified as dry or wet:

  • A dry corn is one that appears as a reddened area on the sole.

  • A wet corn can be classified as moist or suppurative.

    • A moist corn has an accumulation of inflammatory fluid under the sole and may appear wet.

    • A suppurative corn is a corn that has become infected. Pus or purulent discharge will be present and often needs to be drained. Draining the area often provides the horse with some pain relief.

Symptoms of Corns in Horses

The following symptoms can be seen with corns in horses:

  • Mild to moderate lameness

  • Bruising visualized on the sole of the hoof

  • Hoof wall may be warm to the touch

  • Increased digital pulse

  • Horse may react when hoof testers are applied (due to pain)

  • A corn can lead to a foot abscess

Causes of Corns in Horses

Corns are more likely to develop in shod horses due to improper shoeing or fitting of a shoe that causes abnormal pressure on the hoof leading to a bruise. Horses that are not shod can get a corn if they are walking/ridden on rocky ground–but this is not as common.

The most common reasons a corn forms on a horse's hoof include:

  • Heel of a shoe is improperly placed

  • Shoe is left on too long, causing pressure points in abnormal places

  • Shoe is fitted too closely or is too small for the foot

  • Stone lodged between hoof and shoe

  • Poor hoof growth, causing the shoe to fit abnormally

How Veterinarians Diagnose Corns in Horses

Your veterinarian may ask the following questions to help diagnose your horse’s lameness:

  • How long has your horse been lame?

  • How often does he get his hooves trimmed?

  • Do you regularly clean out his feet?

  • Has he ever had any hoof issues or lameness issues in the past?

  • How long has it been since the farrier trimmed his feet?

  • What is his day-to-day lifestyle/routine?

Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose a corn based on history and physical exam. Visualization of your horse's hoof conformation and shoe fit, along with using a hoof tester (a tool used to manually apply pressure around the hoof to identify points of pain) to pinpoint the spot the horse is painful on the hoof, is often enough to diagnose a corn. Digital radiographs may be used to rule out other common causes of lameness in the foot such as navicular disease, side bones, or laminitis.

Treatment of Corns in Horses

Once a corn has been diagnosed, a vet may prescribe medications to help your horse to become more comfortable. Banamine or Phenylbutazone are both non-steroidal anti-inflammatories that can provide pain relief.

Depending on the severity of the corn, your veterinarian may need to open and drain the area using a hoof knife. After initially draining the area, your veterinarian may want you to continue to soak or apply poultice to help encourage the area to continue draining. Your veterinarian may also recommend changing foot bandages daily once treatment has started.

It is likely your horse may need to be put on stall rest in a clean and dry stall until the foot is healed or is no longer painful. Your veterinarian may also recommend a special type of shoe or trimming to help with healing.

Recovery and Management of Corns in Horses

Recovery of a horse with a corn depends on the severity of the corn. With a mild corn that was caught quickly, it may only take 1-2 weeks to correct and begin to heal, but a more severe corn that has become infected may take months to completely heal. Severe corns can lead to foot abscesses, cellulitis, laminitis, and chronic lameness.

Prevention of Corns in Horses

The following steps can help reduce the chances of your horse getting a corn:

  • Always ensure that your farrier is using properly sized shoes—if unsure, then ask your primary vet to assess your horse’s feet at his annual exam.

  • Regularly have your horse's feet trimmed and shod (if applicable) every 4-6 weeks or as recommended by your veterinarian.

  • Avoid riding on rocky or rough ground for an extended amount of time and make sure to clean your horse’s hooves afterward.

  • Discuss your horse's lifestyle with your primary vet to decide whether your horse needs to be shod or could go barefoot.

  • Clean out your horse’s hooves regularly, generally once per day.

Corns in Horses FAQs

What does a corn in a horse’s foot look like?

A corn in a horse is simply a bruise of the hoof that occurs between the bar and hoof wall. Corns most commonly occur in the front feet on the medial or inside aspect.

How can a farrier treat lameness caused by a corn?

In collaboration with your veterinarian, your farrier may be able to help with trimming the hoof and placing a special shoe on your horse to help provide support and pain relief.

What is the prognosis for a horse with a corn?

Prognosis for a horse with a corn is generally considered positive as long as the horse is treated quickly and appropriately and has good foot care. Some horses with poor foot conformation may chronically have corns which leads to a guarded prognosis.

Featured Image:


Merck Veterinary Manual. Bruised Sole and Corns in Horses - Musculoskeletal System.


Jennifer Rice, DVM


Jennifer Rice, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Rice is a 2017 graduate from Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine where she specialized in Equine medicine. Since graduating...

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