You wouldn’t think twice about taking a ride on your horse in wide open pastures, dirt arenas or mountain trails. But what about on hard asphalt or concrete? I wanted to ride my horse on a paved trail but I’ve heard it’s not good for them. I decided to do a little more research to answer this question.
So, is it bad for horses to walk on pavement?
It is not bad for horses to walk or trot on pavement. If you anticipate walking for long periods of time on hard pavement your horse may get sore legs or feet and proper conditioning is essential. Also, shod horses have a greater risk of slipping than bare foot horses on pavement when traveling at higher speeds.
Walking and trotting on pavement usually poses no issues for horses, both with and without shoes. These leisurely speeds allow for more control and the risks of slipping are very low.
There is a lot more to know about riding on hard pavement so keep reading to learn everything you need to know.
Can a horse run on pavement
Pavement and other hard ground surfaces do not prevent horses from running. In fact, it is easier to run on a harder surface than a soft surface like sand for instance. However, running a horse on pavement poses several risks to both the horse and rider.
Horses are at risk of developing sore and bruised feet, swollen joints and muscles and shin splints when they run on hard surfaces for long periods of time. Their hooves and legs must absorb all the pounding and concussion on this unforgiving surface. Bare ground can give a little under a horse’s weight, asphalt does not.
The second, and more safety orientated reason not to run on pavement is the risk of your horse slipping and falling with you on its back. This risk is greater for shod horses because metal horse shoes can be very slippery on asphalt, especially when wet. Numerous injuries can occur to both horse and rider if the horse falls.
Does concrete hurt a horse’s feet
Concrete, like asphalt, is literally rock hard. Many stables and stalls have concrete flooring because it lasts a long time, prevents muddy areas and is easy to hose off.
Horses can develop feet, leg and back issues due to standing on concrete or pavement for long periods of time. Just like us, standing all day on a hard surface hurts their feet and strains muscles.
The best way to add traction and cushion to concrete floors is with rubber stall mats. They can be laid down the main aisles, stalls and any area where horses are frequently required to stand for longer periods of time.
If your horse has to be in a concrete stall for only a few days, it most likely will not have negative long term affects.
How to tell if my horse has sore feet from hard surfaces
Horses are very good at letting you know when they are uncomfortable or hurting. If sore feet are the issue, there are several clues that will key you in on the exact area of discomfort. Checkout the following list for what to look for.
- Are they standing in the same spot for longer than normal? This could mean they are just tired and napping or their feet hurt and they don’t want to move. In extreme cases, they might even be laying down.
- Does the horse have a noticeable limp and favoring of one or more feet? This is probably the most obvious indicator that something is wrong.
- Is your horse tripping more than usual? Sometimes a small bruise on the frog of the hoof isn’t bad enough to cause a visual limp but stepping on a rock or something that pokes the bruise might cause them to stumble.
- Do they paw at the ground or avoid putting weight on it?
- When you gently push on certain areas while cleaning the hoof, does your horse pull back his foot? A horse that normally behaves well is trying to tell you something hurts
How do you treat a horse with sore feet
You’ve determined your horse has a sore foot due to bruising. Now what? Let’s go over some healing treatments and then more importantly, preventions.
Most sore spots will heal naturally with time. If you feel that your horse’s sore foot is not a major issue, just give him a few days off to heal.
For injuries that are a little more serious or you want to heal faster, hoof packs are a great option. Absorbine’s Magic Cushion hoof packing works great and is farrier recommended. Apply to shod or bare hooves. This product reduces hoof temperature and inflammation and soothes pain associated with concussion and other injuries.
Applying to shod hooves is easy and requires just a few simple steps. Make sure to wear disposable gloves while applying.
- Pack about a golf ball size amount of hoof packing over and around the frog, filling in the space inside the shoe.
- Have your horse step in shavings to seal the pack in.
- Wrap the foot with vet wrap or duct tape to keep the pack in place longer. Leave on for 24 to 48 hours.
For bare hooves, the packing method is very similar. This method requires wrapping the foot in order for the pack to stay in place.
- Build up the pack over the frog and solar surface of the foot. Stay away from the outer wall of the hoof so the tape will stick.
- Start taping across the sole of the hoof, overlapping the pieces of tape.
- Push down on taped sole to make sure the pack is covering all areas under the tape.
- Tape all around the edges of the hoof, making sure to avoid any hair or skin to avoid discomfort.
- Reinforce the tape in the toe region.
Check out this great video by SmarkPak demonstrating this method of how to pack an unshod hoof.
How to toughen up my horse’s feet
Healing an injury is important but preventing it in the first place is even better. There are several products geared to help strengthen and protect your horse’s feet.
Metal horse shoes have been around for centuries and are the gold standard for providing support and protection. Today, most horse shoes are made from steel or aluminum. A typical horse shoe supports the hoof without putting pressure on the sole.
Just remember, metal shoes are slippery on wet pavement or asphalt, especially when wet.
Easy boots are an inexpensive and effective alternative for protecting your horse’s hooves. These are full coverage boot usually made out of plastic and neoprene. Slip the boot over your horse’s bare hoof and secure. Introducing your horse to the boot before its needed is a smart way to decrease stress when it is required.
Some people use front boots or all four depending on the sensitivity of their horse when they go trail riding instead of permanent horse shoes. They work great on pavement too.
If you do shoe your horse, having at least one of these boots around can provide relief if they throw a shoe while out on the trail.
Leather and plastic pads are a more permanent shock-absorption option. Placed by a farrier during shoeing, the pad covers the sole of the foot and is held in place by the shoe. Leather pads conform to the sole of the foot whereas plastic pads are more rigid and may require packing underneath to provide full support.
There are several different types of pads and each cover different parts of the sole. Full coverage, rim, frog pads and heel pads are some of the styles available. Discuss these different options with your farrier to see if using a shoe pad would be beneficial for your horse. It may be appropriate for a single shoeing session or you may decide to use it more long term depending on your horse’s need.
Your horse’s soreness might be due to soft hooves instead of an issue inside the foot (which can be determined by your farrier) and hoof hardeners are an easy solution.
As with most products, there are many to choose from. I trust the following brands with my horses.
Keratex Hoof Hardener – this brush on product strengthens hooves by increasing the molecular structures between the keratin in the horn. Beef up the protein in the horn and you get a healthier and consequently, stronger and harder hoof. This is applied to all areas of the hoof.
Durasole – a concentrated sole toughener, Durasole is used only on the frog and sole of the hoof to create a naturally hard pad.
There’s nothing like a good pedicure to keep your horse’s hooves in tip top shape. Hoof hardeners may not be necessary for your equine but a conditioning treatment once in a while helps keep hooves from drying out, cracking and preventing other related hoof issues that could lead to sore feet. Absorbine has several great Hooflex conditioners to choose from with easy application methods.
Is barefoot better for horses on pavement
Every equestrian has their own opinion on the matter of shoes. Some believe in all four shoes, others in just front shoes and more still with no shoes at all. In the case of riding on pavement, both have pros and cons.
|Good support and protection||Slippery at fast speeds|
|* Excellent traction, less slipping|
* Hooves require less frequent trimmings
as the pavement keeps them filed
|* Soft soled horses may get sore feet faster|
* Soft feet may wear down
You will have to experiment and see how your horse performs while walking on pavement. If you are an advocate of shoes then maybe you won’t have any issues with slipping if you take it slow.
Many horse owners swear by the excellent traction their unshod horses have on pavement. Not wearing shoes is natural for horses and if your horse has strong feet, you may never have problems with concussion soreness. Every horse and situation is different and you need to discover their ability to handle extremely hard packed ground.
Horses can walk on hard surfaces, including concrete and asphalt, without damaging their hooves or legs most of the time. Problems may start to arise if your horse has soft or sensitive hooves. Remember, there are several preventive measures you can try including horse shoes, easy boots, hoof pads, hoof hardeners and conditioners.
Don’t let the idea of slipping on pavement scare you away from an occasional ride. As long as you avoid loping and galloping, the chance of them actually falling is quite low.